If you are injured in South Carolina and you believe that another party is to blame for your injuries, you maintain the right to file a claim for damages against that party. If you can prove that your injuries would not have occurred but for the other party’s negligence, you can recover monetary damages for the harm that you’ve suffered. However, in addition to being able to prove negligence, you also must file your claim within the state’s statute of limitations. To learn more about the personal injury statute of limitations in South Carolina, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm today for your free consultation.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations refers to a legal limit on how much time can pass before the right to do something is revoked. For example, a criminal statute of limitations governs the amount of time that can pass between when the alleged crime is committed and when the prosecution can bring charges against the defendant. A civil statute of limitations refers to how much time can pass between when a civil wrong—or a tort—is committed and when the victim of that tort (the plaintiff) can file a civil action against the defendant, or tortfeasor.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in South Carolina?
The statute of limitations in South Carolina varies depending on the type of case. In general, there is a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. This means that a plaintiff has three years from the date that an accident occurs to file a lawsuit against the party who caused their injuries.
What Happens if You Breach the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a hard and fast rule, which means that a plaintiff must file their claim within the statute of limitations in order for the court to hear the case. If the statute of limitations is breached—e.g. if more than three years pass from the date that the injury occurs and the date that a claim is filed—then the case will likely be dismissed and the plaintiff will be permanently barred from recovery.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Three-Year Statute of Limitations?
The state and the courts recognize that the three-year time limit may not be appropriate in all cases, and has identified a few different scenarios in which there is an exception to the three-year statute of limitations. Exceptions include:
- If the victim of an accident is under 18 years of age at the time the accident occurs, then they will have one year from the date of their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.
- If a victim of an accident is declared insane, then they will have one year from the date of being declared “sane” to file a lawsuit.
- If the negligent party who causes the accident moves out of state for a continuous period of one year or more before the lawsuit can be filed, then the period of absence will likely not be counted as part of the three-year limit.
- If the victim does not discover their injuries until a later date, then the clock on the statute of limitations will not start ticking until the date of discovery.
There are also some rules that shorten the statute of limitations. For example, there is only a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims brought against a government entity in South Carolina. Additionally, if a medical malpractice claim is based on the discovery of a foreign object within the plaintiff, then the claim must be brought within two years of the date of discovery.
How to Avoid Breaching the Statute of Limitations
Ensuring that you don’t breach the statute of limitations is very important, even if you don’t initially have any intention of filing a lawsuit. The fact that you could file a lawsuit gives you power in settlement negotiations—if you have breached the statute of limitations, then the insurance company will have little incentive to fairly settle your case, as it knows that litigation is not an option and there is nothing that you can do.
To avoid breaching the statute of limitations, the first thing that you’ll want to do is make sure that you report the accident to the police as soon as it happens, gather evidence at the scene, and seek medical care immediately. Then, you should report the accident to any appropriate parties, such as the owner of the property where the accident occurred, or your insurance company if you were in a car crash.
The earlier that you start the claims process, the better your chances of reaching a settlement well before the statute of limitations expires. If you wait too long, however, you put yourself at greater risk.
Of course, one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t breach the statute of limitations is to hire a South Carolina personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident happens. An attorney can inform you of when the statute of limitations is and when it will expire for your case, advise you of what steps to take to ensure you don’t breach it, and help you to understand whether you qualify for any exceptions to the statute of limitations. An attorney can also provide you with quality, aggressive representation throughout the duration of your case.
Call the Marc Brown Law Firm Today
Navigating the legal systems and understanding the various rules that relate to South Carolina statute of limitations personal injury claims can be confusing. At the law office of the Marc Brown Law Firm, our South Carolina personal injury attorneys can provide advice and counsel related to various aspects of your personal injury claim. To learn more about your rights and what to do if you’ve been injured, call our law firm to request your free consultation.