Those who have been injured in a car accident in North Carolina have only a short amount of time in which to file a lawsuit. The rules vary from state-to-state, and here, an injured party has 3 years from the time of the incident to file. If the claim is for wrongful death, that window of time is shortened to just two years.
And then, occasionally, there are circumstances under which claims must be filed even sooner. A recent example of this was indicated in the case of Correa v. Estate of Hascall before the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The case illustrates why it is critical to consult with an experienced Greensboro car accident lawyer as soon as possible after a wreck. Usually, the earlier a plaintiff can file, the better.
In the Correa case, the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in mid-September 2008. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of this crash.
The other driver, reportedly at-fault, died less than one month later of apparently causes unrelated to the crash. His death prompted his widow to open an estate, with her serving as the personal representative.
The estate closed roughly one year later, and the widow was discharged as personal representative of that estate in September 2011.
One year later, the injured driver filed a complaint alleging the decedent’s negligence in causing the crash and subsequently her injuries. The complaint was served on the estate in November 2012.
In her answer, the defendant widow responded that the injured woman failed to state a cause of action because the claim couldn’t be brought against a closed estate or on a personal representative who’d already been discharged. The widow filed for a summary judgment on these grounds.
The injured driver responded by filing a motion for an emergency order that would reopen the estate and appoint a special administrator to oversee it. The probate court granted this request.
However, the district court granted the widow’s motion for summary judgment.
The injured woman appealed. However, the state supreme court dismissed her appeal, finding that the injured party failed to properly bring the lawsuit against the estate or personal representative because the estate was already closed and the representative already discharged.
What proved fatal to the case was that the newly-appointed special administrator to the case – the newly-named party to the complaint – was not served notice of the lawsuit within six months of its commencement, as required by state statute. Absent this action, the district court lacked jurisdiction over the claim, and so too did the state supreme court.
Of course, the injured party could not have anticipated that the at-fault driver would pass away so suddenly after the crash. However, the issue of untimely filing could have been avoided had her complaint first been filed while the estate was still open and the widow still at the helm.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Correa v. Estate of Hascall, July 25, 2014, Nebraska Supreme Court
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Reis v. Volvo Cars of N. Am.: Car Accidents Caused by Mechanical Problems, July 14, 2014, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog