MedMal Statute Limitations North Carolina | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

State law enforces a 3-year statute of limitations for nearly all personal injury claims. For wrongful death claims brought in North Carolina, the standard statute of limitations is 2 years. Exceptions do apply, and we outline a few below.

Be aware that this brief answer and explanation cannot cover all situations. Always consult with an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney before assuming you have missed North Carolina’s deadline for filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against a doctor, surgeon, nurse, pharmacist, hospital, clinic, pharmacy or nursing home.


The first things to understand about the medical malpractice statute of limitations in North Carolina or any other state involves what courts and lawyers call “tolling” and “the discovery rule.” Tolling describes when the statute of limitations clock starts running and when it stops, and the discovery rule prevents tolling until malpractice becomes apparent.

For adults in North Carolina, tolling starts on either the day that an act of malpractice occurred or on the day that a definitive connection was made between the act of malpractice and an injury or death. Victims have a total of 4 years from an alleged act of malpractice to take legal action.

Cases involving objects left inside patients’ bodies and cases involving children younger than 18 years of age follow different rules. Patients who have sponges, scalpel blades or clamps left inside them must file a medical malpractice claim within one year of the day on which the object was discovered and within 10 years of when the object was not removed.

For children who fall victim to medical malpractice in North Carolina, their parents can file claims on their behalf within the generally applicable statutes of limitations. If their parents do not take legal action, children have the right to file claims themselves between their 18th and 20th birthdays.

A final thing to know about North Carolina’s medical malpractice statute of limitations rules is that they can apply in cases brought by full-time state residents against health care provides in places like Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky or Tennessee. Very specific requirements must be met for this to happen, but our medical malpractice law firm has successfully used North Carolina’s statute of limitations in a case filed in Virginia.