Day 6: The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in South Carolina

When you suffer a personal injury in South Carolina, it’s crucial to act swiftly to protect your rights. One of the most important legal deadlines you must be aware of is the statute of limitations. This time limit determines the deadline for filing a lawsuit after the incident that caused injury(s) occurred. If not filed by the deadline, the case cannot be filed and the claim is lost. Here’s what you need to know about the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in South Carolina.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. Once this period expires, you generally lose the right to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for your injuries.

The General Rule in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally three years from the date of the incident causing the injury if the liable party is not a government entity (if it is a government entity, it is two years under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act). This means you have three years from the date of the accident or incident that caused your injury to file a lawsuit in the state’s civil court system.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the three-year rule applies to most personal injury cases, there are exceptions that can alter the statute of limitations period:

1. Discovery or “notice” Rule:

  • In some cases, the injury or its cause may not be immediately apparent. Under the discovery or “notice” rule, the statute of limitations starts when the proximate cause of an injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. This normally does not apply with vehicle accidents or slip and falls, because the time of causation of the injury(s) is obvious. It is usually an issue with medical malpractice cases. For instance, a medical error wasn’t discovered by the patient until a year after it occurred in surgery and pain developed to reasonably provide notice, the three-year period begins from that discovery date.

2. Minors:

  • If the injured person is a minor (under 18 years old) at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may be extended if the case is not brought by a guardian. In SC, the minor has up to one year after turning 18 to file suit, or seven years to bring a suit before turning 18 if a medical malpractice case. It’s important to seek legal advice to understand how this rule applies to specific circumstances.

3. Government Entities:

  • Claims against government entities or employees have different and often shorter deadlines. In South Carolina, you generally have two years to file a claim against a government body. Additionally, you must comply with specific notice requirements, so it’s crucial to consult with an attorney promptly if your case involves a government entity.

4. Medical Malpractice:

  • For medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is also three years from the date of the negligent act or omission. However, there is a maximum limit of six years from the date of the incident, regardless of when the injury was discovered. Again, minors have seven years to bring suit through a guardian.

Importance of Acting Quickly

Delaying action after an injury can jeopardize your ability to seek compensation. Evidence can be lost, memories can fade, and the responsible party may no longer be available. Acting promptly ensures that your attorney can gather the necessary evidence, interview witnesses, and build a strong case on your behalf.

Steps to Take

If you believe you have a personal injury claim, here are the steps you should take:

1. Seek Medical Attention:

  • Your health and well-being should be your top priority. Obtain immediate medical treatment and keep detailed records of your diagnosis, treatment, and medical expenses.

2. Consult an Attorney:

  • Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and ensure you meet all necessary deadlines.

3. Gather Evidence:

  • Collect any evidence related to your injury, including photographs, witness statements, accident reports, and medical records. This documentation will be crucial for your case.

4. File a Claim:

  • Your attorney will guide you through the process of filing a claim within the statute of limitations. This includes preparing and submitting all necessary legal documents and representing you in negotiations or court.

Conclusion

Understanding the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in South Carolina is essential for protecting your right to seek compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured, don’t wait to take action. Contact The Bill Connor Law Firm for expert legal assistance to ensure your case is filed within the required timeframe and to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.