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How long after a crash do I have to sue a negligent driver?


If you have been in a drunk driving accident, you likely have more immediate needs than filing a lawsuit. You might have serious physical injuries that require medical attention, and your emotional well-being should be cared for appropriately. However, you might also be acutely aware that you can recover your damages from a negligent driver if your economic and noneconomic losses were caused by the negligence of another. Therefore, you might be wondering how long after a drunk driving accident you have to file your claim in an attempt to recover the compensation you need or deserve.

In North Carolina, according to the statute of limitations, or the time you have to bring your claim, the general answer is three years. Yet, it is not always that straightforward. The difficulty arises when you try to determine when that three-year clock starts ticking. Typically, the statute of limitations does not start to run until a victim knows or should have known that he or she suffered harm. This is known as the "discovery of harm" rule. It is important to note that one cannot simply turn a blind eye to his or her injuries in an attempt to extend the statute of limitations. Therefore, any delay in discovery must be reasonable in order to delay the starting of the statute of limitations clock.

There are many other rules that apply to North Carolina's statute of limitations. For example, the clock may not start ticking for minors who are harmed until their 18th birthday. Likewise, the type of harm suffered may change the statute of limitations. A defamation case might not have the same statute of limitations as a car accident claim.

Filing a claim for damages like medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering is time sensitive. Thus, it is imperative to consider speaking with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure your claim is timely brought. As every case is different, you should not rely on the above information as legal advice, but rather acquire help that pertains to the specific facts of your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Time Limits to Bring a Case: The 'Statute of Limitations'," July 29, 2014

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