If you suffered an injury, you may be wondering how to get compensation for your damages. Of course, you don’t want to rush the process and make any mistakes that could minimize your claim.
However, if you take too long trying to get everything right, you could lose your claim to compensation altogether because of missing the deadline for the statute of limitations. If you have a personal injury case, discover the statutes of limitations that apply in South Carolina and how The Jeffcoat Firm can help you fight for timely justice.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
The expression “statute of limitations” is a legal term referring to a law that sets a deadline for when someone may bring legal action against another for an alleged offense. Statutes of limitations apply to both criminal and civil cases, including personal injury suits.
The statutes of limitations vary by the type of case, the litigating parties and the location, specifically, the state where the claim occurs. For example, South Carolina’s laws differ from Georgia’s. Also, most states have a shorter deadline for claims against a government entity than for claims against a private party or other organization.
The clock on the statute of limitations usually begins once the injured party becomes aware of the harm. If you attempt to file a claim after the amount of time set in the statute of limitations expires, you may not be able to recover any damages from an accident.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in South Carolina?
South Carolina’s typical statute of limitations for a personal injury case is three years. This timeframe also includes wrongful death suits.
However, if you have a case against a government institution, you only have two years to file the case, according to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. Such government entities include the State of South Carolina, one of its agencies, a city, a municipality or another subdivision of the state government.
What Is the Discovery Rule?
In most cases, the deadline for a personal injury suit starts immediately after the incident that caused the harm. For example, if you slip and fall in a grocery store or have a car accident, you know the moment of the injury and have the standard three years to bring your case.
However, the discovery rule allows for variation if the injury is not immediately evident. This rule stipulates that the clock on the statute of limitations cannot start until the injured party knows or should have known about the injuries in question.
A delayed start to the deadline could occur when you experience gradual harm that is not readily apparent at first. For example, you might have unknowingly faced exposure to dangerous chemicals while on the job, or you might have been taking a medication that had harmful side effects that the manufacturer did not share on the label.
In such cases, the law allows for the timing of the statute of limitation to “toll,” which means the starting point delays. The countdown then begins at the point where a reasonable person would have discovered the injuries.
Of course, a defendant might try to dispute that start date, asserting it began at an earlier time. Such an assertion might cause a court to rule that your claim is past the deadline. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you counteract such contentions and protect your case.
How Is the Statute of Limitations Different in Medical Malpractice Cases?
Medical malpractice cases have exceptions to the standard rule of discovery. South Carolina law states that you cannot sue a health provider for medical negligence more than six years after the date of the injury, regardless of the date of discovery.
The only exception to the six-year rule is if a surgical team leaves a foreign object, such as a tool inside your body. In that case, you can file a suit for up to two years after you discover or should have discovered the object was in your body. This timing applies even after the standard six-year deadline.
Are There Other Exceptions to the Normal Statute of Limitations?
An important exception to the statute of limitations applies to minors who suffer an injury due to someone’s negligence. A child might not have the support of an adult to bring a legitimate personal injury case.
Therefore, no matter when minors suffer and discover a personal injury, they have up to a year after their 18th birthday to file suit. However, medical malpractice claims remain the exception to this. A minor only has seven years to bring a suit, no matter when the alleged malpractice occurred.
A similar exception applies to individuals with mental disabilities. If the victim has a sufficient level of mental incapacitation or insanity at the time of the injury, the person can bring the suit up to one year after the period of disability ends.
However, the condition of insanity has a five-year maximum before permission to bring a suit runs out. Also, a mentally disabled person or one suffering from insanity has no exceptions for medical malpractice cases and must follow the standard rules.
Finally, a defendant might go absent for a year or more after the injury-causing incident. In turn, the deadline for filing the case may extend beyond the standard three years.
All of this can be very complex, and multiple exceptions may apply to your personal injury claim. A free case evaluation can help you understand how an exception could affect your case and what to do in the meantime.
Why Do States Have Statutes of Limitations?
You may wonder why any government would put a limit on when a person could file a legitimate claim for an injury. The law actually works to protect the interests of all involved parties.
Handling claims in a timely manner helps plaintiffs to get prompt and full justice from the responsible party. Over the course of time, the quality of evidence can decay, evidence can go missing and witnesses may become unavailable or unable to provide reliable testimony.
At the same time, such laws help to keep the judicial system running efficiently. A backlog of cases from years prior could put a strain on the courts’ resources. Of course, defendants also have a right to a fair and timely trial, and statutes of limitations promote this as well.
What Happens If You Miss the Filing Deadline?
If you miss the filing deadline and bring a suit anyway, the court will likely dismiss your case. Missing the deadline also mitigates the leverage you would have with the insurance company to make a settlement.
Therefore, time is of the essence in filing a personal injury claim. Accomplished personal injury lawyers from The Jeffcoat Firm are ready to help.
How Long Does It Take To File a Claim?
You might think that two or three years is ample time to file a case, but the deadline can pass quickly, especially as you have to cope with recuperating from your injuries. You also have to factor in the time and energy it takes to collect evidence and documentation, which varies by circumstance.
Furthermore, your claim requires time for processing. The defendant’s legal team or an insurance company could use tactics to slow the process and even push you past the deadline. The sooner you start to work on filing, the stronger your case is.
Call The Jeffcoat Firm To File a Personal Injury Case Before the Statute of Limitations Runs Out
If someone’s carelessness resulted in your harm, you deserve justice. Our lawyers are ready to help with the whole range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, dog bites, product liability and wrongful death.
Contact The Jeffcoat Firm for a free case evaluation from a firm that offers efficient, aggressive and honest representation.