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North Carolina Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

Plaintiffs have time limits for filing civil lawsuits, which differ by the type of claim (in most states). These time limits, referred to as the civil statute of limitations, are meant to help preserve the integrity of evidence and witness testimony. North Carolina's civil statute of limitations laws provide a three-year time limit for personal injuries, fraud, and many other causes of action; but just a one-year limit for defamation.

Look at the following table for a complete list of North Carolina's civil statute of limitations laws, while the section below contains additional information about them. See Time Limit Considerations in Medical Malpractice Claims for additional information.

Injury to Person 3 yrs. §1-52
Libel/Slander 1 yr. §1-54
Fraud 3 yrs. §1-52(9)
Injury to Personal Property 3 yrs. §1-52(4)
Professional Malpractice 2 yrs. or more after the occurrence of the last act of the defendant, max. 4 yrs.; damages by reason of a foreign object left in body; 1 yr. upon discovery, max. 10 yrs. §1-15
Trespass 3 yrs. §1-52(3)
Collection of Rents 3 yrs. §1-52
Contracts Written: 3 yrs. §1-52(1); Oral: 3 yrs. §1-52(1)
Collection of Debt on Account -
Judgments 10 yrs. §1-47

Purpose of Statutes of Limitations

Some people believe that if you caused someone else harm, you should always be able to be held accountable for that harm, regardless of the time passed. However, statutes of limitations are not designed to let people off the hook. Instead, their goal is efficiency and preserving evidence. The more time passes, the more witnesses forget, and the more likely that important documents are lost or destroyed.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

North Carolina has a three year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Those include car accidents, dog bites, assault and battery, slip and fall cases, and wrongful death.

Libel and Slander

Libel and slander are two forms of lawsuits over damaging statements. A libel case concerns written statements, and slander concerns oral statements. This area of law is called defamation law. In North Carolina, a plaintiff making a defamation claim has one year to file their case with the court, or they will lose the opportunity to bring the lawsuit.


Fraud can come in many forms. Generally, fraud is an intentional deception of a person or business made for monetary gain. Fraud is a crime in North Carolina, but is also subject to civil suit to recover damages caused by the fraud. In North Carolina, plaintiffs must bring their claim to a court within three years of the fraudulent activity, or they may lose their claim.

Injury to Property

North Carolina requires a plaintiff to bring a property damage lawsuit within three years.

Professional Malpractice

Among others, this includes legal malpractice and medical malpractice. The statute of limitations changes in this area of the law, but generally you have two years or more after the defendant's last act, with a maximum of four years. If a foreign object was found in your body after a medical procedure, you have up to a year after discovery, with a maximum of ten years since the medical procedure.


North Carolina gives plaintiffs three years to bring a trespass case.

Collection of Rents

Landlords have up to three years to collect unpaid rent in North Carolina.


For both written and oral contracts in North Carolina, the plaintiff has up to three years to bring a case for breach of contract.

Enforcing a Judgment

If a court determines that someone owes you money, you have up to ten years to enforce that judgment.

Get Help Understanding North Carolina Civil Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations laws limit the time you have to file a civil lawsuit. If you're confused by the law or just need additional help with understanding how the law impacts your case, you should talk to an experienced litigation attorney in North Carolina.

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