What is the North Carolina Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations?

statute-of-limitations-for-medical-malpracticeNorth Carolina gives injured victims a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit in court, and the exact amount of time is spelled out in the relevant statute of limitations.

If a person does not file their lawsuit in the correct court within that window, they will lose their ability to sue.

North Carolina has a special statute of limitations specifically for medical malpractice disputes, and we will run down through the different time limits that apply.

You Typically Have Three Years to File Suit

General Statute § 1-15 contains the North Carolina medical malpractice statute of limitations. It generally gives an injured person 3 years from the date of the medical error to file their lawsuit. So if a doctor injured you during surgery on June 1, 2017, you have until June 1, 2020 to file your case.

You Have More Time if the Injury is Not Readily Apparent

Some injuries are not obvious. If a doctor fails to diagnose cancer, it might be a few years until you discover you have the disease. In this type of situation, you can often get more time to sue.

The rule is basically this: if you could not reasonably discover that you were the victim of medical malpractice within 2 years, then you get one additional year after the date you discover the medical error.

For example, if a doctor committed a medical mistake on June 1, 2017 but you didn’t discover it until January 1, 2019, you get until January 1, 2020 to bring a lawsuit.

You Get a Maximum of 4 Years to Sue

North Carolina also has a statute of repose. This law cuts off your ability to sue regardless of whether or not you could reasonably discover that a medical error occurred. In North Carolina, the statute of repose is 4 years. After this point, you cannot bring a lawsuit.

For example, imagine a doctor committed a medical mistake on June 1, 2015. You couldn’t reasonably discover it until January 2019. Unfortunately, you only get until June 1, 2019 to bring a lawsuit, because this is 4 years after the medical error was committed. After that point, the statute of repose will prevent you from suing in court.

There are Special Rules for Objects Left in the Body

Sometimes, a doctor leaves a foreign object in a patient’s body. For example, during surgery, a doctor might accidentally leave a sponge behind. There is a different limitations period for foreign objects:

  • You have 1 year after discovering the foreign object to bring a lawsuit.
  • You get no more than 10 years to bring a lawsuit. After that, you lose the right to sue.

Injured Minors Get More Time

If your child was injured, then the rules are very complicated. Essentially, the amount of time will depend on your child’s age as well as guardianship status and other factors. Meet with an attorney as soon as possible.


As stated above, a breach of the statute of limitations serves as a bar to recovery. This does not mean that you have to settle your claim within three years, four years, or one year from the date of discovery (depending on which statute of limitations applies to your case), but it does mean you have to initiate the suit within that time frame. If you do not, you will be unable to hold the medical professional or any other party liable for your harm.

Failing to bring your case forth within the statute of limitations could mean the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in damages and a significant impediment to future care and financial stability. In order to ensure that you do not breach the statute, it is critical that you meet with an attorney as soon as you suspect that malpractice has occurred.

You should also start the evidence-gathering process as early as possible, and hold on to any documents or bills related to the medical care you’ve received. Our medical malpractice lawyers offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by meeting with us ASAP.

Experienced Greenville, NC Medical Malpractice Attorneys

A seasoned attorney is always aware of the medical malpractice statute of limitations in North Carolina. Attorney Albritton with Irons & Irons P.A. has represented injured patients over the years. For help with your case, please contact us as soon as possible. We offer a free initial consultation that you can schedule by calling 252-752-2485.


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