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There are strict time limits for making personal injury compensation claims. You need to make a claim for compensation within 3 years of your accident (or within 3 years of discovering your injuries were linked to the accident).
Specialist personal injury solicitor Diane Reading, who has lots of experience helping people who have been seriously injured in accidents, explains more.
We often hear from people curious to know if it’s too late to claim compensation for serious injuries that happened several years ago.
The law is very clear on this. Section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980 states the time limit for a personal injury claim (called the limitation period) is 3 years. That said, there are some exceptions to the normal 3-year time limit that may apply in some circumstances. That is why it is important to seek advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor as soon as possible.
Generally speaking, the standard personal injury claim time limit in the UK is 3 years. This means you have 3 years to issue your claim at court. This time limit usually applies from the date of the accident when you got injured.
But, in some cases, the time limit will apply from the date you first became aware your injury or illness was due to someone else’s mistake or negligence, often as a result of medical negligence or exposure to asbestos.
For example, you may not realise for a long time that your work-related illness was due to your employer’s failure to protect your health and safety. This is quite often the case with diseases caused by exposure to asbestos which may not develop until several decades afterwards.
The claim limitation period will usually start from the date of the accident or the date you first became aware that an injury was connected to the original accident or negligent act.
This is known as the ‘date of knowledge’ and will be the point from which the standard 3-year time limit will start.
It is important to know that there are some exceptions to the 3-year time limit. There will be different personal injury claim time limits in the UK for the following:
If you are making a compensation claim on behalf of a child, you will have until they turn 18. Following this, the 3-year time limit will take effect and they will have until they turn 21 to make a claim themselves.
If you are making a claim for a loved one who lacks mental capacity to bring a claim and is unable to make decisions for themselves (for example, due to a brain injury), there are no time limits. You can make a claim at any stage.
Claims for injuries outside of the UK will vary depending on the country where the accident occurred. This means you may have more or less time to make a claim, compared to the standard personal injury claim time limit in the UK.
In criminal injury claims, the time limit to lodge a claim with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is 2 years from the date of injury. However, it is still important to speak to an expert as soon as possible in case other factors apply.
Another exception is if you are looking to make a product liability medical negligence compensation claim. There may be a time limit based on when the defective product was first manufactured.
You may be able to make a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998. The limitation period for these types of claims is very short, at just one year.
The limitation period for making a personal injury claim following an accident at sea is 2 years.
The time limit for aviation and international claims will vary. The 3-year time limit applies for both domestic flights and package holiday flights, but other international flights may have different rules.
International flights that are booked directly through an airline may sit under international law, known as the Montreal Convention. Injury claims made in line with this convention must be made within a two-year time limit. A small number of countries have not signed this convention, so other time limits may apply when flying to one of these countries.
Military personnel who are injured in the line of duty will be able to make an armed forced injury claim through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). Military personnel have seven years from the date of their injury to file a claim through the AFCS.
An injury claim could also be made under civil law, with the standard 3-year time limit applying.
Put simply, yes, fatal accidents will have a limitation period. Close family members may be able to make a personal injury claim on behalf of someone who has died as a result of someone else’s negligence, but only within a certain time frame.
You can make a claim for a loved one who has sadly died following a personal injury within 3 years of the date of death. This is provided that the original limitation period did not expire during the lifetime of the deceased person.
If the cause of death is discovered at a later date, for example following a post-mortem, the 3-year time limit will be counted from this ‘date of knowledge’.
If you do not start a personal injury claim within the relevant limitation period, the claim will be statute-barred. When a case is statute-barred, this means that the specific time limit for the claim has expired and you will not be able to access compensation for an injury you have experienced.
There may be some very rare exceptions to this. At the court’s discretion, the statutory limitation date may be overridden, but this will only be in cases where there was an exceptional reason for delay.
The court will consider all the circumstances of the case and decide whether the person who wishes to claim acted as promptly and reasonably as possible once they were aware of their injuries.
As you can see, the time limits for personal injury compensation claims can be complicated and may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. If you think you might have a claim, it is important to seek advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor at the earliest opportunity and not wait until the time limit you believe may apply is about to expire.
Your solicitor will be able to explain more about any time limits that apply to you and what you should be aware of before starting your personal injury compensation claim.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, whether recent or a long time ago, our experts in Bristol, Cardiff, the Isle of Wight, Plymouth, Salisbury, Southampton and Swindon are here to help.
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