What does limitation mean in personal injury claims?

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There is a time limit for making a claim for personal injury. This time limit is known as the limitation period. Louise Gardner, a specialist personal injury solicitor from our Swindon team, explains more.

The general time limit for personal injury claims is 3 years from the date of the accident or alleged negligence.

Bringing a claim means that you must start court proceedings by issuing a claim form at court within these 3 years.

There are some exceptions to the limitation period:

  1. Claims involving children

If you are making a personal injury claim on behalf of a child, the limitation period does not start until they reach the age of 18. This means you have until they turn 18 years to bring a claim. Once the child is 18, the 3-year time limit applies, and they can claim as an adult (if someone has not claimed on their behalf before) until their 21st birthday.

  1. Claims involving a lack of capacity

Sometimes when someone has been in a serious accident and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), or if they have been injured due to medical negligence, they lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. In these situations, the law recognises they should not be penalised for not claiming within the 3-year time limit. There is, therefore, no time limit for claims involving a lack of capacity. However, if someone’s mental capacity improves, the clock will start ticking, and the 3-year limitation period applies. As mental capacity can change, it is essential to seek advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.

  1. Date of knowledge of the injury

There are times when it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when an injury happened due to someone else’s negligence. It is hard to determine when the 3-year time limit should start in these circumstances, so the rule is that limitation applies from the date an individual realised they had been injured (or the ‘date of knowledge’ of the injured person).

  1. Fatal injury claims

In tragic cases where the injured person dies within the 3-year limitation period, the time limit for making a claim is extended to 3 years from either the date of their death or the date of knowledge of the person who died, whichever is later.

Are there any other exceptions to the 3-year time limit?

According to section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980, should a claim be issued at court out of time, a restrictive function gives the court discretion to allow some claims to be made out of time. However, these are few and far between.

The court’s decision will be based on the facts of individual cases, but past cases tells us that application of this law is restrictive and rarely successful.

The court will consider:

  • The length and the reasons for the claimant delaying court proceedings.
  • The extent to which, taking into account the delay, the evidence produced (or likely to be produced) by the claimant or the defendant is likely to be weaker than if the action had been brought within the 3-year limitation period.
  • Any conduct of the defendant.
  • The duration of any disability the claimant has after the date of the accident.
  • The extent to which the claimant acted promptly and reasonably once they knew whether or not the defendant’s actions or omissions may give rise to a claim for personal injury.
  • The steps, if any taken by the claimant to obtain medico-legal evidence or any other expert advice.

Section 33 should never be relied upon in isolation. It is vital to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible after you have sustained personal injury through no fault of your own. Claims take time to investigate and obtain the necessary evidence to issue proceedings at court before the 3-year anniversary.

As you can see, the law relating to the limitation period can be very complicated. Every personal injury case is different, and expert legal advice is vital as soon as possible.

Novum Law’s specialist personal injury team has extensive experience assessing potential claims and providing expert advice about limitation issues. Our lawyers can advise if you have a good chance of making a successful personal injury claim. We can also help if you are in the process of making a claim and are unhappy with your current solicitor or would like a second opinion.

Call 0800 884 0777 today, email info@novumlaw.com or complete our online enquiry form for a free, no obligation chat about your injury.

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