If you’re involved in an injury case in North Carolina -- whether it’s an insurance settlement or a lawsuit -- a few key state laws may come into play. Attorney John S. Willardson is well versed in personal injury North Carolina law having worked successfully as an attorney advocating for his clients on either side of civil personal injury accidents for over 35+ years. Mr. Willardson's practice has focused in included: defending drivers of auto accidents, workman's comp and employment related injuries, disability, and dog bites related accidents to name just a few areas.
Call today (336)838-5129 for a free telephone consultation.
Time Limits for Personal Injury Lawsuits
All states have limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in court after you have suffered some type of harm. There are different deadlines, and they vary depending on what type of case you want to file, but in general this kind of law is called a statute of limitations.
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person three years from the date of the injury to go to civil court and file a lawsuit. (N.C. Gen. Stat. section 1-52).
It is very important to understand and follow this law. Why? Because if you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the three-year window closes, the North Carolina courts will likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future, and your right to compensation will be lost.
North Carolina is a "Fault" Car Insurance State
North Carolina adheres to a “fault” or tort-based system when it comes to determining how an injured party is made whole following a car accident. In a fault state, the person who was legally at-fault for the accident bears the liability (usually through his or her own car insurance carrier) for damages or injuries caused by the crash.
If you're involved in a car accident in North Carolina and you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged, you can usually seek compensation in one of three ways:
- file a claim with your own car insurance carrier (who will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurer)
- file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, or
- pursue a third party car insurance claim directly with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
Note: In contrast, in a no-fault car insurance system (which N.C. does not follow), an injured motorist must exhaust his or her own policy’s limits or reach a statutory threshold of damages before pursuing a claim against the other driver, without regard to who caused the accident. Legal remedies are also restricted in these states.
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in North Carolina
North Carolina requires that the owner of a motor vehicle maintain a certain amount of liability insurance in order to operate the vehicle in the state. North Carolina’s minimum car insurance requirements are:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of a single person (yourself, a passenger, another driver, pedestrian, etc.)
- $60,000 total for all damages stemming from a single accident, and
- $25,000 for any property damage caused by the accident.
These are just the minimum amounts required under N.C. law. It may be a good idea to carry a car insurance policy with higher maximum coverage. That's because if you are found at fault for a car accident and the damages exceed the limits of your insurance policy, you may find yourself personally responsible for making up the difference out of your own assets.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in N.C.
North Carolina requires that every car insurance policy sold in the state include uninsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage may be required depending on how much coverage you carry under your policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you from a situation where another driver is at-fault but he or she has no insurance. Underinsured motorist insurance kicks in to cover you when you're in an accident with an at-fault driver whose own insurance coverage is insufficient to pay for your damages caused by the crash. For example, if the other driver has the state minimum of $25,000 and your medical and rehabilitative costs are $35,000, then if you have sufficient UIM coverage it would pay the remaining $10,000.
For more information on Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance.
Caps on Injury Damages
Like a number of states, North Carolina has placed some limits on the kinds of damages that an injured person can receive in a court case (via a jury award after a finding that the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries).
In North Carolina, in medical malpractice cases only, non-economic damages (like compensation that is awarded for pain and suffering) in most cases are capped at $500,000. This cap does not apply to other injury cases that don’t stem from medical malpractice.
And in all types of injury cases in North Carolina, punitive damages cannot exceed the greater of three times the amount of actual (compensatory) damages or $250,000. It should be noted that punitive damages are very rarely awarded in injury cases, but it helps to be aware of this rule.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In North Carolina however, a specific statute (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 67-4.4) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog.
Injury Claims Against the Government in North Carolina
If your injury was caused by the negligence of an employee or agency of the North Carolina government (at the state level), you’ll need to follow a different set of rules if you want to get compensation for your losses.
An injury claim against the North Carolina government or its employees must be filed with the state’s Industrial Commission within three years of the injury, according to N.C. Gen. Stat. section 143-299.