If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be unable to take legal action immediately. In the aftermath of a serious accident, seeking medical treatment and recovering from your injuries is often your only focus. Once you are beyond the early stages of recovery, however, other concerns often emerge. How will you pay your medical bills? How will you pay the bills that have accumulated since the accident? How will you support yourself and your family while you’re out of work?
It may become evident that you need to take legal steps to pursue full compensation for your injuries and other losses. If the accident was caused by someone else’s reckless or negligent actions, the at-fault individual or business may be liable for making full and fair compensation for what happened to you. You may be eligible to seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The legal system does not require you to file a lawsuit immediately after an accident. However, there is a limited amount of time to make a claim. This is called a statute of limitations. It is important for accident victims to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so there is adequate time to investigate the case and prepare a lawsuit before the statute of limitations has expired. The time limits are different for different kinds of cases.
To learn more about the statute of limitations on personal injury claims in South Carolina, read more below.
The Statute of Limitations in South Carolina
The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims such as motor vehicle accidents is three years according to South Carolina law.
That means in most cases, an individual injured in a car crash caused by another motorist has three years from the date of the accident to start legal proceedings.
Similarly, a patient injured by a doctor has three years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina.
However, it is important to point out that this three-year statute of limitations begins only after an injury becomes known or should have become known. If, for instance, you used a product years ago and the adverse effects on your health were only discovered later, the three-year time limit for charges would begin from the moment of discovery, not from the moment you used the product.
Can you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed?
Unfortunately, if you try to sue after the statute of limitations has expired, it is likely that the court will refuse to hear your case. That’s why it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as you are able to after a serious accident. Not only will important evidence and witness recollections start to disappear as time passes, but the window of time to file a claim will close as well.
Can you extend the statute of limitations?
In some cases, the statute of limitations may be extended, allowing extra time to file a lawsuit. As discussed above, the statute of limitations to file a claim may be extended if the injury is only discovered later. This is called the “discovery of harm rule,” and often applies to medications or products that had delayed and unadvertised side effects.
Beyond the discovery of harm rule, there are other time extensions possible. Tolling is the legal term for delaying or pausing the statute of limitations. Perhaps the most common instance of tolling is in the case of minors. For minors, the time limit would not start right after the accident, but after the minor turned 18. If a minor suffered an injury at the age of 16, the statute of limitations would be extended to the age of 21.
Other common reasons for which the court may approve filing extensions:
- A case of mental incompetence due to mental illness, when the person is deemed physically or mentally unable to pursue the case during the allotted three-year period.
- A case of the person being incarcerated after committing a felony. Upon release, the person could then pursue their claim.
- A case of bankruptcy that puts a stay on other legal proceedings
- A case of all parties being involved in good-faith negotiations that attempted to avoid a lawsuit. If you were negotiating with the at-fault party to cover your medical bills and the negotiations failed, you would still be able to pursue a lawsuit.
The bottom line is that you should contact an experienced South Carolina injury attorney to review the details of your accident, regardless of how much time has passed. You may have a right to file an injury claim.
What should you do to avoid missing the statute of limitations deadline?
While it is important to focus foremost on your health, it is critical that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. With the three-year time limit for filing an injury claim in South Carolina, the sooner you consult an attorney about your legal options, the more time the lawyer will have to investigate your case and gather the evidence before it is lost.
When you are ready to speak with an attorney, choose a legal team that has a proven track record of success with cases like yours. Make sure to select a team that is committed to helping you, your family, and the community. At David Blackwell Law, we are committed to helping injured people in our South Carolina community pursue just compensation.
If you have questions about a recent accident and want to know more about the statute of limitations and whether you have a case, contact the South Carolina personal injury attorneys of David Blackwell Law today. You can call us at our Lancaster office at (803) 232-7274 or contact our Indian Land office at (803) 548-0225. Because there is a statute of limitations regarding your accident claim, do not wait until it is too late to contact an attorney and file your claim. Call us today for a free consultation.