How Long Do I Have to File a Pedestrian Accident Case in North Carolina?

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A distraught man sits on the sidewalk after a pedestrian accident.

What is the North Carolina Statue of Limitation for Personal Injury Accidents?

With few exceptions, most personal injury lawsuits in North Carolina must be filed within three years of the date of injury. Here are a few situations that may be different:

  • If you were working when you were hit by a car, you would probably need to file a worker’s compensation claim, which you only have two years to do. Most employers in the state must provide worker’s compensation coverage, provided claimants fulfill specific requirements.

If you were hit by a car while working and have been told you don’t qualify for worker’s compensation benefits, please immediately contact a personal injury attorney to learn your options.

  • If a loved one dies after being hit by a car, you only have two years to file a wrongful death claim. This claim must be filed by the personal representative for the decedent’s estate.

Suppose the decedent didn’t name a personal representative (sometimes called an executor) in their will, or their estate did not go through probate. In that case, the probate process must be initiated and a personal representative appointed.

As this process takes time, it’s a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

  • There are exceptions for certain product liability cases and situations where an injury is not discovered immediately, but these are rarely relevant in pedestrian accident cases. Generally, the sooner you speak to a lawyer about your injury, the better.

What Else Should I Know About Filing a Pedestrian Accident Claim Besides the North Carolina Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations isn’t the only reason why it’s essential to speak with a personal injury lawyer after your accident. Your attorney and investigative team must gather evidence right away.

Evidence in car accident cases is frequently lost over time for various reasons.

Contributory Negligence Law in North Carolina

One of the reasons that evidence is so important is North Carolina’s reliance on contributory negligence statutes in personal injury cases. Under contributory negligence rules, an injured person (sometimes called the plaintiff) can collect damages from an at-fault party (the defendant) only if the defendant is 100 percent at fault for the accident or injury.

This means that if your case went to trial, and the jury found that the car driver was 90 percent at fault and you were 10 percent at fault, you would not be able to recover any damages.

You might be thinking, “But the car hit me! It was definitely the driver’s fault.”

We frequently hear this from clients, and in many cases, they’re right. But the issue is whether we can prove it or not.

The driver probably doesn’t want their insurance premiums to increase, and they might not have wanted to get a ticket for driving infractions when the police arrived. They may remember the events of the accident differently than you do.

Won’t the Police Report Say Who Was at Fault?

Not necessarily. The police report sometimes lacks detail because the responding officers had only limited information at the scene. In some cases, the pedestrian was too severely injured to give a statement, and there were no witnesses besides the driver.

If there is any evidence that the driver was speeding, ran a red light, or otherwise violated traffic laws, the responding officer will ticket them. Drivers who are found to be under the influence are arrested.

In these cases, the fault is generally clear – but again, if the other party’s attorney successfully argues that you did something wrong, too, you would not be able to collect damages in most situations.

Worse, many cases are not that clear. If the driver isn’t intoxicated and claims to have been obeying all traffic laws, and the police find no other witnesses, they will have two conflicting stories about what happened – yours and the driver’s.

If there isn’t enough evidence to ticket anyone, the police report may include both parties’ statements without drawing conclusions.

But How Can It Be My Fault If a Car Hit Me?

Clients frequently ask this question, and there are many possible answers. It depends on the specifics of your accident, but here are some scenarios we see often:

  • One common situation is a crosswalk accident where the driver claims the pedestrian was outside the crosswalk and should have yielded, while the pedestrian insists they were inside the crosswalk and had the right of way. There may also be disagreements about the Walk/Don’t Walk sign.
  • In most cases, pedestrians crossing a road outside a crosswalk should yield to vehicles. However, motorists are still supposed to yield in certain situations, such as when there is a stop sign. There might be disagreements about whether the driver stopped at a stop sign or continued through.
  • Pedestrians should use the sidewalk when available but are permitted to walk on the shoulder of the road if there is no sidewalk. Sometimes the driver and pedestrian have different recollections of exactly where the pedestrian was when the accident happened.

The driver might claim the pedestrian was in the roadway, that they failed to yield, or that they dashed out in front of the car. The pedestrian meanwhile, might tell us they were walking in the grass next to the road, and the car swerved and hit them.

These cases can be challenging to prove, but we will try to find evidence to support your case.

How Will Your Lawyer Find Additional Evidence for Your Pedestrian Accident Claim?

We will immediately go to work finding any evidence we can. Our investigators will search for traffic camera footage – we won’t assume that the police looked for it.

Many law enforcement agencies are extremely busy and have limited time to investigate accidents. It’s also important to know that this traffic camera footage is frequently erased to free up hard drive space, so the sooner we look for it, the better.

If traffic cameras don’t exist in the area, our investigators will canvas the neighborhood, looking for security or doorbell cameras, which can sometimes yield video evidence of what happened. Additionally, we will knock on doors just in case there were witnesses the police didn’t have a chance to interview at the scene. We may also subpoena black box data from the car itself to learn more about the accident.

Get Tatum & Atkinson for Help With Your Pedestrian Accident Case

At Tatum & Atkinson, we’re the Heavy Hitters who fight for your rights after an accident – that’s why we’ve recovered more than $100 million for our clients.

If there is a way to win your case, we’ll find it. If there simply isn’t enough evidence to prove the driver was at fault, we’ll search for alternatives, including seeking compensation from your own insurance company in some cases.

Your initial consultation is free, and if we take your case, we won’t charge you any fees until we win or settle it, so please call 800-LAW-0804 today to find out your options.