How long have I got to bring a personal injury or medical negligence claim?

Whether making a claim for a personal injury matter as a result of an accident at work, a road traffic accident or another kind of accident which you believe is the fault of someone else, there are strict time limits in place which must be adhered to. This time limit, known as the limitation period, will apply to all personal injury claims, and failure to commence court action within the limitation period will result in your claim becoming statute barred, preventing you from being able to claim compensation you may have otherwise been entitled to. This is also the case for any claims seeking to obtain compensation as a result of medical negligence.

The time limit for both personal injury and medical negligence claims is usually 3 years from the date of accident or date of negligence. However, there are a number of strict exceptions:

  • Child Claims – The 3 year limitation period for children who have been injured as a result of an accident or medical negligence does not begin until their 18th birthday. A parent/guardian of the child can still make a claim for compensation prior to their 18th birthday, but the law will allow up to their 21st birthday in which to issue a claim.
  • Accidents/Negligence resulting in death – There are circumstances where the accident or negligence has resulted in the death of a person a period of time after the accident/negligence in question. In this instance, where the death occurred within 3 years of the accident/negligence date, limitation will run for 3 years from the date of the person’s death, allowing the family to continue the claim on behalf of the victim.
  • Mental Health Act 1986 – If you were under a prior mental disability, and were being treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 at the time of your accident or injury, the three year period would not commence until the date at which you were discharged as a patient, or the disability ceased.
    Where, as the result of an accident, the injuries were such that the injured person was rendered immediately mentally incapable, the three year period would start when the mental disability ceased. This will depend upon the facts of the case, and legal advice should be sought as soon as possible.

In addition to the above, it is important to note that the limitation period will start to run from the person’s date of knowledge. With regards to road traffic accidents and accidents at work, a person’s date of knowledge will usually be the same as the accident date as they are aware of an injury at that time.

However, where the date of knowledge is later than the accident or the negligence, the 3 year period will not begin until the person’s date of knowledge. “Date of knowledge” is defined in the Limitation Act as the date when a person knew or ought to have known:

  • That the injury in question was significant; and
  • That the injury was at least partially attributable to the accident o negligent treatment which is the subject of the compensation claim; and
  • The identity of the defendant.

Therefore, where a person does not know or ought to have known about a significant injury, for example when misdiagnosed by a GP, the limitation period will not begin until that person has become aware or ought to have become aware of the injury.

Due to the complexities that can be involved regarding the limitation period, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as is practicable.

For further information on how we can help, please contact David Lunt on 0161 745 9170.