Understanding the Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim in North Carolina

In the aftermath of an accident or injury, understanding the path to compensation can be overwhelming. If you’re in North Carolina and have sustained an injury due to someone else’s negligence, this guide will help you comprehend the timeline of a personal injury claim. From immediate actions to post-trial considerations, we’ve got you covered.

Pre-Claim Considerations

Immediate Steps After an Injury

Immediately after an accident or injury, the first thing you should do is ensure your safety and that of others around you. If necessary, move to a safe location and call for medical help.

Once you’re safe and the necessary medical help is on the way, it’s important to start gathering evidence at the scene, if possible. This can include photographs of the scene, contact information of witnesses, and any relevant physical items.

Seeking immediate medical attention is crucial, even if you feel fine. Some injuries may not show symptoms immediately but can have long-term effects. Also, having a medical record linking your injury to the incident is crucial for your claim.

Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney

Consulting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible can significantly impact the outcome of your case. An experienced attorney can guide you through the complex process, ensuring that all necessary steps are taken and deadlines met. During your initial consultation, you can discuss the specifics of your case, potential strategies, and what you can expect moving forward.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Understanding the Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim in North Carolina

Initial Contact with Insurance Companies

After an accident, you’ll likely be contacted by an insurance company. It’s important to be cautious during these interactions. Remember, the insurance company’s goal is to minimize their payout. Avoid making definitive statements about the incident or your injuries, as these can be used against you.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

Negotiating with insurance companies can be a tricky process. An experienced attorney can advocate for your best interests, ensuring you get the compensation you deserve. They understand the tactics insurance companies may use to minimize their payout and are prepared to counteract them.

Statute of Limitations

Understanding the Statute of Limitations in North Carolina

In legal terms, the “statute of limitations” refers to the time limit within which you must file a lawsuit. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is typically three years from the date of the accident. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, if you fail to file your claim within this time period, you may lose your right to pursue compensation.

Wrongful death claims are generally 2 years. However, there are specific instances where the time can be as short as a year. You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to confirm how long you have to bring a claim.

Filing the Personal Injury Claim

Understanding the Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim in North Carolina

Reporting the Injury

Reporting the injury to the relevant parties is an essential early step in the claims process. This may include notifying your own insurance company, the other party’s insurance company, or your employer if the injury occurred at work. The sooner you report, the better, as delays can sometimes complicate the claim.

Preparing the Claim

Preparing a personal injury claim involves gathering all necessary information and documentation to support your case. This includes medical records, evidence from the scene, witness statements, and any other relevant information. An attorney can guide you through this process and ensure that your claim is as strong as possible.

The Litigation Process

The Complaint and Summons

If a settlement cannot be reached during the negotiation phase, the next step is to file a lawsuit. This begins with the drafting and filing of a complaint and summons. The complaint outlines the basis for your claim, while the summons notifies the defendant of the lawsuit.


The discovery process involves both parties sharing information that’s relevant to the case. This can involve written questions (interrogatories), document requests, and depositions. The goal is to gather as much information as possible to build your case and prepare for trial.

Depositions are where you and the other driver have to give testimony under oath. Other witnesses may also be called to give a deposition. It is not the most pleasant process, but your attorney will be able to walk you through every step of the way.

Mediation and Negotiation

Before going to trial, it’s common for both parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation or further negotiation. This involves a neutral third party (the mediator) who helps facilitate discussion and attempts to reach a mutually agreeable settlement.

North Carolina Superior Court actually requires mediation in every case, and we’ve found mediation to be a very useful tool to resolving most cases.

Going to Trial

Understanding the Timeline of a Personal Injury Claim in North Carolina

Pre-Trial Motions

Prior to the trial, both parties may file pre-trial motions, which are requests for the court to make certain decisions about the case. For example, a motion could be made to exclude certain evidence from being presented at trial.

The Trial

During the trial, both sides will present their case. This includes opening statements, witness testimony, presentation of evidence, cross-examinations, and closing arguments. The judge or jury then evaluates the evidence and decides whether the defendant should be held responsible for your injuries.

The Verdict and Appeal

Once all evidence has been presented and closing arguments made, the judge or jury will render a verdict. If the verdict is in your favor, they will also determine the amount of compensation. If the outcome of the trial is not in your favor, you may have the option to appeal the decision. However, the appeal process is complex and has strict time limits, so it’s crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney guiding you.

Post-Trial Considerations

Collecting the Judgment

Winning a judgment is one thing; collecting it is another. There are various methods to collect a judgment, including wage garnishment and property liens. It’s important to understand that collecting the full amount may take time and require additional legal steps.

Most of the time, you will be limited to the amount of insurance available from the other driver or your own insurance policy. That’s why it’s so important that you carry sufficient uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

While the timeline of a personal injury claim in North Carolina can be complex, understanding the process can help you feel more in control and prepared for what’s to come. It’s important to remember that every case is unique and timelines can vary greatly based on the specifics of your case.

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence in North Carolina, don’t navigate this process alone. Contact our law firm for a free consultation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help guide you through every step of your claim, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.

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