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Navigating South Carolina’s Statutes of Limitations in Civil Cases

The law can be tricky to navigate, and when it comes to civil cases, there are certain rules and regulations in place that one must follow. One such rule is the statute of limitations, which sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the types of civil cases in South Carolina, the corresponding statutes of limitations, and the consequences of missing the deadline.

Types of Civil Cases

Civil actions cover a wide range of issues, from personal injury to contract disputes to wrongful death. Familiarizing oneself with the different categories of civil cases is essential in understanding how the statute of limitations applies to the specific case.

Injury to Person

Injury to Person refers to any physical harm inflicted upon an individual, whether intentional or unintentional. This includes cases of assault, battery, and medical malpractice, to name a few.

In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury is three years. This means that the plaintiff must file a lawsuit within three years of the date of the injury, or the claim will be barred.

Injury to Personal Property

Similar to injury to person, injury to personal property involves damage inflicted upon someone’s personal belongings. This includes cases of theft, vandalism, and property damage.

The statute of limitations for this type of civil case in South Carolina is also three years. Libel, Slander, or False Imprisonment

Libel, slander, and false imprisonment are all forms of defamation.

Libel and slander refer to written and spoken forms of defamation, respectively. False imprisonment refers to the confinement of someone against their will, without proper justification.

The statute of limitations for these types of civil cases in South Carolina is two years.

Fraud

Fraud refers to any deception or misrepresentation that causes harm to another individual. This type of civil action can be difficult to prove, as it requires demonstrating that the defendant engaged in intentional misrepresentation.

The statute of limitations for fraud in South Carolina is three years.

Professional Malpractice

Professional malpractice covers cases where a professional, such as a doctor or lawyer, fails to provide adequate care or advice to a client. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice in South Carolina is three years, but in some cases, it can be extended up to six years.

Architects, contractors, and professional engineers have a statute of limitations of eight years.

Trespass

Trespass refers to the unauthorized entry onto someone’s property, whether intentional or unintentional. The statute of limitations for trespass in South Carolina is three years.

Contracts (Written and Oral)

Contract disputes can arise from both written and oral agreements. The statute of limitations for contracts, both oral and written, in South Carolina is three years.

However, contracts that are written under seal have a statute of limitations of 20 years.

Judgments

Judgments refer to the court’s decision on a case. The statute of limitations for judgments in South Carolina is ten years.

Sexual Abuse or Incest Civil Remedies

Sexual abuse and incest are disturbing and traumatizing experiences for victims. South Carolina allows victims to file a civil lawsuit within six years after they turn 21 or within three years of discovering their injuries.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death cases arise when someone is killed due to the negligence or intentional actions of another individual. The statute of limitations for wrongful death in South Carolina is three years, but with some exceptions.

Statutes of Limitations

Each civil action has its own statute of limitations. The time limit for filing a lawsuit begins on the date of the incident or the date of discovery.

For example, if someone is injured in a car accident, the statute of limitations would begin on the day of the accident. On the other hand, if someone discovers they have been the victim of fraud, the statute of limitations would begin on the day they discovered the fraud.

Time Period for Filing

In South Carolina, the time period for filing varies depending on the civil action. The shortest statute of limitations is two years for libel, slander, and false imprisonment, while the longest is 20 years for contracts written under seal.

For most civil actions, the statute of limitations is three years.

Start of Countdown

The start of the countdown varies depending on the case. For personal injury, the countdown begins on the day of the injury.

For wrongful death, it begins on the date of the person’s death. For fraud, it begins on the day the victim discovered the fraud.

Consequences of Missed Deadline

If a plaintiff misses the deadline for filing a lawsuit, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss, arguing that the legal claim should be barred due to the statute of limitations. In other words, if the plaintiff misses the deadline, they will likely lose their legal claim.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of civil cases and their corresponding statutes of limitations is essential for anyone seeking to file a lawsuit in South Carolina. Missing the deadline can result in the loss of the legal claim, so it is crucial to ensure that the lawsuit is filed within the specified time frame.

Exceptions to Civil

Statutes of Limitations

Under South Carolina law, there are certain exceptions to statutes of limitations in civil cases. One such exception pertains to injury to a child.

The law in this regard is designed to ensure that children who are victims of abuse or neglect have sufficient time to heal emotionally and physically before pursuing legal remedies. As such, the statute of limitations for civil actions related to injuries to a child is tolled, or paused, until the child reaches the age of seven.

Once the child reaches the age of seven, they have one year after turning 18 to file a legal claim. This provides the child with a total of 25 years, from the time the injury occurred, to file a legal claim.

This exception applies in cases where a child has suffered physical or emotional harm, such as neglect, abuse, or sexual assault. In these cases, the victim’s injuries are often not discovered until years later, due to the inability to express their pain and fear at the time of the abuse or neglect.

With this exception, the statute of limitations is essentially postponed until the victim is old enough to pursue legal action.

South Carolina Criminal Statute of Limitations

Unlike civil actions, South Carolina’s criminal code does not have a statute of limitations for most crimes. This means that there is no time limit on when a criminal case can be prosecuted.

While some states have limitations on how long a prosecutor can wait to bring charges, South Carolina has no such limitation on when a case can be brought to court. In South Carolina, any crime, regardless of how long ago it was committed, can be prosecuted.

This means that if a crime was committed 30 years ago, the perpetrator can still be charged and they could possibly be tried and punished for that crime. The lack of a statute of limitations in South Carolina’s criminal code mainly pertains to serious felonies and capital crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnapping.

These types of crimes are seen as particularly heinous and are deemed deserving of punishment no matter how long it has been since they were committed. Furthermore, certain criminal cases, such as fraud, have a longer statute of limitations of six years, while others, such as child sexual abuse, can be filed as late as the victim turning 28.

However, the state’s policy on statutes of limitations for criminal cases allows for the potential of prosecution of a crime committed a very long time ago. Some argue that the lack of a time limit on when a criminal case can be prosecuted can be problematic.

Evidence can degrade, and witnesses may have lost their memories, making a fair trial difficult. However, lawmakers support the approach, noting that it ensures that serious crimes, no matter how much time has passed since they occurred, are not left unpunished.

In Conclusion

Understanding South Carolina’s statutes of limitations is an important aspect of the legal process, be it in the civil or criminal realm. While most civil claims are subject to a time limit, there are exceptions that apply in certain situations, such as injury to a child.

On the other hand, in the realm of criminal prosecution, South Carolina has no time limit for most felonies and capital crimes. These provisions help ensure that justice can be served, and victims can receive the compensation they deserve.

Understanding the statutes of limitations in South Carolina is essential whether you’re pursuing a civil or criminal case. While civil claims are subject to a time limit, there are exceptions that apply in particular situations, such as injury to a child.

On the other hand, in the realm of criminal prosecution, South Carolina has no time limit for most felonies and capital crimes. These provisions help ensure that justice can be served, and victims can receive the compensation they deserve.

The lack of a statute of limitations for many felonies is controversial, as it can make evidence collection more challenging, but it also guarantees that justice is served, regardless of how much time has passed.

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