What happens if you get hurt and a government entity is responsible?
South Carolina has a law called the tort claims act. Usually, governments have immunity, or exemptions from suits. The tort claims act limits that immunity and establishes a procedure to make claims against the state.
If you are thinking about bringing a claim against the State or one of its political subdivisions, proceed carefully. The South Carolina Tort Claims Act (SCTCA) governs the procedure, and arguably the outcome, of all situations in which an individual is injured due to the action or inaction of the State, its political subdivisions, and employees acting within the scope of their official duty. While the claims process may appear straightforward, the necessary procedure to follow the SCTCA can be exceedingly complex to those lawyers who are unfamiliar with it and even the long-time practitioner who has not yet been stung by its application. Although the Act itself purports to waive sovereign immunity in order to allow citizens to sue the State in tort, it is designed to include potentially fatal exceptions to that waiver of immunity. The liability exceptions are well-known features of the SCTCA, but without proper study of the statute, lawyers face hidden land mines unknowingly overlooked in either properly pleading a complaint or in answering a complaint.
The SCTCA applies to the State of South Carolina and every agency, political subdivision and governmental entity within the state, including everything from the Governor’s Office, to the Department of Transportation, to every county and town throughout the state. Each one is equally afforded the protections found in the SCTCA, which are construed and applied liberally in favor of limiting the liability of the State and its governmental entities. The SCTCA also features damages caps, which vary based on the governmental actors and circumstances, but are set at a single limit for any one occurrence regardless of the number of government actors and entities involved in the action. As a result, practitioners that hope to file an action under the SCTCA based on their usual practice and experience in the law may have a steep learning curve, which can impact their clients in a myriad of negative ways.
Under the SCTCA, political subdivisions are required to procure insurance to cover the risks on which immunity has been waived. The vast majority of the State’s political subdivisions and employees are covered by the State-owned insurance company, the South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund (the Fund). The Fund’s insurance administrators, adjusters and insurance company defense counsel are exceptionally knowledgeable in the application of the SCTCA. They are capable and practiced in using the SCTCA as a sword against claimants to thwart and deny an injury claim, rather than as a shield to prevent government overspending and runaway juries. With a thorough understanding of the SCTCA, you too can use the Act as a sword.
John Harrell at Harrell Law Firm, PA has years of experience handling the most complex type of cases including cases dealing with governmental entities. If you have been injured or wrong in an interaction with the government agency please contact Harrell Law Firm, PA to answer your questions and assist you with recovery.