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

Whether you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault or you have suffered from medical negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. There is a limit on the amount of time you have to make a claim for compensation though, and this is formally referred to as 'limitation'.

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

Exceptions to the 3 year limitation rule

Child claims

A person does not reach adulthood in the eyes of the law until they are 18 years old and as a result, they are unable to make a claim for compensation until they are 18. The law states that if someone who is under the age of 18 has an accident or suffers medical negligence and is injured, they have 3 years from the date of their 18th birthday to make a claim.  As a parent, you are still able to make a compensation claim on behalf of your child before he or she is 18 years of age, but the 3 year limitation period does not start until your child turns 18.

Fatal accidents

Accidents resulting in death provide another exception to the limitation rule in personal injury and clinical negligence claims.

Sometimes people who have been injured do not die immediately, and so the Limitation Act makes allowances for this. Limitation will run in these circumstances for 3 years from the date of the person’s death, rather than from the date of their accident or injury as in other personal injury or medical negligence claims. 

'Date of Knowledge'

Always remember that the 3 year limitation period will start to run from one’s date of knowledge, where the date of knowledge is later than the date of the accident or the negligent medical treatment.

“Date of knowledge” is defined in the Limitation Act as the date when one knew or ought to have known:

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

For example, if your GP failed to diagnose you as suffering from cancer during one or more visits to your GP surgery in March 2012, and you then did not find out that you had cancer until 1st December 2013, your date of knowledge will be 1st December 2013 and that is the date when the 3 year limitation period will start to run.

You would then have until 1st December 2016 to commence County Court proceedings against your GP.  With any medical negligence or personal injury claim, clear and independent legal advice as early as possible will mean that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to make a claim for compensation and also ensure that you are not out of time when you do decide to claim for your injuries.

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