Did you know that there are time limits to filing a personal injury claim?
What is South Carolina’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?
A victim has three years to file a personal injury lawsuit in South Carolina. The deadline may be as short as two years if the defendant is a government entity.
What is the Law for the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in South Carolina?
S.C. Code § 15-3-530(5) is the law that imposes a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. It says that a claim must be brought in three years for “injury to the person or rights of another” other than those arising by contract or other exclusions.
What is the Statute of Limitations in South Carolina When the Defendant is the Government?
Note: When the claim is against a unit of government, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act applies. The applicable timelines to act may be shorter. A two-year statute of limitations applies, except in cases of delayed discovery, when the deadline is three years from discovery or when the injury should have been discovered. If the victim files a notice of claim under the law, the statute of limitations is extended to three years. (S.C. § 15-78-110)
Why Does a Statute of Limitations Exist for Personal Injury?
There are a few reasons that the law imposes a statute of limitations for personal injury:
- Evidence can be lost over time. Both parties should have a fair opportunity to build their case and have it decided based on available evidence.
- The parties need finality. The parties can have peace of mind that their legal issues are resolved.
- When lawsuits are brought quickly after an injury, they are typically less expensive to pursue and process. Evidence is more readily available and easier to gather.
The statute of limitations was not created by the courts. Instead, it is law passed by the South Carolina legislators.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Work?
The statute of limitations is a deadline to start a case. If the victim files the case before time runs out, they may pursue it in full. If they miss the deadline, the defense can easily have the case dismissed without even looking at the merits.
The statute of limitations is a hard deadline that the plaintiff has to start the case. Even though they are the victim and wronged by the defendant, it is still their obligation to start the case within the time frame. The victim must name the appropriate defendants and file the case in the court with jurisdiction.
Note: Once a case is started, it doesn’t matter how long the case takes. As long the plaintiff is still pursuing the case, and it’s not dismissed for lack of progress, the victim may take all the time required to process their claim. The critical question is whether they have started the case on time. (See S.C. Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 41, Dismissal of Actions; Non-Suit)
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in South Carolina
Like most laws, there are exceptions to the South Carolina statute of limitations for personal injury. The time limit is three years unless one of the exceptions applies.
Some exceptions to the statute of limitations are:
- Children under 18
- Persons under a legal disability (insane)
- Delayed discovery of the injury
- Some types of medical malpractice claims
- When the defendant is absent from the state of South Carolina
The Discovery Exception
The statute of limitations period begins by either knowledge of the injury, or knowledge of facts putting the person on notice that they have a cause of action. If the victim only discovers the injury after a period of time, and the delayed discovery was reasonable, the statute of limitations may be extended.
See S.C. Code § 15-3-535; Snell v. Columbia Gun Exchange Inc., 276 S.C. 301, 303, 278 S.E.2d 333, 334 (1981).
Exception for Minors
Minors are exception to the three-year statute of limitations for personal injury. S.C. Code § 15-3-40 says that a person under 18 is under a disability, and they may extend the statute of limitations for personal injury by not more than one year after their disability ceases, or age 19.
Can a Person Who is Legally Insane Get an Exception?
A person who is legally insane may have an exception to the South Carolina statute of limitations. If the person is insane at the time they are injured, their period of disability doesn’t count towards the limitations period. However, insanity cannot be used to extend the statute of limitations by more than five years. (See S.C. Code § 15-3-40).
How Does the South Carolina Statute of Limitations Apply to Medical Malpractice Claims?
In general, there is a three-year statute of limitations for claims falling under S.C. Code Chapter 79, Medical Malpractice Actions. Medical malpractice limitations are governed under S.C. Code § 15-3-545. When the victim has delayed discovery of their injury, they may extend the statute of limitations not to exceed six years from the date of occurrence.
For actions arising from a foreign object left in the body, a two-year time limit begins to run from the discovery of the foreign object or when it should have been discovered. The time limit may not be less than three years after the object was left in the body.
For minors in medical malpractice claims, the statute of limitations may be tolled for seven years or for one year after the minor turns 18. There may be additional exceptions for when an insurer, health care provider or parent commits fraud or collusion in failing to act on behalf of the minor.
Contact Lawyers Who Understand South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations
The best thing to do is to contact our experienced personal injury lawyers as soon as you’re hurt, or as soon as you believe you may have a legal claim. Our lawyers at Upstate Personal Injury Lawyers, LLC know how to evaluate the applicable limitations period. We can take the right steps to start your case and pursue justice.
Contact us today for a personalized evaluation of your case. We are committed to pursuing all available avenues to help you receive the compensation you deserve.