Are you worried about the statute of limitations for suing? Perhaps you’re dealing with circumstances that prevent you from filing sooner rather than later. Perhaps you’re a procrastinator. Regardless, you should always bear the relevant statutory time limit on your claim in mind if you hope to pursue recovery in court.
The court won’t give you legal recourse if you miss the deadline. Plus, filing at a later date can affect your case negatively. In some cases, however, the court will allow exceptions.
This article will explain how a statute of limitations for suing in South Carolina applies to your case. Let’s explore. For any questions you may still have, reach out to the South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers for a free initial case assessment by calling (803) 451-4000.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits in South Carolina?
Every state has specific requirements on how long a case remains viable until it becomes too late to initiate in court. These requirements are created through laws known as statutes of limitations and apply to all types of legal actions, both criminal and civil.
In South Carolina, most personal injury actions are subject to a three-year statute of limitations under Title 15, Chapter 3 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. This three-year window applies to most civil actions that seek monetary remedy for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentionally harmful conduct.
To identify when the three-year window ends, you must first figure out when it begins. In most cases, the statutory window begins on the date when the injury occurs. For instance, if you were injured in a car accident caused by another driver on May 1, 2021, you would have until May 1, 2024, to file your official complaint in a South Carolina court.
Certain exceptions may pause or “toll” the running of the statutory clock. These exceptions often apply to instances where the injury victim had a diminished capacity to file their claim, such as where the victim was a minor at the time of the accident or where the injury caused temporary or permanent brain damage that may count as a “legal disability.”
The statute of limitations may also pause if the defendant goes absent from the State of South Carolina for at least one year. In these situations, the clock on the statutory window will likely discount the total amount of time that the defendant resided outside of the state and may only resume once the defendant returns. Discuss whether any exceptions may apply with your Columbia, SC car accident law firm.
Why Are Statute of Limitations Necessary?
On one hand, the statute of limitations protects the interests of the defendant. If a plaintiff has a case, they should file within a reasonable time frame. If a plaintiff fails to file within a timely fashion, the defendant could lose vital evidence that would help his or her case.
With no limitations, a victim could sue a defendant decades after an accident. With so much of the evidence lost over time, the defendant couldn’t craft a strong defense.
However, filing deadlines can benefit the plaintiff as well. Both parties can gather information and evidence within the allotted time frame. As a result, you can gather fresh evidence, and you can find witnesses of the incident.
If you take too long to file, a witness may fail to remember key events. Further, you may lose vital witnesses that could have supported your case.
Also, your memory could falter as time goes by. Small details can make or break your case. Even if you can recall details long after the injury, the court may question your credibility because so much time had passed.
Plus, a statute of limitations adds structure to the evidence-gathering process. It gives you a time frame in which you must find witnesses, take photos, and collect documents. The limitations can streamline your research and encourage you to press forward.
Are There Any Exceptions to the South Carolina Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Exceptions that extend the normal statutory window for filing a personal injury lawsuit can be useful if the regular deadline has already passed. However, whether an exception applies in your case or not, it is always beneficial to act early on your case rather than use up more of the time that is available to you. To act now, reach out to your South Carolina personal injury attorney.
Exceptions normally apply to the disabled and children. For children, they have one year after their 18th birthday. For victims who were minors at the time of their accident, the available window for them to file a personal injury claim against the responsible party lasts for one year following their 18th birthday.
If a 14-year-old was involved in a car accident, they’ll have nearly five years to file their case. However, no matter how close the accident was to their birthday, the official deadline for their ability to file will be their 19th birthday. There is an even longer exception for minor victims who experienced injury due to medical malpractice. For medical malpractice cases, the minor has three years after their 18th birthday to file accordingly.
For disabilities, the court could waive the three-year limitation if the handicapped victim cannot file within the deadline. Additionally, victims suffering from head injuries that impede their mental capabilities can receive an extension.
Victims suffering from mental complications can get a five-year extension from the day of the injury. If the victim suffered a medical malpractice injury, however, the standard three-year parameter applies.
