Posted in Car Accidents on June 01, 2024

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury_ Image

How long after a car accident can you claim injury? Like many things in life, car accident claims in South Carolina come with a deadline. In most cases, a claimant has three years from the date of a collision to file a car accident lawsuit. However, there are exceptions to this rule, so if you believe you have grounds for a personal injury claim, it’s vital to talk to a South Carolina car accident lawyer immediately.

The Usual Statute of Limitations in South Carolina Car Accident Cases

The South Carolina Code of Laws says anyone wishing to file a personal injury lawsuit must do so within three years of their injury, with limited exceptions. Why does South Carolina put time limits on your right to file a personal injury lawsuit? It does so to:

  • Preserve Evidence: Over time, evidence can get lost or damaged. Witnesses might forget details. The statute of limitations helps ensure that evidence and memories stay fresh and accurate.
  • Promote Fairness: The statute of limitations protects defendants from facing claims after many years. This principle encourages fairness by preventing surprises long after an accident.
  • Encourage Efficiency: Putting a time limit on personal injury claims encourages prompt resolution of disputes. This keeps the court system moving smoothly and reduces delays for would-be litigants.
  • Provide Legal Certainty: A statute of limitations provides a clear timeline for both parties. Knowing the deadline helps everyone understand their rights and responsibilities.

Exceptions to the 3-Year Deadline to File a Car Accident Lawsuit

While three years from the crash date is the usual deadline to file a car accident lawsuit, certain exceptions exist:

  • The Discovery Rule: Injuries can take time to manifest themselves, and someone involved in a car accident might not realize they’ve been hurt until their condition becomes apparent. In these cases, the three-year countdown does not start until they discover or reasonably should have discovered the injury.
  • Minors: If the injured person is under 18, the clock starts when they turn 18, unless a parent or guardian already brought a claim on their behalf. This means they have until they are 21 to file a lawsuit.
  • Mental Incapacity: If the injured party is mentally incapacitated, the statute of limitations can be paused. The countdown resumes once the person regains legal competency.
  • Fraud or Concealment: If the defendant hides their role in the accident, the statute of limitations may be extended. The clock starts when the injured party discovers the fraud.
  • Out-of-State Defendants: If the person responsible for the accident leaves South Carolina, the statute may be paused during their time out of state. The time limit resumes when they return to the state.
  • Government Claims: Claims against government entities have different rules. These often require a shorter filing period and specific procedures.

What Happens If You Miss the Deadline to File a Lawsuit?

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury_ Image 2If you wait too long to file a lawsuit after a South Carolina accident, you lose your right to take your case to court. This means you have no way to force the other driver and their insurer to compensate you for your injuries.

Technically, you may still have the right to file an insurance claim if you miss the deadline for a lawsuit. But without the threat of a lawsuit, you lose your legal leverage over the insurance company. Insurance adjusters could offer you a lowball settlement or simply refuse to pay, and you have no way to bring them back to the bargaining table.

Why It’s Best to Talk to a Lawyer Immediately After a Crash

Three years might sound like a long time to file a claim after a car accident. However, you should speak to a South Carolina car accident attorney long before that deadline approaches.

First, you want to give your injury lawyer as much time to build your case as possible. It takes time to gather evidence, document your injuries, and negotiate with the insurance companies.

Second, essential evidence can disappear or deteriorate within days or weeks of a crash. The sooner you hire an attorney, the easier it will be for them to gather the critical evidence to maximize your compensation.

Evans Moore, LLC is ready to start on your case right away. Our firm and legal team will handle all the legal work while you treat your injuries and rebuild your life. Call (843) 995-5000 now or reach out online for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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