North Carolina Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Semantics Discussed in Laws v. McIlroy

When you are involved in a North Carolina car accident, you may not know that there is a limit to the amount of time you have to file a claim.
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It is critical to hire an experienced North Carolina injury attorney to help you present your case efficiently and effectively.

States have adopted time limits in every type of case, commonly referred to as the statute of limitations. Federal and state legislatures create laws that present a time limit where a suit has to be filed in a certain time after the injury, crime or harm. If you do not bring your lawsuit against the proper parties in the time allotted by statute, you lose the ability to bring your claim in court or obtain any damages.

In 2007 there was a car accident where Calvin McIlroy Jr. (Junior) allegedly rear-ended the vehicle driven by Carmen Tinker (Tinker). Laws v. McIlroy, No. 110485 (Va. Apr. 20, 2012). Lisa Laws (Laws) was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Tinker. Tinker and Laws (Plaintiffs) argued that the car accident was the fault of Junior because he was allegedly driving carelessly and recklessly. They argued that Junior should be held liable for any damages arising from the car accident under the theory of negligence. Additionally, Plaintiffs sued Calvin McIlroy Sr. (Senior) for negligently entrusting the vehicle to his son who drove recklessly.

Senior and Junior (Defendants) argued that because Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit papers three years after the car accident, Plaintiffs were not entitled to any recovery. Defendants asked the court to grant a motion to dismiss the case because Plaintiffs failed to bring the lawsuit within the applicable two year statute of limitations.

States impose different statutes of limitations depending on the type of case and the internal state’s public policy concerns. In this case, Virginia laws require that a negligence action for personal injury must be brought within two years from the date when the cause of action occurs because of the statute of limitations on Virginia personal injury claims. Thus, plaintiffs in this case had two years from the date of the car accident to sue the defendants. The only time an exception to a statute of limitations is made is where there is a tolling statute of limitations.

Tolling statute of limitations is where the state statute governing the type of case the plaintiffs want to bring allows for the pausing or delay of the running of the statute of limitations. Tolling comes into play where a party files a voluntary nonsuit. A voluntary nonsuit is the plaintiffs’ right to promise not to continue with the suit originally brought by the plaintiff against the defendant. In Virginia, when a plaintiff files a nonsuit against a defendant, the plaintiff is given six months to resubmit their claims against the defendants regardless of the statute of limitations for the cause of action.

The applicable statute says that where a nonsuit is entered, the plaintiff has to file a new action within six months of the nonsuit in order to obtain the rights associated with the statute of limitations. Therefore, the lower court’s dismissal of the claims brought by Plaintiffs was reversed and remanded for a new hearing regardless of the statute of limitations.

This case illustrates the importance of knowing the statute of limitations applicability in your North Carolina case.

If you have been injured, contact our North Carolina and South Carolina injury attorneys to discuss your case free of charge. Call 1-800-533-6845.

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