Personal Injury Compensation Claims – be aware of the time limits or risk losing out
Guest PostIn the UK, there is a general time limit of three years in which a personal injury claim for compensation must be made. If proceedings are not started in a court within this time frame, then the case becomes statute-barred and cannot be pursued.
Usually, the three year timeline starts either from the date of the accident or from the date that the person becomes aware that the injury is linked to the original incident. This is referred to as ‘the date of knowledge’. This ‘date of knowledge’ can be extremely useful for cases that involve exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos which may not reveal itself until decades later.
However, there are some variations about when the time limitation is set. For example, in fatal cases, the three year limitation begins from the date of death or from the date the death was linked to the original incident, be it an accident or exposure to a toxic substance. In addition, if a person dies part way through making a claim for compensation, the three year deadline begins from their date of death, enabling their family to continue with the claim if they wish to.
There are special rules too for children and for people being treated under the Mental Health Act (1983). In such cases, the time limit does not begin until their ‘legal incapacity’ is removed. For a child, this is at eighteen years old and for a patient being treated under the Mental Health Act, the date of their discharge. The three year time limit still applies. Therefore rather than having three years from the date of the accident in which to pursue a claim the law states that a ‘child’ has three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday, that being the age of maturity, in which to bring a claim. Their claim, therefore, must have either settled or court proceedings have been issued before the child/adult reaches the age of twenty one. This rule gives the parents or guardians of the injured child a choice, at the time of the accident, as to whether to pursue a claim immediately (and have any compensation awarded to the child placed in a court fund until the child reaches the age of eighteen) or to wait until the child reaches the age of maturity and let them make their own decision as to whether to pursue a claim for compensation for the injuries they sustained as a child.
A peculiar anomaly to this is if an accident occurs on an aircraft. The limitation period in this instance is only two years from the date of the accident.
In order to minimise the risk of your claim being prevented in law from being made due to the statute of limitation it is advisable to seek legal advice from an expert personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the accident. Similarly, if a child has been injured it would be beneficial for the parents or guardians to talk through the options with a solicitor who specialises in child injury claims so that they are clear about what action they need to take.
For those who have had the misfortune to be in an accident or have been exposed to a toxic substance, it is also a good idea to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. In this way the injured party can avoid the risk of becoming statute-barred and have the best chance of making a successful claim for compensation.