Exceptions to Statute of Limitation in Personal Injury Accident Cases

In my last article about South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations (SOL), I outlined the general rules to know.  For example, for most negligence causes of action (which would include most cases involving car wrecks or vehicle accidents, or slip-and-falls) involving a non-government liable party, the SOL is three years from when the incident occurred.  I also noted that when the liable party is a government entity the usual SOL is two years. It’s also good to know some of the nuances and exceptions which might apply, and that’s the purpose of this article.  Always remember to check with your attorney and understand that these laws can change based on new legislation.

        First, as I touched on in the earlier article the SOL technically begins when the party bringing the lawsuit is on “notice” of the wrong committed. In the case of a car accident or fall, it would be extremely difficult to convince the court (the judge would rule on a motion to dismiss for SOL, and not the jury) that notice was not when the accident occurred.  However, in some cases, like a medical malpractice suit, for example, the “victim” of malpractice may not be aware of the malpractice until months later. This can be “actual” notice, that the person was made objectively aware, or “constructive” notice, that the person should reasonably have been aware of the wrong done.  

        Second, in some cases, the party filing the suit may be able to argue “equitable tolling” (tolling basically means stopping the SOL clock) to go beyond the filing deadline of the SOL. Being prevented from filing the claim within the SOL for extraordinary circumstances could successfully keep the suit from being dismissed. The equitable tolling would be during the period of the extraordinary circumstances but would end when the extraordinary circumstances ended.  If the defendant has actively prevented a party from filing or misled to prevent filing, the Court could determine that justified missing the SOL deadline.  If a Defendant leaves the state for a year or more, the SOL can be tolled until the Defendant returns.

        Though a cause of action bringing damages can be barred by SOL if not filed by the deadline, it’s important to note that continuing related causes of action can still fall within the SOL.  For example, in the nursing home context, the substandard care may have been ongoing for many months (or years). Though the initial substandard care may be barred by SOL, the continuing violations may fall within the SOL and suit can be filed for those acts of omissions.  This normally does not apply to the personal injury cases involving slip and falls or vehicle wrecks, it can apply to other torts.

 Know your rights and the basics of the law, including the Statute of Limitations in South Carolina, to ensure your rights are protected.