Defenses in North Carolina
Matthews North Carolina personal injury and auto accident attorneys and Charlotte North Carolina personal injury and auto accident and motorcycle accident attorneys.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is like a loud, ever ticking alarm clock. Once it goes off, a plaintiff's suit is finished forever.
Statutes of limitation prescribe a period of time within which an action must be commenced. The time begins to run when the cause of action accrues. Actions brought after the statutory period are barred.
Once a defendant has raised the statute of limitations as a defense, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the statute does not bar his claim.
Statutes of limitation are generally seen as running from the time of the injury, or discovery of the injury in cases where that is difficult to detect. They serve to limit the time within which an action may be commenced after the cause of action has accrued.
Unless otherwise provided by statute, a cause of action for negligently inflicted personal injury or property damage, not based on professional malpractice, accrues when the bodily harm or damage to the plaintiff's property ''becomes apparent or ought reasonably to have become apparent to the claimant, whichever event first occurs.''
The statute also provides that ''no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.'' Presumably, an action could be brought more than ten years after the last act of the defendant, so long as the injury was discovered within ten years of that act and the action is brought within three years of discovery.
Read here an article on the most recent decision from the North Carolina Court of Appeals on the statute of limitations.
Assumption of Risk
The common law defense of assumption of the risk is limited in North Carolina to cases in which there is a contractual relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant.
For example, a caddy struck by a ball driven by a golfer in a different group was not barred by assumption of the risk because although employed by the country club, the caddy had no contractual relationship with the defendant.
But, where the defendant hired the plaintiff, a mechanic, to repair his car and the car fell off the blocks that held it up, assumption of the risk could be asserted as a defense.
Under this doctrine, the plaintiff is barred from recovery if he knew of the risk created by the defendant and knowingly placed himself in a position to be injured by it.
Every risk encountered by the plaintiff is not sufficient to trigger the doctrine. It must be ''such an obvious and imminent danger to life and limb as to require an ordinarily prudent man to refrain from participating in it.''
Assumption of the risk is based upon knowledge; therefore, it is inapplicable if the plaintiff was not aware of the specific risk to which he was exposed.
''Good Samaritan'' Statute
Since 1965, North Carolina has had a ''Good Samaritan'' statute that limits the liability of ''[a]ny person who renders first aid or emergency assistance at the scene of a motor vehicle accident ... to any person injured as a result of any such accident.''
The statute grants a form of qualified immunity.
A person rendering such aid may not be held civilly liable unless their acts amount to ''wanton conduct or intentional wrongdoing.''
Another similar statute protects any person ''who renders first aid or emergency health care treatment to a person who is unconscious, ill or injured,'' under certain circumstances. Certain volunteer medical professionals, and volunteer members of a rescue squad, who are not compensated for their services, are covered by the statute.
Again, the "good samaritan" is protected from liability unless injuries result from his aggravated misconduct. The immunity does not extend to a defendant who is engaging in emergency health care services in the ordinary courses of a business or profession, such as such as the staff of a hospital ambulance. However, if such personnel happen upon an accident and render emergency assistance, they will be immunized from liability for all but wanton or intentional wrongdoing.
The Emergency Doctrine
The emergency doctrine frequently is raised in cases involving sudden mechanical failures, such as inoperable brakes and tire blowouts. In those instances in which the occurrence requires a rapid decision and precludes reasoned reflection, the doctrine is generally found applicable.
Particularly, in a relevant North Carolina case, a truck driver, who was confronted with a sudden emergency at night by the presence of a man lying in the middle of the icy highway, was not contributorily negligent as a matter of law in turning off the highway to avoid running over him. The driver "acted with such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use in such an emergency."
However, when if you are as a driver were aware of the mechanical problem, or should have been aware of it, you may not rely on the emergency doctrine.
Similarly, if your own negligent maintenance causes the mechanical failure, you may not rely on the doctrine.
Moreover, the emergency doctrine will not shield a driver who commits negligence independent of the mechanical failure. Whether the emergency doctrine applies to a situation involving a mechanical failure is often a question of fact.
Index of Relevant Terms:
- Absolute Divorce
- Contributory Negligence
- Imputed Negligence
- Defenses to a Negligence Lawsuit
- Driving and Texting in North Carolina
- Emotional Distress
- Punitive Damages
- Res Ipsa Loquitur
- Short Sale
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Truck Accidents
- Wrongful Death
- Wrongful Discharge from Employment