The statute of limitations is a legal concept that imposes a set deadline for filing a personal injury claim in North Carolina. As a general rule, the statute of limitation for a motor vehicle accident case based on a claim of negligence is three (3) years from the date of injury. However, this general rule of three (3) years does not apply to minor children who have been injured.
In North Carolina, a minor child is considered under a disability. As such, a minor child’s statute of limitations is not three (3) years from the date of the accident. Pursuant to N.C.G.S § 1-17(a), a minor is entitled to commence an action for their injuries and may bring his or her action within three years next after the removal of the disability, and at no time thereafter. Generally speaking, this means that a minor child is permitted by North Carolina law to bring their claim for injuries no later than three (3) years after their 18th birthday or within three years of the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem. The issues arising from the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem will be discussed here. (LINK)
It is worth noting that there are exceptions to the rule that the minor child’s negligence claim must be brought before the expiration of three (3) years from their 18th birthday. For more information, visit the North Carolina Accidents’ Statute of Limitations Calculator for Minor Children.
In a personal injury case for negligence arising from a motor vehicle accident, a minor child’s statute of limitations does not begin until the minor reaches the age of 18. Regardless of when the minor was injured, he or she will have three years to pursue legal action after turning 18. However, the minor child may elect to proceed earlier by appointing a Guardian ad Litem as discussed here. (LINK)
It is worth noting that for the purpose of this N.C.G.S § 1-17, a person is under a “disability” if the person meets one or more of the following conditions:
(1) The person is within the age of 18 years.
(2) The person is insane.
(3) The person is incompetent as defined in G.S. 35A-1101(7) or (8).
While the general rule states that the minor child will have three years to bring their claim for negligence after turning eighteen (18) years old, there are many exceptions and limitations.
Wrongful Death of a Minor
If a minor child is involved in an accident and passes away as a result of said accident, the estate of the minor child possesses the right to action on behalf of the deceased minor. As such, the statute of limitations will operate and toll against the administrator of the estate and not the deceased minor.
Therefore, it is important to understand that an estate must initiate a wrongful death lawsuit against an at-fault party for negligence resulting in the death of a minor within two years of the fatality. All wrongful death claims for negligence in North Carolina have a two-year statute of limitation, regardless of whether the decedent is a minor or over the age of 18.
However, it is essential to understand that where a minor child’s parent has passed away because of an at-fault party’s negligence action, the minor is considered a beneficiary of the claim. As such, the minor’s interests in the claim are related to or conditioned upon the claim of a third party. Where a minor is a beneficiary of a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations runs against the administrator of the estate and not the minor beneficiary individually.
Medical Malpractice and Professional Malpractice
Please be aware that the statute of limitations for claims arising from medical malpractice and professional malpractice are considered an exception to the general rule in North Carolina.
Please review N.C G.S. 1-15(c) and § 1-17 in detail for more information related to calculating the statute of limitations for actions involving minor children arising out of the professional negligence or failure to perform a professional service.