You have three years to make a personal injury claim in England and Wales, although this rule does not apply to children and those who lack mental capacity. If you miss the deadline, your claim will be statute-barred, meaning you cannot get compensation for your damages.
If you think you have grounds for a personal injury claim, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for a free, no-obligation enquiry. We have offices in London, Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Dewsbury. If you live in England or Wales, we can help you.
Time limits for personal injury claims
The general time limit for making a personal injury claim is three years. This does not necessarily mean that your claim must have concluded within three years, but you must have issued court proceedings.
The amount of time you have to bring a claim is known in legal jargon as the ‘limitation period’. Ordinarily, the clock starts ticking on the date of your accident and injuries. This means that if you were involved in an accident on 1 February 2020, you would have until 1 February 2023 to bring a claim.
Exceptions to the three-year rule
There are, however, some exceptions to the three-year rule. This includes:
- Claims where there is a later date of knowledge
- Claims involving minors
- Claims involving those who lack mental capacity
- Claims where there is a shorter time limit
Claims where there is a later date of knowledge
The date of knowledge is the date that:
- You found out about your injuries or illness; and
- You should reasonably have suspected that you have grounds for a personal injury claim
As stated above, the limitation period usually begins on the date of the accident. This is because in the majority of cases, the claimant’s injuries are immediately apparent. Consider a bicycle accident, for example. Someone who is knocked off their bike and sustains a fractured wrist will know straight away that they’ve been involved in an accident – and that they have been injured through no fault of their own. In this case, the date of knowledge is the same date
as the accident.
But suppose your injuries are not immediately obvious? This is often the case in industrial disease claims, where the effects of toxic exposure reveal themselves years later. Individuals may develop illnesses such as mesothelioma decades after working with asbestos. Where this happens, it is possible to rely on a later date of knowledge. This will usually be the date of your diagnosis.
Claims involving minors
If the injured person is a child, then the three year limitation period begins on their 18th birthday. This means he/she has until the age of 21 to bring a personal injury claim. The claims process can be started before the injured person reaches adulthood, but it will not be subject to a time limit until this point.
It is worth noting that minors cannot bring a claim under their own name. Instead, a parent or guardian must bring a claim on the child’s behalf. This is known as being a ‘litigation friend’.
Claims involving those who lack mental capacity
If the injured person loses mental capacity because of their injuries, then the three-year time limit will not begin until he or she regains mental capacity. If the loss of mental capacity is permanent, then the claim will not be subject to any kind of time limit whatsoever.
It is important to highlight that the time limit is only waived if the claimant lacks mental capacity because of their injuries. If the claimant happens to lose mental capacity after the claim begins – perhaps because of an unrelated medical condition – then the general three year limitation period applies.
Claims where there is a shorter time limit
Certain civil claims actually have a shorter time limit. For instance, a claim for criminal injuries compensation must be made within two years.
What does the time limit mean for your claim?
Because of the time limits involved, it is vital that you seek early legal advice if you think you have grounds for a personal injury claim. If you are too close to the limitation date, you may struggle to find a personal injury solicitor who is able to take your case on, even if your claim has merit. It may be possible to request permission from the court to extend the limitation period. However, the court will only grant such a request in very limited circumstances.
If you are very close to the limitation date, your personal injury solicitor may choose to issue court proceedings very quickly. This ensures that your claim can continue. So long as you choose an experienced personal injury solicitor – such as those here at Ashmans – you can rest assured that your solicitor will determine the best strategy in your particular case.
What happens if I exceed the time limit?
If you do not make a claim within three years of the accident or date of knowledge, your claim will be statute-barred. This basically means that you are not allowed to take any further legal action. You cannot proceed with your claim or get damages for the injuries you have sustained. This may seem very unjust, but that is the way the law works. The legal system puts a time limit on personal injury claims (and indeed, other types of civil claims) to ensure fairness.
Get early legal advice
If you are injured through no fault of your own, you are entitled to make a personal injury claim and obtain compensation for your physical, emotional and financial damages. Provided that you are within the relevant time limit, you will be able to access the justice you deserve.
However, if you delay for too long and the time limit passes, there will be no recourse available to you. You will be unable to make a claim, even if you have clearly been the victim of someone else’s negligence. This could potentially be devastating for you, as you will be unable to recover your financial losses or obtain funds to cover the cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation.
We do not want you to be denied the appropriate compensation for your damages. That is why if you think you have grounds for a personal injury claim, we urge you to speak to our solicitors sooner, rather than later. The earlier you get the ball rolling, the better. Three years might sound like a lot of time, but in fact, it can take many months to get your medical records and ask a medical expert to write a report on your injuries. By starting the process shortly after your accident or date of knowledge, you give your claim the best chance of success. Ensure that you do not put in any exaggerated personal injury claims as this could wok against you.
If you would like to talk to a solicitor about your personal injury claim, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for a free initial enquiry.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.