Understand the deadlines for filing a lawsuit in South Carolina
In the American legal system, efficiency is of the utmost importance. The system must move forward at a pace that prevents it from getting bogged down and clogged up. Failure to keep the system marching forward efficiently inevitably results in the poor administration of justice. For this reason, statutes of limitations exist.
What is a statute of limitations?
A statute of limitations is a built-in time limit that governs the majority of all cases, potential and actual, in the civil law system. In other words, if you want to bring a lawsuit against a person or an entity, the legal action must be initiated within a certain time period after the crime or incident has taken place.
Is there a statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina?
South Carolina does indeed have statutes of limitations for personal injury (civil) cases. Depending on the specific circumstances, the South Carolina personal injury statute of limitations can be anywhere from 2 to 6 years or longer. While the majority of civil statutes of limitations in South Carolina are 3 years, there are some exceptions. The statute of limitation for workers’ compensation defamation cases, for example, is 2 years, while cases involving sexual abuse and incest have a statute of limitations of 6 years.
Statute of limitations for medical malpractice
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is 3 years from the underlying act, which is the action alleged to have caused the harm, or 6 years from when a reasonable person would have discovered the harm. Additionally, if a surgeon accidentally leaves a foreign object inside a patient, the statute of limitations is only 2 years.
Statute of limitations when suing the government
When suing the government for personal injury claims, it’s important to note that the statute of limitations is shorter than with a private party. Personal injury cases brought against the government are filed under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act and must be brought within 2 years, with very few exceptions.
What’s the difference between a statute of limitations and a statute of repose?
In addition to the South Carolina statute of limitations, there’s another type of statute that regulates civil actions called the statute of repose. The primary difference between the 2 statutes has to do with harm. With statutes of limitations, the clock starts ticking, in most cases, once the harm has occurred. However, when it comes to statutes of repose, your ability to file a lawsuit is not connected to the timing of an injury.
For example, if a professional contractor builds a faulty set of stairs to the second floor of a building, the statute of limitations for a claim of defective craftsmanship is 8 years after the stairs were built. Whether or not harm occurred is irrelevant to the statute of repose. This means that if you are injured by the stairs 8 years and a day after they were complete, you’re barred from filing a suit against the contractor.
All that said, it’s important to remember that the type of claim filed determines the time limit. Take the above-mentioned scenario. In that case, the contractor is liability-free after 8 years. However, the injured party may still bring a lawsuit against the property owner or other party for damages.
Exceptions to statutes of limitations in South Carolina
There are some important exceptions to South Carolina statutes of limitations. Generally speaking, 3 circumstances may give rise to situations in which the statute of limitations clock is delayed or paused. When this happens, the statute of limitations is said to have been tolled.
The first situation has to do with claims involving minors or individuals suffering from mental disabilities. Once that minor reaches the age of 18, they have at least 1 year to file their claim. For individuals who are mentally disabled, the time period of 1 year is also granted after they regain their mental facilities.
The second situation occurs when the potential defendant leaves the state. Their period of non-residency will toll the statute of limitations clock. Finally, when a potential defendant actively attempts to hide their whereabouts, the clock will stop until their location is discovered.
What’s the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in nearby states?
Statutes of limitations for personal injury claims in nearby states vary.
In North Carolina, according to North Carolina Code § 1, Subchapter 2, Article 3, you’ve essentially got the same time limits as in South Carolina when the injury and source are apparent—3 years. When the source and/or cause of the injury are not apparent, then the “rules of discovery” apply, and the 3-year limit applies as well. However, lawsuits filed in this manner are subject to a 10-year statute of repose. Additionally, in North Carolina, medical malpractice cases are also subject to a 10-year statute of repose.
In Georgia, according to Georgia Code § 9-3-33, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, generally, is 2 years from when the injury occurred. However, Georgia also has a statute of repose for medical malpractice cases. In general, patients harmed by their medical professional have a maximum of 5 years from the date of the injuring act (i.e., surgery) to file a lawsuit.
In Tennessee, statutes of limitations for personal injury claims are a bit more restrictive than in the above-mentioned states. According to Tennessee Code § 28-3-104, claimants have only 1 year to file a lawsuit from the time of the injury. As far as the statute of repose for medical malpractice is concerned, claimants have an overall time period of 3 years to file a suit against a medical professional. The clock begins ticking once the injury occurs, not when the injury is discovered.
When to contact a personal injury attorney
Because the rules for filing a personal injury lawsuit vary depending on your circumstance, it’s vital that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to avoid missing your window to receive compensation.
Our firm, Chappell, Chappell and Newman, has been recognized for its top-notch legal services, with several of our attorneys achieving the coveted Super Lawyers award. Founding partner Graham Newman also received recognition in the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, which is considered 1 of the legal industry’s top honors and is based on peer review.
If you’ve suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Chappell, Chappell and Newman are here to help. We’ve dedicated our practice to helping injured clients across the state of South Carolina get the justice and compensation they deserve. Contact us today for your free consultation so we can develop an individualized plan for you.