How to File a Personal Injury Claim in North Carolina
Experienced local attorneys guide you every step of the way
If you sustained an injury due to another person’s negligence, you have the right to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your losses. It’s advisable to retain an experienced personal injury attorney who can improve your chances of maximizing the amount you recover from the defendant. Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban has local offices throughout North Carolina to assist you, with personal attention and aggressive courtroom representation.
The filing process in North Carolina
There are specific rules and procedures you must observe if you’re going to file a civil lawsuit. Here are some basic questions you need to be able to answer before you can file:
- What court should I use? You must choose a court that has subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction means that the court hears cases of your type. Most personal injury and wrongful death cases go to state rather than federal court. The state court system is divided into 40 districts that have District Courts, as well as Superior Courts in the various counties. Within each District Court there are divisions assigned to controversies based on dollar amounts: cases for less than $5,000 are heard by magistrates in Small Claims Court, cases between $5,000 and $10,000 go to the District Court, where a judge presides. Cases worth more than $10,000 must go to Superior Court.
Once you decide the division in which you are going to file, you must find the court that can exercise personal jurisdiction, compelling your defendant to answer and appear. Personal jurisdiction depends on the defendant having some contact with a place within the reach of the court. This requires you to file in the district or county where the defendant resides or where the accident occurred.
- Who is the defendant? It helps to know whom you are accusing, but for filing purposes, it is not absolutely necessary. If you were able to exchange contact information at the accident site, or got your defendant’s name from the police report, you should use that name. Attorneys often include “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” to refer to potential defendants who have not yet been identified. If you are coming up against the statute of limitations and you still haven’t ascertained the identities of defendants, you can file against a John Doe. This allows you to use subpoena powers to get the information you need to identify the proper party. But it must be done before the statute runs.
- What papers do I fill out? The essential forms are a Summons and Complaint. To complete the Summons you need the name and address of the party to be served. Your Complaint is a summary of your case that recites the facts of what happened, alleges an act by the defendant that caused you harm, supports the allegations of harm with facts about your injury, and requests relief (usually a dollar amount) from the court. A defect in your pleading (such as a misstatement of liability law) can prompt the court to dismiss your case. In some instances, you might be able to refile, though you have to pay the cost of filing again. However, a dismissal can be with prejudice, which means you are barred from refiling, and have lost your right to sue.
- How do I serve the defendant? We recommend that you use a professional process server who knows how to affect legally valid service of process. You can save money by getting a friend to effect service, as long as this person is a responsible adult and remembers to record that service was accomplished at the court. Under no circumstances should you attempt service yourself.
Once you have filed your lawsuit, your defendant (if served) has 30 days to answer. The process gets much more complex from there. The good news is, you don’t have to do any of this alone. An experienced personal injury attorney can manage all these tasks for you and more, with no upfront costs to you.
Let an experienced trial attorney prepare and file your personal injury claim
There is no reason you should have to fight your personal injury case alone. Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban accept injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so we never charge attorney fees in advance, and you only pay us when your case ends in a settlement or jury award. To schedule a free consultation with one of our local attorneys, call (888) 351-1038 or contact our office online.