Suit Filing Deadlines and Procedure


Deadlines for filing suit are strictly enforced. Failure to file proper pleadings that name and identify all liable parties results in a bar and forfeiture of otherwise valid claims. Also, certain exceptions might apply. For example, if the injury victim is a minor child or is mentally incompetent, these conditions may toll or pause the time clock and allow additional time to file. In all cases, the victim should secure an exact deadline from an experienced trial attorney. Through a free consultation, you can learn the exact date of your suit filing deadline and determine whether any time limitations might threaten the loss of your rights of compensation.

Generally speaking, the suit-filing deadline in a nonfatal personal injury case or property damage claim is three years from the date of the collision (N.C.G.S. 1-52). In wrongful death actions arising from fatal accidents, the statutory deadline is two years (N.C.G.S. 1-53).

Simply filing your lawsuit will not suffice to meet the statute of limitations deadline. To properly commence litigation, the plaintiff must identify and name all parties. Failure to include a necessary party at the time of the initial filing forfeits the right to bring later claims against that party after the statutory deadline passes. Further, beyond identifying and naming all proper parties, the plaintiff must also follow all applicable substantive and procedural law in the drafting of the complaint, properly specify all claims presented, and have a proper and enforceable summons issued in conjunction with the civil filing for each party who might be liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

The summons is the court document that commands the defendant to enter an appearance before the court and respond to the plaintiff’s complaint by filing either a motion or an answer. The summons is a strictly time-limited document and must be served properly on the party defendant named in the summons and complaint pursuant to the strict terms of N.C.R.C.P. 4. The summons can be renewed and extended, and service on the named party must occur before the summons expires. In most cases, service occurs when an agent of the sheriff’s office hand-delivers the complaint and summons to the named party. Once suit is filed and all defendants are properly served with the complaint and summons, the injury suit is underway.

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