You are probably familiar with the general concepts of personal injury law, either from your own past experience, the experience of a friend or family member, stories you have seen on the news, or even research you have done on your own. What you may not be aware of are the very important differences in each state. On the surface they may seem subtle, but these differences and how you handle them can make or break your case.
For instance, there is the issue of shared responsibility. If you were partly responsible for your injuries, some states will still allow you to receive compensation minus your percentage of blame. North Carolina will not. If you contributed to your injury, even a little bit, you will not be eligible for damages. However, you should never assume that you were responsible. Often an investigation will uncover details that you would have no way of knowing on your own.
As mentioned above, in North Carolina, you will not receive compensation if your own negligence contributed to your injury. This is called contributory negligence. That does not mean you should give up if you believe you may be partly to blame. It does mean you must be very careful, and talk to an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney right away.
The defendant, their attorney, and their insurance company and their attorneys may try to get you to sign something or make a statement that would amount to admitting guilt, and they can be very tricky about it. You may not even realize that it what you are signing. Never sign anything before talking to your attorney or you could be signing away your rights.
If you believe you may have been at fault, you may be wrong. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to conduct a thorough investigation. For instance, when traffic accidents are caused by a defective stop light or defective vehicle, it can initially appear to be the fault of one or more drivers.
Statute of limitations
The time limit for filing your lawsuit is called the statute of limitations. If you miss that deadline you give up your right to sue, and it will not matter how great your case is or how bad your injury.
The statute of limitations for most types of personal injury in North Carolina is three years. Some types of cases will have less time, and some types have more. Calculating the deadline can be very complicated. In product liability cases the statute of limitations is six years, but that is from the date that you purchased the defective product, not from the date of the injury.
You can learn more by reading our North Carolina statute of limitations page.
The money you may receive is referred to as damages. This includes compensation for your financial losses, other losses such as pain and suffering (called non-economic damages) which is not compensation for you but punishment for the person who hurt you.
North Carolina does not limit non-economic damages, but punitive damages are limited to $250,000 or three times the compensatory damages (whichever is greater). In order to receive punitive damages you must prove malice, fraud or willful, wanton conduct on the part of the defendant. There is no limit on punitive damages against drunk drivers.
Collecting if you win
In many cases there are multiple responsible parties. When this happens in North Carolina, each party is held responsible for their share and only their share, under several liability. You must collect from each defendant separately.
If you have been injured or lost a loved on in North Carolina, please contact one of our North Carolina personal injury lawyers for a free claim evaluation.