Before discussing how long after an accident you can legally file a claim, let’s talk about how long you should take. Every second that passes following a car accident or other personal injury is important. While a personal injury lawsuit may take weeks, months or even more than a year to settle, the sooner you begin a suit after your injury, the better chance you have of getting an excellent result. In addition to filing a lawsuit as soon as possible for your own benefit, you also have a legal obligation to file your personal injury lawsuit within a certain window of time depending on the state you are in.
The Statute of Limitations
This window of time is known as the “statute of limitations” period. For example, in some states you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit after an automobile accident. Even one day after this limited time expires on your case, you will likely miss out on any possibility of compensation. In South Carolina the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in 3 years and generally that 3-year clock begins on the date of your accident.
It is important to note that this is not referring to the time period for filing a claim, which is different from a complaint or lawsuit. A claim is where you report the facts of your injury to the insurance company while a complaint is a legal document that is filed with the court and begins a lawsuit.
The Discovery Rule Exception
There are some exceptions to the limitations period in South Carolina, and one of the most common exceptions is when you have suffered an injury caused by medical malpractice. When you have suffered an injury caused by a medical personnel’s wrongdoing, the limitations period of 3 years generally begins on the date that you discover the injury rather than on the day that the injury occurred. For example, if a patient has undergone surgery in which a foreign object was accidentally left inside of their body, but the error was not discovered until years later. However, the delay in discovery must be one that is reasonable under the circumstances. So, if the patient in the above example was experiencing pain after the surgery but refused to seek medical treatment for a number of years, his or her lawsuit may be barred by the statute of limitations.
Because there are caveats and exceptions to the general 3-year time period for filing a lawsuit, your safest bet is to consult an attorney immediately after discovering your injury so that they can inform you whether there is still time to file a lawsuit. Missing these deadlines can make it impossible for you to collect damages so it is best to not procrastinate.
At Rankin & Rankin in Conway, South Carolina, we have the resources, skill and drive to protect injured people. Call us at (843) 248-2405 to schedule a free case review. Read more about our Personal Injury Claims here.