In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the defendant – the person or entity accused of negligently injuring another – is generally a private individual or business. But consider the recent story of Columbia Police Department investigator Tyrone Pugh. In the early morning hours of January 19, video footage emerged that appeared to show Pugh punching an unidentified man who had been lying face-down on the ground. Undoubtedly, the unidentified man suffered injuries as a result of the altercation. But as a police officer, Pugh is a public employee. Suppose the unidentified man wanted to bring a personal injury lawsuit against Pugh for the injuries he suffered; can the man do so?
The Importance of State Tort Claims Acts
Ancient legal principles that generally held that the government and those that act on behalf of the government could not be sued. This principle – referred to as “sovereign immunity” – meant that the government could not be sued unless it specifically consented to be sued. In modern times, states like South Carolina have enacted statutes (called the “South Carolina Tort Claims Act”) that specifically allow tort claims like personal injury suits to be brought against government agencies and their employees.
Although the existence of these tort claims acts means those like the unidentified man can old governments and government employees liable for the injuries they cause, these acts usually contain specific instructions about how these claims must be brought. A violation of these instructions can mean the dismissal of your case.
How Do I Bring a Suit Against the Government in South Carolina?
Although a personal injury attorney is not required, it is very helpful to have the assistance of an attorney familiar with bringing cases under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act if you intend to sue the state, a county government, a city government, or a government employee. The basic steps are as follows:
First, a claim must be filed with the agency or entity that committed the wrong. In the case of the unidentified man, his claim would be filed with the City of Columbia government since Pugh was an officer and employee of the city. This claim is usually filed on an official form and is submitted directly to the agency or entity. The person who was injured has one year from the date of the injury to file this claim. If the person waits too long to file the claim, he or she may be barred from obtaining any sort of compensation or recovery from the government entity.
Next, the agency or entity has 180 days to either approve or deny the claim. During this time the injured party must wait until the agency acts.
Finally, if the claim is denied or no response is received within 180 days, the injured party can bring a suit in court.
Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law
The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability. We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly. Call 877-BICE-877 today or submit an online request to get a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.