How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina?
David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
Here's how the South Carolina personal injury statute of limitations works, and why it's crucial to comply with the filing deadline set by this law.
If you're thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in South Carolina, it's very important to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case. If you miss the filing deadline set by this law, you're almost certain to lose your right to any legal remedy against the person who caused your accident. Read on for the details on this South Carolina rule, and exceptions that could extend the filing deadline.
You Have Three Years to File Most Personal Injury Lawsuits in South Carolina
So, whether it's based on a car accident, a slip and fall, or any other kind of mishap, if you want to file a personal injury lawsuit of any kind in South Carolina, you need to get the initial paperwork -- including the personal injury complaint -- filed in court within three years. The "clock" starts running on the date of the underlying incident (unless an exception to the standard deadline applies; more on these later). (More: Common Kinds of Personal Injury Claims.)
Why Does This Deadline Matter?
It’s critical that you be aware of South Carolina's three-year deadline as it applies to your potential personal injury lawsuit. With rare exceptions (discussed below), if you miss the deadline, you will no longer have the right to sue the at-fault party and ask the court to award you damages for your injuries and other losses, no matter how badly you were hurt or how egregious the at-fault party's conduct.
Even if there’s a strong possibility that your case will settle outside of court (which is very common with personal injury claims) the threat of a looming lawsuit can be very useful in settlement negotiations. But if you’ve missed the statute of limitations deadline, and the other side knows it, you will have lost all of your bargaining power.
Exceptions to the Standard South Carolina Statute of Limitations
In certain situations, the South Carolina personal injury statute of limitations "clock" won't start running on the date of the accident, or the circumstances might pause the running of the clock after it has already started, effectively extending the filing deadline.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time of the underlying accident, the injured person is under the age of 18 or has been declared "insane". In those situations, the injured person is considered to be under a "legal disability," and once the period of disability ends -- meaning the injured person turns 18 or is declared sane -- he or she will have one year to get a civil lawsuit filed over the accident. (Note: The period of limitations can't be extended more than five years based on insanity.) This rule can be found at South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-40.
Also, if the person responsible for the plaintiff's injuries (the defendant) is absent from or resides outside the state of South Carolina for one continuous year or more after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit can be filed, the period of absence probably won't be counted as part of the three-year filing period (the "clock" won't run during this time, in other words). (South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-30.)
These are just a few examples. If you have specific questions about how the South Carolina personal injury statute of limitations applies to your case -- especially if the filing deadline has already passed or is right around the corner -- you may want to discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Learn more about finding and working with the right personal injury lawyer.