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How Long Do You Have to File A Lawsuit in North Carolina?


Pop quiz: do you know how long you have to file a lawsuit after you’ve been wronged? Defective Crocodile Mile that you bought in 2005 (Crocodile Mile, was awesome, and I’m sure was never defective)? It’s not too late to sue. Business owner trying to collect on a judgment you obtained in 2003? Still okay. On a contract?

I had a call today from a prospective client with an issue that arose in 2008, wondering if she could still sue for damages. North Carolina state law sets forth “statutes of limitations,” which prescribe how long from the injury a party can wait to bring suit. It’s important to recognize how quickly one must move to protect their rights in civil litigation.

Statute of Limitations to File a Lawsuit

You should consult an attorney to determine whether or not there are statute of limitations issues. In general, you have:

  • 10 years to enforce a judgment obtained in court
  • 7 years for a claim against an executor or administrator of an estate
  • 6 years for defects in land improvements or personal injury from defects in products.
  • 3 years for a breach of contract, conversion (aka theft) of property, or fraud
  • 2 years to sue your local government
  • 2 years to recover for a usurious loan. Usury arises when the terms of the loan are greater than the maximum terms allowed by law.
  • 1 year for libel and slander.
  • 2 months to protest a zoning ordinance.

When does this number start accruing? First, it’s when the party knows, or should have known, that the improper action took place. Second, it’s also important to remember that the quicker that you retain a lawyer, the more likely that evidence will remain intact. Most people don’t remember conversations from two years ago, many documents from two years might have been destroyed in the ordinary course of business. Documents and facts fresh in a party’s mind give you the best chance of putting together quality evidence for trial. For business owners, also remember that once the prospect of a law suit becomes a reality, business owners should retain any relevant documents in what is called a litigation hold.

If you have questions about your ability to file a lawsuit or whether or not your business should have to defend itself against a suit from years ago, contact Maginnis Howard. We have offices conveniently located across North Carolina in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Fayetteville. Visit our contact page for more information about each location, and to send a confidential message to our intake team.