What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in North Dakota?
First, in case you aren’t fluent in legalese, a “statute of limitations” is a state law that puts a strict time limit on a potential plaintiff’s right to receive a civil remedy for some type of harm. These laws set a deadline for getting an initial complaint filed in court (the complaint is the legal document that starts a lawsuit). The filing deadline differs depending on the kind of case you want to file.
In North Dakota, you can find the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all lawsuits arising from a car accident at North Dakota Century Code section 28-01-16. Under this law, you have six years to turn to the state’s civil court system for a remedy after any kind of personal injury or property damage caused by someone else.
So, in the context of a vehicle accident, any lawsuit by any driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian injured in the crash will be subject to this six-year filing deadline, as will any lawsuit for damage done to a vehicle or other personal property. For these cases, the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
The deadline is different if someone died as a result of the vehicle accident, and the family or the representative of the estate of the deceased person wishes to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person who caused the crash. Specifically, North Dakota Century Code section28-01-18 requires that a wrongful death lawsuit be filed in the state's court system no later than two years after the date of the deceased person's death.
(Keep in mind that no matter what kind of lawsuit you are bringing over harm caused by a car accident, the case will almost certainly turn on your ability to prove that the other party’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
So, what happens if you try to file your lawsuit after the relevant deadline set by North Dakota’s statute of limitations has already passed? In that situation, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate. That’s why it’s crucial to understand and abide by the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential car accident lawsuit. If the statute of limitations deadline is coming up, it may be a good idea to discuss your situation with an experienced North Dakota car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.