THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - PROVIDING AGGRESSIVE AND COMPASSIONATE LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO ACCIDENT VICTIMS OF CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
I often write in here about the legal theories and the practical applications that apply to personal injury matters that transpire between private actors. Whether is it the negligence of an individual, a private business, or a collection of private citizens, the procedure for pursuing damages in Tort for injuries caused by a private entity is, in and of itself, fairly straightforward to comprehend and follow.
However, what is the procedure for pursuing personal injury claims against a government entity? Whether it is a high profile case involving law enforcement or as simple as a city employee negligently operating an automobile and causing a crash, there is an entirely different set of rules and procedures for "suing" a government entity for damages in South Carolina.
WHAT IS THE SOUTH CAROLINA TORT CLAIMS ACT?
When a private individual wishes to pursue damages for personal injury against a government entity in South Carolina, that person must pursue these damages in accordance with the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (SCTCA). The SCTCA is applicable to any city and county and agency, in addition to the state and its agencies, and allows people to recover damages. (Any suits against the Federal government are covered by a Federal version of the Tort Claims Act and are not part of this discussion) SCTCA is the sole remedy for any Tort caused by the negligence of an employee of a governmental entity.
DAMAGES ARE CAPPED!!
The primary difference between a private injury claim and that involving SCTCA is the amount of damages that can be recovered! The SCTCA, with very few and limited exceptions, limits your recovery to $300,000. In theory, someone could bring a suit against a government and win a $10 Million Dollar judgment. It wouldn't matter . . . the law in the vast majority of cases will limit your recovery against a government entity to $300,000. This cap is applicable to each occurrence. In other words, even if you pursue damages against several different government entities for a single event and they are all found liable, the total damage award will still be capped at $300,000.
If the case involves suit being filed by multiple Plaintiffs (multiple victims of the same accident), no matter how many Plaintiffs are involved and now matter how many government agencies are sued, the damages will be capped at $600,000.
The main exception to this cap would be for medical malpractice committed in a government owned / operated hospital or medical facility. Damages in these cases is capped at $1.2 Million Dollars.
ALSO - THERE ARE NO PUNITIVE DAMAGES AWARDED IN TORT CLAIMS ACT CASES!!
REMNANTS OF SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY HANGING AROUND!!
The second big difference that you find in the SCTCA as compared to normal Tort law is that the statute grants 40 different exceptions (immunity) from liability by the government entity. Now in the old days (before 1986 and the passage of SCTCA), government entities has absolute immunity from any Tort claims by private citizens. So at least that hard and fast rule has been abolished, However, many exceptions still exist that isolates the government from Tort liability. These exceptions / immunities from liability for government entities can be found at S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 15-78-60. These immunities can range from everything from damages resulting from legislative or judicial action to acts committed under the auspices of the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Management Authority (go figure).
DIFFERENT STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS!!
The final major difference in bringing claims against the government under SCTCA versus a private action is that the statute of limitations is shortened. Under the SCTCA, the applicable statute of limitations to file a suit against a government entity is 2 years. Of course, if the litigation was against another private individual the statute of limitations would be 3 years.
To make things just a little more confusing, the SCTCA provides a mechanism that can extend the statute of limitations to 3 years if a certain document is filed. That document is referred to as a verified claim for damages. If a verified claim for damages is filed, then the statute of limitations is extended to 3 years. The verified claim for damages may be filed within one year after the loss was incurred or discovered. SC Code Ann.§ 15-78-80 (d). Though it does extend the period to file a lawsuit, the verified claim for damages also requires an injured party to refrain from filing a full lawsuit until:
- until 180 days haved passed, or
- the court denies the claim, or
- the settlement is reached
The purpose of the verified claim for damages process was to allow for the disposition of meritorious claims while allowing both the private citizen and the government to avoid costly and extended litigation on a claim that should most likely be paid. However, the verified claim for damages process has been turned on its head by lawyers representing government entities and is used as a weapon of delay and in no way has encouraged government lawyers to settle a case more expeditiously. An argument can be made to perhaps avoid this altogether as it delays the filing of the lawsuit and getting relief to the victim.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - DEDICATED TO SERVING CAR ACCIDENT AND INJURY VICTIMS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
As a Car Accident and Personal Injury lawyer in my solo practice, I will take all necessary steps to protect your rights and earn just compensation for you as a result of your accident. Through my efforts, I can bring about much needed financial relief to a victim who may be suffering from serious injuries and permanent disability. Being a small firm allows you to have direct access to your lawyer during this entire process, with open lines of communication as we work together towards a viable solution to your specific case.
Being an experienced personal injury attorney, I have experience dealing with insurance companies. I also know where the courthouse is and will not be afraid to call the insurance company to the mat in front of a judge and jury if necessary.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident or due to the negligent or reckless acts of another in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, or any of the other fine communities of the Low Country, and need to meet with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact me to set up your free case evaluation today. Let me help prevent you from being taken advantage of by the insurance company. I am serious and I am here for you! Contact The McMillian Law Firm today @ 843-900-1306