You might be wondering exactly what “statute of limitations” means. The statute of limitations is the time period a creditor can still sue you for debts. Creditors only have a certain duration of time they can attempt to collect a debt by suing you. If the creditor fails to successfully collect the debt or file a lawsuit before expiration of the statute of limitations, then the debt is no longer applicable for collection by a lawsuit against you.
In North Carolina, Section 1-52.1 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure explains the statute of limitations for debts is 3 years for auto and installment loans, promissory notes, and credit cards. This means if a creditor is going to sue you, they must do so within three years from the date of your last charge or activity on the card. Now the magic question is, what is activity on the card? This is a source of litigation throughout the state. There are many times no clear-cut answer to this question. The creditor may claim there was activity on the credit card or personal loan within the past three years before the lawsuit was initiated. It would then be your word against their word as to when the last activity on the card took place.
The law states after the three years has passed, if the creditor has not sued you for the debt, they are barred from filing a lawsuit against you for that debt. However, they may still call and request a payment from you. They cannot successfully sue you if the statute of limitations has expired and you raised that defense in your legal response to the lawsuit.
Now let’s clarify this last statement. Anyone can sue anyone! So the fact is they may sue you on the debt, but you have the defense on the lawsuit the statue limitations had expired and the lawsuit should be thrown out of court. However, to raise this defense of the statute of limitations against the lawsuit, you must file a legal answer with the court and appear in court to state your defense of the expiration of the statute of limitations. If you do not raise this defense, you will probably lose the lawsuit.
The statute of limitations for debts timeframe is different for each State. For example, most debts are three years in North Carolina, but six years in Hawaii. Depending on which state you live in the timeframe of the statute of limitations will vary.
Beware though, although you may believe the statute of limitations has run on a creditor’s ability to collect a debt, if there was activity on the card or if the creditor has filed a lawsuit, the statute of limitations may not have expired. Be careful assuming the statute of limitations has run on a debt – be sure to fully research your debts and when they were last used. You need to raise the defense of the expiration of the statute of limitations in your legal response to the lawsuit.