South Carolina, Personal Injury Law, and the Statute of Limitations
You’ve probably heard the phrase “statute of limitations” before, whether on your favorite legal procedural or in headline news. You probably even have a good idea about what the statute of limitations is. But did you know that there are separate statutes for criminal and civil cases and that these can vary by state?
What Exactly is the Statute of Limitations?
Before delving more deeply into the statute of limitations, let’s clarify the term. First, there is no one statute of limitations. In fact, while we use the term in the singular, there are actually many statutes of limitations. Different states have statutes of limitations for both criminal and civil law. Plus, the federal government has its own statutes for federal crimes.
Because of the vagueness that surrounds the term “statute of limitations”, it has featured in a few law procedurals as a plot point. Lately, with both Bill Cosby and Dennis Hastert in the news, it has also become a topic of conversation. The wounds of crimes can run deep and it is much harder for victims and the public to forgive than it is for the law.
The statute of limitations is several statutes that delineate when a person can be tried or sued for a criminal or negligent act. It protects the rights of the defendants by limiting the time that they can be sought out or tried for a crime. Like any law, they are not written in stone, though it would take quite a bit of bipartisanship to change the statutes in any state (or federally).
What’s the Difference Between the Statute of Limitations in Criminal and Civil Court?
While there are times that the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases are the same, sometimes they differ. In South Carolina, they differ. Greatly.
In South Carolina, there is no statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. That means that a crime committed in South Carolina can be tried decades after it occurred. This may come as a shock to some who have heard the term statute of limitations thrown around as a reason for why a headline case can’t be tried in criminal court. Had those same crimes (whether murder, sexual assault, or larceny) been committed in South Carolina, a prosecutor with enough evidence could try them at any time.
Unfortunately, there is a statute of limitations that determines whether civil claims can be filed in South Carolina.
What are the Statutes of Limitations for Civil Cases in South Carolina?
South Carolina’s state government has a lovely website that provides citizens with access to its statute of limitations for civil cases. Unfortunately, if you try to read through it, you may get stuck on some confusing language.
South Carolina, however, has a pretty streamlined statute of limitations once all the lawyer-speak is removed. For most personal injury claims, including car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, wrongful death, and product liability, claimants have 3 years from the date of the incident to file suit. Victims of slander or libel have two years.
Do You Have a Claim Approaching the Statute of Limitations?
Have you considered filing a personal injury lawsuit but just haven’t gotten around to it amidst your doctor's appointment and work? Hesitating to file can put you outside the statute of limitations. Consider consulting with a South Carolina personal injury lawyer to determine whether you have a case and what the best way to move forward is.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident or in a slip and fall, you have a small window of time to file a claim after your accident, especially if your accident necessitated long hospital stays. Speaking with a skilled South Carolina personal injury lawyer can give you the answers and guidance you need to file a claim.
You shouldn’t be living your life buried under medical debt if someone else was liable for your accident. A South Carolina personal injury lawyer can help you file a claim and work towards a positive outcome.