If you're injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's residential or commercial property in South Carolina, it may make sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially when the property owner's negligence played a part in the accident.
A number of South Carolina laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit in the state's courts, and the "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in a state's civil court system. Specific time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.
As with the majority of states, the statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall case in South Carolina is almost always the same one that applies to any variety of personal injury case. Specifically, South Carolina Code section 15-3-530 gives you three years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for any death, personal injury, or damage to personal property.
So, if you're filing a lawsuit against a property owner or other defendant who is responsible for the unsafe condition of property where you were injured, you need to get the initial complaint filed in court within three years of the incident.
The same deadline applies if your slip and fall only resulted in property damage -- maybe you were uninjured in the incident but you broke a very expensive watch, for example -- and you want to file a lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of the damaged property.
Remember that your slip and fall case will hinge on whether or not the property owner took reasonable steps to keep the property safe and/or to prevent your accident from occurring. In other words, the key questions are: Was the property owner negligent? And, did that negligence cause your slip and fall accident? Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall accident.
If you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the deadline passes, you can count on the property owner asking the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it. So it's obviously crucial to understand how South Carolina's statute of limitations applies to your situation. In some rare cases the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in South Carolina, and whether they might apply to your situation.
It's true that not every slip and fall injury will lead to the filing of a lawsuit (most don't, in fact), but it's always a good idea to keep all your options on the table. So even if you think your injury claim will be resolved through a settlement, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get a lawsuit started, and talk to a South Carolina attorney if you're running up against the filing deadline.
You're making a slip and fall claim, only to hear the property owner argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. What's this all about?
Attempting to pin part of the blame on the injured person is a common tactic in any kind of personal injury claim in every state, not just South Carolina. But if any measure of fault is assigned to you, any court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been, or you may end up with no compensation at all from the other side.
And even if your slip and fall case doesn't make it to trial, South Carolina's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. The other side is always concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect the opposition's view of the role you might have played in causing or contributing to your accident. (By "opposition" we mean the owner of the property where you fell, or their insurance company or attorney, depending on the circumstances of the case).
A legal doctrine known as "modified comparative negligence" applies to any shared fault scenario in a personal injury case in South Carolina. Under this rule, the claimant's own "contributory negligence" (shared fault) will not act as a bar to recovery -- the injured person can still get compensation from other at-fault parties, in other words -- as long as the claimant's own negligence is no greater than the combined negligence of the defendant and anyone else who may have caused or contributed to the accident. But the claimant's compensation (damages) will be reduced in proportion to their share of fault.
Now that you understand the law in South Carolina, let's apply it in the context of a slip and fall case. Let's say your slip and fall lawsuit goes to trial. The defendant raises the "shared fault" defense, arguing that you were seen using your phone right before you fell. The jury holds you partly to blame for causing or contributing to your accident. In that situation, you can still get compensation from the property owner, as long as your share of the fault was not larger than theirs. But any damages award you receive will be reduced by a percentage that is in line with the jury's fault finding.
So, let's assume the jury finds you 30 percent to blame for your slip and fall, and they set your damages at $20,000. That leaves the property owner on the hook for $14,000 (which is what's left over of the original $20,000 after your 30 percent share of fault is factored in).
And remember, if you're found to bear more fault than the property owner, in South Carolina you can't recover any compensation at all. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.