One of the most important questions Asheville wrongful death attorneys have is when a cause of action arose. In other words, when did the injury or accident occur? This question is important because all civil actions, including those for wrongful death under a theory of negligence, must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations.
The specific statute of limitations varies by state and by type of case, but essentially these statutes limit the amount of time you have to file a case against somebody. In North Carolina, pursuant to Article 5 § 1-53 of the General Statutes, wrongful death actions have a two-year statute of limitations. This two-year period starts running at the time of death. In the North Carolina General Statutes there are several different statutes of limitations depending on the type of case and even the type of injury.
In Alldredge v. Good Samaritan Home, Inc., the Indiana Supreme Court dealt with the issue of what happens if the cause of the accident is not discovered during the statute of limitation. In Alldredge, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer discovered that Venita Hargis, a nursing home patient, had died after being attacked by another resident, and not as a result of falling as claimed by the nursing home. In our legal system, you generally cannot sue for something that is truly an accident where nobody is at fault. The injury or harm must be caused by someone’s negligent or intentional actions. In Alldredge, the court found that not only did the victim die from being attacked by another patient, but the defendant nursing home purposefully and fraudulently covered or “concealed” the real cause of Ms. Hargis’ death. Even though it was not discovered during the two-year statute of limitations, the court said the plaintiff could still bring an action because the defendant’s fraudulent concealment “tolled” the statute of limitation.
Lawyers and judges often use the term “tolling” when discussing time limits. Tolling basically means to stop or pause a time limit from elapsing. There are various situations in which a statute of limitations may be tolled depending on the type of case and the reason a plaintiff waited until after the applicable time period had run to file his or her claim.
A statute of limitations can have a major effect on your ability to bring a cause of action against someone who caused you to suffer an injury. In some cases, if you wait too long to file a case, you may be time-barred by the statute of limitations and left with no way to recover losses. In other cases, the statute of limitations may have passed, but your personal injury lawyer may be able find a way around the expired statute of limitations, similar to what occurred in the Alldredge case. There are a lot of complex issues that must be addressed when dealing with wrongful death cases, and the best thing you can do is contact an experienced attorney who handles in these types of cases as soon as possible. It is always better to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations than to argue exceptions such as tolling or the discovery rule.
If you have been injured North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices in Anderson at 800-887-1965.
Alldredge v. Good Samaritan Home, Inc, June 3 2014, Indiana Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Timely Filing of Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuits , March 22, 2014, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog