The time period to make an injury claim is called ‘limitation’ and if this period has elapsed then any claim for compensation will effectively be ‘time barred’.
The period of limitation for anyone over 18 years of age is in most cases 3 years from the date of the accident.
The same period of 3 years is also the limitation period to claim for industrial injuries and medical negligence claims from the point at which the injury was first diagnosed.
Effectively in some circumstances an injury, disease or affliction could have been sustained 20 years beforehand and have gone undetected but it is when a person becomes aware of the injury and it is diagnosed that the ‘time limitation clock’ starts.
Time limitations for making a personal injury claim in respect of a child do not start until the child has reached the age of 18 giving them until their 211st birthday to make a claim.
A parent or guardian of the child concerned would be able to make a compensation claim on the child’s behalf. Any damages arising from a successful claim would usually be reserved in an account which would be accessible once the injured child had reached the age of 18.
Specifically the Limitation Act 1980 states:
“Special time limit for actions in respect of personal injuries.”
(1) This section applies to any action for damages for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty (whether the duty exists by virtue of a contract or of provision made by or under a statute or independently of any contract or any such provision) where the damages claimed by the plaintiff for the negligence, nuisance or breach of duty consist of or include damages in respect of personal injuries to the plaintiff or any other person.
(4) The period applicable is three years from—
(a) The date on which the cause of action accrued; or
(b) The date of knowledge (if later) of the person injured.
It is of course always better to take legal advice as soon as you become aware you may have a claim even if it is just to clarify the facts. Just because you may be entitled to make a claim doesn’t mean you have to go ahead with it.
It is far more likely that the earlier a claim for compensation is made the more probable it will be resolved successfully and without unnecessary complications, such as witnesses being unavailable because they have moved on, or difficulty in diagnosing and quantifying the true extent of the injuries suffered which may have completely healed.
Ultimately of course if a claim for compensation is made within the correct time frame it will not become ‘statute barred’ which means no legal action will be accessible.
Furthermore it is also worth noting that whilst you may be able to claim up until three years from the date of the accident or when you became aware of an injury, you may find it difficult to obtain the services of a solicitor to handle your claim if there is only a few weeks or months left before your claim is statute barred.
The reason for this is that a personal injury solicitor will need time to gather medical evidence together with other details surrounding your case. Medical reports in order to quantify the injuries suffered can take weeks or months to obtain, especially in complex injury claims.
It would be unreasonable to expect a solicitor to take on your case if they only have a few weeks to prepare the evidence needed. If the solicitor feels there would not be enough time to prepare your claim it is doubtful they will take it on.
Are there any exceptions to time limitations?
In certain circumstances exceptions to the time limits to make a personal injury claim are available although this should not be relied on.
In some circumstances where someone has suffered from an industrial disease or illness and have only just become aware years after the incident or exposure may still be able to bring a claim for damages.
The ‘date of knowledge’ would then be the determining factor, i.e. when the injured person finds out and is diagnosed that they have been injured. At this point the three year time limitation begins.
Regrettably in certain circumstances the injured person may be terminally ill as a result of the injuries sustained and may die before the three year limitation period ends. In these situations the limitation period would reset to the date of death allowing family and loved ones to claim compensation on their lost loved ones behalf.
A person held under the Mental Health Act 1983 would be entitled to bring a compensation claim once they are no longer listed as a patient under the act.
Finally anyone looking to claim for an injury that occurred whilst aboard a ship or aeroplane would be subject to a two year limitation period as opposed to the usual three year limitation the majority of other claims are subject to.
Section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980
Under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980, the courts are entitled at their own discretion to waiver the limitation expiry time and issue a new date by which the time limitation will expire.
The courts will only grant this exception to the time limitation when there are genuine and exceptional circumstances surrounding the claim.
Still unsure about time limits to make a personal injury claim?
If you are still unsure whether or not you would be entitled to make a claim for an injury or illness that you have suffered because of someone else’s negligence then please contact us today and speak directly to one of our specialist solicitors.
Our solicitors will be able to assess your claim and advise whether or not you would be entitled and within the time limits to pursue a claim for compensation.