Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims in South Carolina

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In South Carolina, as in other states, car accident victims have a limited amount of time to take legal action. A statute of limitations is a deadline to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries. Failure to pursue your claim within this timeframe could irrevocably jeopardize it, leaving you fully responsible for medical bills and other losses. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you need to understand the car accident statute of limitations and how it works. Call the experienced Greenwood car accident attorneys at Hite Law Firm Trial Lawyers today to ensure you have the expertise to navigate the accident claim process.

What’s the Statute of Limitations on a Car Accident?

Accident victims typically have three years from the date of a car accident to either make an accident claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. If you file or make a claim after the three years expire, there’s a strong chance you won’t be able to seek compensation.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents?

In South Carolina, there are a few limited exceptions to the strict rules imposed by the statute of limitations. Accident victims should be cautioned not to use a potential exception as an excuse to delay taking action on their case. Nonetheless, if the victim does miss the statute of limitations, one of these exceptions could still allow them to file a claim:

  • The car damage or injuries were not discovered: This exception falls under what is known as the discovery rule. A person may have more time to file if an injury or loss could not reasonably have been discovered within three years. There are important qualifiers outlined below.
  • The victim is a minor: In South Carolina, an injured minor has three years, or until age 19, whichever is longer, to take action.
  • Insanity or mental incompetence: The deadline may not apply if the victim is in a state of insanity or mental incompetence (meaning, legal incapacity). But there are intricate rules for handling incapacity, so speak with an attorney.
  • Wrongful death: If the victim died from his or her injuries, the statute of limitations usually starts running from the date of death. The deadline in South Carolina is three years from that date.
  • Claims against the state: If the claim is made against a government entity, South Carolina only allows two years to file.

The Discovery Rule

In South Carolina, when an injury cannot reasonably be discovered until later, the date on which the statute of limitations begins to run may be extended. For example, if you suffer a back injury but don’t realize it until three months after the accident, the clock might not begin to run until that date. However, the victim must have made diligent efforts to discover the injury. Waiting to see your doctor might nullify this rule.

Is South Carolina a “No-Fault” State?

South Carolina is not a no-fault state but instead uses an at-fault system to determine liability and handle insurance claims stemming from car accidents. This means the driver or other party who was liable for the accident must pay for the damage. Usually, the responsibility to pay falls on the at-fault party’s insurance company.

Why Would Someone Injured in a Car Accident Delay Filing a Claim or Lawsuit?

The circumstances of every accident are different, so a victim might have any number of reasons to delay filing a claim or lawsuit. Common examples include:

  • The driver fled the scene: Without a driver, the victim probably doesn’t have anyone to sue. However, there are potential alternatives, such as filing a claim against the victim’s uninsured motorist policy or suing other parties who were liable.
  • The victim is legally incapacitated for an extended period: There are still time limits that may apply in a situation like this, but if the victim has no family to take action on their behalf, the claim might be delayed.
  • The victim’s injuries are delayed: As explained above, delays in discovering injuries can also delay filing. However, the victim should make reasonable efforts to determine the nature and extent of his or her injuries by seeing a doctor right away.

What If My Car Is Repaired, But I Find More Damage Later?

Once you accept a settlement from the insurance company, you sign away your rights to take further action on the claim. However, there may be an exception if damage to the vehicle could not reasonably have been discovered until later. Another exception may be if the repair shop deliberately hid or lied about the damage. In situations like these, you could have more time to pursue damages.

What Do I Need to Do After an Auto Accident If I Am Injured?

The main challenge with relying upon any exceptions is they are limited in scope, and it is difficult to prove they apply. Consulting with legal counsel at your earliest opportunity is the best course of action. Retaining legal counsel can help for the following reasons:

  • Your lawyer will need time to investigate the accident: This is necessary to uncover evidence of liability, determine the extent of damage and injuries, and identify all parties who could be held responsible for the accident.
  • Evidence can be harder to find later: Over time, it can be much more difficult to compile valuable evidence, such as medical records, photographs of the accident scene, and witness recollections.
  • Memories can fade: Your account of what happened is a form of evidence, but with time, it can become less reliable as your memory fades.

What Kinds of Compensation Can I Receive From My Car Accident Claim?

The legal damages that may be available in your case will depend on the unique facts of your accident. In general, victims can seek compensation for:

  • Medical bills and related expenses
  • Lost income
  • Lost income-earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disability
  • Vehicle damage and other property loss

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today

Don’t delay taking action on your car accident claim. Even if you haven’t recovered from your injuries, moving forward now can preserve the evidence you need and help you receive the maximum compensation for your losses. Connect with the Hite Law Firm today.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations FAQs

Does my case have to be completed before the statute of limitations runs?

No. The statute of limitations only applies to the date a lawsuit is filed.

What if the insurance company drags its feet?

If the insurer fails to negotiate in good faith or attempts to unreasonably delay your claim, a lawsuit will need to be filed. This preserves your right to compensation and avoids the statute of limitations issue.

What happens if I file a claim or lawsuit outside of the statute of limitations?

Either the insurance company will deny the claim or the judge will dismiss it. Unless an exception applies, you won’t receive any compensation for your accident.

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