In South Carolina, as in every state, if you've had your property damaged as a result of someone else's careless or intentional action, you might consider filing a lawsuit over what happened. If so, it's critical to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case.
A "statute of limitations", for those not familiar with the term, is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass before you must file your case. Miss the deadline and you effectively lose the right to bring your case to court. Every state has these laws on the books, with different time limits depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain the property damage lawsuit filing deadline in South Carolina, the consequences of missing the deadline, and a few rare situations in which you might be able to extend the time limit.
In South Carolina, whether your potential case involves damage to real property (your house or your land, for example) or personal property (including vehicle damage), it must be brought to the state's civil court system within three years, according to South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-530. Specifically, this statute sets a three-year deadline for, among other kinds of lawsuits:
So, if a homeowner wants to bring a lawsuit for physical damage to the exterior of his/her house caused by someone else's negligence, that case must be brought within three years in South Carolina. The same goes for a vehicle damage claim after a car accident. The three-year "clock" starts running when the property owner becomes aware (or should reasonably have become aware) of the incident that gave rise to the damage.
What happens if you try to file your South Carolina property damage lawsuit after the time limit has passed? In that situation, it's a safe bet that the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And the court is certain to grant the dismissal unless rare circumstances make an extension of the deadline appropriate (more on these rules later).
If your lawsuit is dismissed as time-barred under the statute of limitations, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So it's crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the South Carolina statute of limitations for property damage cases, even if you're fairly certain you'll be able to resolve the situation without resorting to a lawsuit.
For most kinds of civil lawsuits in South Carolina -- including property damage claims -- a number of (relatively rare) situations could serve to extend the three-year lawsuit filing deadline.
For example, special rules usually apply if, at the time the property damage occurs, the property owner is under the age of 18 or has been declared "insane". In those situations, the property owner is considered to be under a "legal disability," and once the period of disability ends -- meaning the property owner turns 18 or is declared sane -- he or she will have one year to get a civil lawsuit filed over the property damage. (Note: The period of limitations can't be extended more than five years based on insanity.) This rule can be found at South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-40.
And, under South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-30 if the person who is alleged to have caused the property damage leaves the state of South Carolina before the lawsuit can be filed, and takes up residence in another state or is gone for more than one year, the period of his or her absence probably won't be counted as part of the three-year time limit for filing suit.
Other circumstances may affect the South Carolina statute of limitations, and how it's calculated. If you've got questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to your potential property damage lawsuit, an experienced South Carolina attorney will have the answers. Learn more about Finding an Excellent Lawyer.