The court may consider an extension for other reasons, such as:
- Bankruptcy cases that can stall civil lawsuits
- Imprisonment due to a felony, in which case the victim can file a claim upon release
- Extended negotiations with the defendant to cover medical bills and other expenses
In the case of negotiations, you can still file a lawsuit if talks fall through. However, be wary that an at-fault party looking to escape liability may purposefully delay settlement negotiations in hopes that the statute of limitations will lapse. You can continue to negotiate your settlement with the other side even after filing your lawsuit in court, so do not put off your legal filing because you are afraid of losing out on an opportunity for a beneficial settlement.
Do I Have Any Options if I Miss the Deadline?
Unfortunately, victims have no legal recourse if the statute of limitations passes. Other than the aforementioned exceptions, South Carolina courts will almost never allow you to obtain an extension and bring your case to a judge.
That’s why it’s important to file as soon as possible after you suffer an injury. If you’re concerned about missing a deadline, contact a Columbia, SC personal injury lawyer to help you file on time.
If you have a special circumstance that prevents you from filing, convey your concerns to the court as soon as possible, as you may fit into one of the limited exceptions that allow for a tolling of the statute of limitations.
The consequences of not filing a suit include:
1. A Lack of Monetary Compensation: Without just compensation, you must pay for all medical costs and property damage out of pocket. You could face hard times if you’re dealing with long-term injuries and require ongoing care.
In worst cases, you may struggle to support yourself financially, especially if you’re unable to work.
2. A Lack of Justice: By failing to file on time, you’re letting the defendant escape justice. If the defendant engaged in reckless behavior, they may not learn any lessons and engage in the same reckless behavior in the future.
As a result, future lives may be in danger.
Receiving personal compensation is important, but the civil system is also about protecting society. For instance, punitive damages are meant to punish defendants and make citizens think twice about reckless actions or gross negligence.
Drunk driving victims, for example, can receive punitive awards due to the reckless actions of a drunk driver.
Punitive damages can vary, but it’s usually a hefty sum paid to you (the victim). If you miss your state of limitations, a reckless person could escape justice, especially if they escaped justice within the criminal system. Note that criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit are two separate legal actions. If the at-fault party responsible for injuring you is already facing criminal charges stemming from the same event, you still must take care to file your own civil complaint in court within the statute of limitations.
What if I’m Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Deceased Victim?
The victim’s estate has the right to file on behalf of the decedent. You can seek monetary damages based on the victim’s suffering before death, including mental anguish. In South Carolina, the standard statute of limitation applies on the day of the victim’s death.
Is a Statute of Limitations for Suing Certain People or Entities?
When it comes to a statute of limitations for suing in South Carolina, (whether individuals or companies), the same three-year rule applies. In the case of government entities, however, public officials usually have immunity.
Overall, strive to meet the three-year deadline as much as possible. Gather all the necessary evidence within three years.
The limitations period works to your advantage. You’ll have a short window to assemble witnesses and find the appropriate evidence. If you take too long, you could lose evidence and witnesses.
Are There Any Other Deadlines that May Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina?
If the party responsible for causing your injury was an agent of a government entity, you should be aware of the additional requirements you will need to meet in order to bring your claim.
Under South Carolina’s Tort Claims Act, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims against a government entity runs for two years, not three. Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction that you are in, you may have to provide notice of your intention to sue a state or municipal government agency for your injuries.
Essentially, the government wants this notice requirement so that they can investigate the allegations made in a claim early on while the evidence is still fresh. The time limit for providing notice of your claim to the government may be as short as 60 days after the accident in some instances. Each municipality and entity has its own specific requirements for how and when notice must be provided, so it is important to work with a seasoned South Carolina personal injury lawyer who is familiar with these unique requirements in order to keep your case valid.
Notifying the government of your claim is not the same as filing your claim in court. Even if you provide timely and accurate notice to the government entity responsible for your injury, you will still have to file your formal complaint in court within the applicable statute of limitations. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys can help you stay on top of all the relevant deadlines, so the best way to preserve your ability to recover is to obtain legal assistance as soon as possible after your personal injury.
Worried About Missing the Statute of Limitations for Suing in South Carolina? Contact Burriss and Ridgeway Injury Lawyers
When you reach out to the dedicated South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today by calling (803) 451-4000, you can obtain a free first-time case assessment to get you started on your recovery.