A statute of limitations is a law that limits how long someone has to bring a particular type of legal case to court. It sets a filing deadline so that years-old cases don’t come out of the woodwork with lost evidence and unreliable stories years after the events took place.
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for injury cases is 3 years. This means that your case must be filed, and the proper papers must be served on the defendant within 3 years of the accident. However, some special exceptions apply in specific circumstances that might alter these rules.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000 for a free case review with our South Carolina personal injury attorneys.
Deadline for Filing Personal Injury Cases in South Carolina
As stated above, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in South Carolina is 3 years. S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530(5) sets this basic rule, giving plaintiffs (injury victims) 3 years from the date of injury to file their claim in court and serve the defendant (the at-fault party) with notice of the filing. However, the rules have some exceptions and special cases that are always worth discussing with a South Carolina personal injury lawyer.
For cases filed against government entities in South Carolina, the deadline is shortened to 2 years under § 15-78-110. Shorter notice deadlines might also apply.
Any action under § 15-3-530(5) – that is, any lawsuit for injuries, including assault and battery – follows a special rule called the discovery rule. This rule comes under § 15-3-535 and extends the 3-year deadline a bit.
Instead of starting at the date of the injury, which is common in most cases, the starting point for the 3-year limitations period begins when the victim finds out that they have a “cause of action.” This essentially means that it starts on the date that they find out their injury was someone else’s fault.
This can come up in cases dealing with undiscovered product injury cases, poisoning and toxic tort cases, and other similar cases. It is unusual for this to come up in traditional injury cases like assault and battery, slip and falls, car accidents, and so forth, where the injury and cause are immediately obvious.
For claims against the government, § 15-78-110 sets a 2-year discovery rule instead of the normal 3-year discovery rule.
Section 15-3-535’s discovery rule specifically carves out another exception for cases filed under § 15-3-454 – medical malpractice claims. Under subsection 454(A), the discovery rule is repeated, specifically applying it to medical malpractice cases and giving patients 3 years from the time they start treatment/operation or 3 years from the date of discovery, with other specific exceptions in place.
In medical malpractice cases, it is often difficult for a non-medical person to know that something went wrong in their treatment. It often takes until they seek a second opinion from another doctor to discover the malpractice, so this discovery rule is vital for injured patients.
Another important rule that § 15-3-454(A) adds is known as a statute of repose. This sets an outside time limit for most medical malpractice cases, even if they take advantage of the discovery rule. Under this rule, medical malpractice cases must be filed within 6 years of the operation or procedure, even if the victim didn’t discover the injury until years after the event.
Medical malpractice is especially hard to discover in cases where sponges or other materials are accidentally left inside the patient during surgery. Sometimes the original doctor might not even be aware it happened. However, once you discover the object, it is pretty clear that something went wrong, and victims are expected to act quickly. As such, § 15-3-454(B) gives you only 2 years from the date of discovery to file these cases, but the 6-year statute of repose does not apply to this kind of case. If you discover the item within 1 year of when it was left there, the original 3-year statute of limitations will be longer, and your deadline to file will not be shortened to 2 years. Talk to a Columbia medical malpractice lawyer immediately if you think this exception applies to your case.
These rules also apply to dental malpractice or malpractice committed by any other type of healthcare professional, not just doctors.
Rules for Minors
Under § 15-3-40, any injury victim under 18 gets their deadline to file extended. Generally, if you are under 18, you get until 1 year after you turn 18 (i.e., your 19th birthday) to file your injury case. If you were older than 16 when the accident happened, this won’t matter because the original 3-year deadline will give you more time to file, so this rule will not apply.
During the period before the victim turns 18, the statute of limitations is said to be “tolled” (essentially “paused”). However, a parent can file the case on their child’s behalf before the child turns 18 if they want to seek justice sooner. Talk to our Columbia personal injury lawyers for help.
Similar to being under 18, you also get the statute of limitations tolled if you are under a disability when the accident occurred. This refers to diabilities that prevent you from appreciating and understanding your right to file. The law calls this disability being “insane,” but many things like intellectual disabilities would also qualify. Our Lexington personal injury lawyers can help you or a loved one determine whether a particular disability should toll the statute of limitations.
Once your disability resolves, you have 1 year to file your case, but in no case can the statute of limitations be tolled for longer than 5 years.
When the Defendant Leaves South Carolina
If the defendant is not in South Carolina when the cause of action accrues, then the statute of limitations is paused under § 15-3-30 until they return. This statute also pauses the clock from the time the defendant leaves if they leave South Carolina and stay away for more than a year. This helps prevent people from “getting away with” their negligence by simply fleeing the state.
Victims of sexual abuse have until 6 years after they turn 21 to file their claims (i.e., until their 27th birthday), or they follow a 3-year discovery rule deadline if they haven’t discovered the abuse yet. This rule is found in § 15-3-555.
Call Our South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
If you were hurt in an accident in South Carolina, call our Sumter personal injury lawyers today. In many cases, the statute of limitations gives only a short time to prepare and file a claim, so call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers immediately at (803) 451-4000 for a free case review.