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South Carolina Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

The statute of limitations is a legal rule that defines when a lawsuit can be filed. If a person tries to sue after the certain time limit set by the law, the claim is barred and the defendant will automatically win. Each state, including South Carolina, has its own statutes of limitations for each type of civil lawsuit, from contract disputes to personal injury. Each different type of claim can have a different time limit. For example, medical malpractice may have a shorter or longer statute of limitations than, say, trespass.

This article provides a brief overview of the South Carolina civil statute of limitations laws.

When Does the Time Limit Begin?

The time period within which a person can sue doesn't start to run until that person knew or should have known they suffered harm and the nature of that harm. For example, a girl takes acne medication as a teenager. Ten years later, she tries to have children and it's discovered that all of the women who took this acne medication are unable to have children. She was not warned of this fertility problem nor did she know about it until she got off birth control and started trying to make a family with her husband. Her time limit to sue didn't start when she first took the medicine, but when she discovered or reasonably should have discovered the harm.

However, if the drug company had a national campaign about infertility exposing this problem and made contact with all former users, informing them of the problem, and the woman still waited 13 years to sue, it would probably be seen as too late. Note that this discovery of harm rule almost never comes into play in the most common personal injury claims, like car accidents and slip and fall injuries.

Tolling of Statute of Limitations

The time to sue can be extended based on various factors, this is called tolling. For example, a child who's injured doesn't have the clock start running against them until they are no longer incapacitated by being a minor in the eyes of the law. Therefore, when they are 18, typically, the statute starts to run.

Another reason the time limit may be extended is disability. If someone suffered from severe mental illness and was hospitalized for many years, during which they were harmed, it would be unfair to expect them to have the mental capacity to sue.

South Carolina Civil Statute of Limitations Laws

The following table outlines the primary statutes of limitations for civil cases in South Carolina.

Injury to Person

Three years (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)

Injury to Personal Property

Three years (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)

Libel, Slander, or False Imprisonment

Two years (S.C. Code § 16-3-550)


Three years (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)

Professional Malpractice

  • For medical malpractice: Generally, the lawsuit must be brought within three years from the act (i.e. surgery) or the date the harm should reasonably have been discovered, with a maximum time limit is six years. If a foreign object is left in the body, the time limit is two years. The most the statute of limitations will be tolled for an injured child is seven years total or one year after turning 18. (S.C. Code § 16-3-545)
  • For architects, contractors, and professional engineers malpractice: Typically eight years (S.C. Code § 15-3-630)


Three years (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)


  • If the harm was from a written contract under seal, you have 20 years to sue. However, lawsuits for other written or oral contracts must be brought in three years (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)
  • Contracts for sale: Six years (S.C. Code § 36-2-725)


10 years (S.C. Code § 15-3-600)

Sexual Abuse or Incest Civil Remedies

Six years after the person turns 21 years old or within three years of the time of discovery of the injury, whichever occurs later (S.C. Code § 15-3-555)

Wrongful Death

Three years, although note that the discovery rule may apply in some wrongful death cases (S.C. Code § 15-3-530)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Don't Miss Your Filing Deadlines: Get Help From a South Carolina Attorney

Suffering from an injury, whether physical, emotional, or financial, is a stressful situation. While you may be feeling overwhelmed, you don't have to face the South Carolina legal system alone. The state's civil statute of limitations varies depending on the circumstances of the case and the type of claim involved.

If you are dealing with a personal injury or dispute that needs legal recourse, it's in your best interests to contact a local litigation lawyer.

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