Our Virginia and Carolina injury law firm, based in Virginia Beach, is often called by potential clients with questions about what the personal injury statute of limitations is for personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits in Virginia (VA) or North Carolina (NC). The answers depend on a number of circumstances and there are some fairly complicated analyses that need to be done, often by an experienced injury trial lawyer based in Virginia or Carolina. Because our lawyers are licensed in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky, and because our home office is geographically close to the North Carolina border, we deal with Virginia and North Carolina statute of limitations issues often.
Virginia Limitations Periods for Injuries or Wrongful Death
First, in Virginia the general personal injury case statute of limitations is two years, but sometimes, it is whether exceptions apply that are important. The two year Virginia limitation period applies to an action that is filed in the state of Virginia normally whether or not the accident occurred elsewhere, for “common law” negligence and carelessness suit alleging personal injuries.
Medical malpractice actions filed in Virginia also follow the general two-year statute of limitations, although special exceptions that may extend the medical negligence statute of limitations can apply. One of the exceptions is where something is discovered some time later after an initial surgery or medical procedure, and this is called the “discovery rule.” When it applies, the discovery rule permits a suit to be filed within a certain period of time after the injury is discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered.
The discovery rule does not apply to all civil injuries, and sometimes the period of time for bringing a claim post-discovery can be short, so it is important to seek legal assistance quickly in the event of the late discovery of an injury. The Virginia discovery rule extension is still highly limited for medical negligence and malpractice and you must consult a personal injury lawyer to understand how to deal with a case that may involve something that you believe was hidden by the hospital or medical doctor from you, like leaving a sponge, towel or piece of a surgical tool sewn up in your body at the site of the surgery.
Even as to personal injury claims, depending on where and how they occur, there are sometimes state or federal statutes that may grant a right of action, separate and apart from a general negligence action for injuries. Note that special sorts of state or federal statutes can provide for a DIFFERENT statute of limitations than the two year period discussed above. Again, specific legal advice should be sought out.
Also, minors (i.e., those under 18 years old when the injury is suffered) or persons under disabilities or incompetents may have an extended period of time to file a personal injury action in Virginia, but there are outside absolute limitations on how much longer than two years a minor may file a medical malpractice action-see legal advice to learn the details. The extension periods over two years also apply to minors in general personal injury actions -- you should consult an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer if you have questions in that regard. On all these issues: never just read something on this website and believe it applies to your situation-always get legal advice in the first year after the injury or death -- never let two years lapse in Virginia or Carolina.
Note that the two-year personal injury Virginia statute of limitations may not apply to an action that does not involve a negligent or careless personal injury claim, meaning if you suffered assault or battery, or if the injury arises from an intentional act of the other party--Virginia may apply a shorter one year statute of limitations to those limited types of injuries so seek legal advice well within one year from the injury date. The two year Virginia limitation period covers general personal injury claims such as car accidents, truck accidents, slip trip and fall cases, rental or uninsured motorist injury cases, injuries caused by drunk drivers to persons driving cars, pedestrian/crosswalk injury cases, motorcycle injury cases, personal injuries due to negligence of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, personal injuries in aircraft or aviation crashes or accidents, injuries suffered in industrial settings, explosions or electrical injuries that cause personal injuries and the list goes on.
Virginia permits wrongful death actions filed in the state to be brought within two years of the date of the injury. Again, whether or not there are any methods or legal exceptions that allow a suit to be brought more than two years after the date of death require analysis by an experienced personal injury lawyer. Some situations involving wrongful death can involve special statutes, and these special rights of action can build in a different limitation period than Virginia’s two-year period.
As can be seen with the above outline, the general personal injury statute of limitations in Virginia is two years, but an experienced lawyer may figure out a way that an injury that may have occurred in Virginia could actually be sued for in another state, which state may have a longer statute of limitations applying to suits filed in that other state. This certainly applies to the bordering state of North Carolina. For example, a North Carolina resident who is traveling in Virginia and is injured in Virginia, would face a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury if the action was filed in a Virginia state court for a common law negligence injury action.