If you or a loved one suffered harm due to another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to make a personal injury claim. Such claims can arise from road traffic accidents, work accidents, slips, trips and falls, medical negligence and many other circumstances.
Regardless of the type of accident and harm you suffered, there are strict time limits on personal injury claims. You typically have three years from the date of the accident to start your compensation claim, but there are various exceptions to this rule.
If you would like to find out more about the personal injury limitation period, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a solicitor by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation. You can also use our online claim form to ask for a call back.
What is the time limit to claim for personal injury after an accident?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you typically have three years to make a claim, starting from the date of the incident that caused you harm. This time limit is also called the limitation period for personal injury claims.
You mustn’t wait too long after an accident to bring a claim. Your solicitor may need at least a few months to investigate your case and compile the evidence required to secure compensation. For this reason, many personal injury solicitors do not accept a claim with less than six months left to the limitation date.
Seeking legal advice and starting your claim as soon as possible can offer several benefits:
- It ensures you remember all crucial details about the events that led to your injury;
- That is also true for any witnesses to your accident who might testify to support your claim;
- Any evidence related to your case is more readily available and reliable;
- An early medical exam that your solicitor will arrange for you can provide a timely and accurate assessment of your injuries;
- It may lead to a quicker resolution and ensure you receive compensation for your damages as early as possible;
- It will guarantee you stay within the time limit to claim for personal injury;
- Knowing you have started legal proceedings can provide peace of mind and allow you to focus on your recovery and your loved ones.
What is the date of knowledge?
Not all personal injuries are the result of acute trauma, such as a road traffic collision or sports accident. Some may develop over time due to prolonged exposure to workplace hazards such as asbestos or repetitive strain and overuse, such as in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
In such cases, the time limit for personal injury claims begins from the date of knowledge of the harm you suffered. That is a legal term used to describe the moment when you became aware or should have reasonably become aware of the following:
- That you suffered an injury or illness
- The cause or source of the damage, such as potential negligence or wrongdoing by another party
- The link between the injury and the actions or failure of the responsible party
- The identity of the party at fault
In many cases, the date of knowledge will be the date of the accident. However, this could be years and even decades after the initial event or exposure, as is the case for mesothelioma or industrial deafness.
Can I claim compensation after three years?
Under exceptional circumstances, the court has the authority to extend the three-year time limit under section 33 of the Limitation Act. However, this is rare and generally only applied if the claimant has an extremely good reason for the delay. The court will decide whether it is fair and reasonable to do so by considering several factors, such as:
- The length and reason for your delay
- The extent to which this might have affected the quality of evidence
- The defendant’s conduct after the cause of action arose
- The degree and duration of any disability you suffered due to their actions
- The way you acted once you found out you had grounds to claim compensation
- The steps you took to obtain legal advice about your case
As a general rule, it is always best to assume that an extension to the three-year personal injury limitation period will be unlikely and to start your claim as soon as possible.
Are there exceptions to the limitation period for personal injury claims?
The law imposes a time limit on personal injury claims in favour of both parties. It is meant to encourage a quick resolution of legal claims and make it easier to source the evidence needed to proceed. Knowing that there is a defined period within which you must start a claim provides clarity for both claimants and defendants, preventing the prospect of indefinite exposure to potential legal actions.
While the time limit for personal injury claims is typically three years from the date of knowledge, there are several exceptions to this rule:
Claims on behalf of children
Children do not possess the well-formed judgment necessary to make decisions about a claim. Therefore, a parent or another suitable adult could claim on their behalf at any time before their 18th birthday. The three-year time limit begins once they become a legal adult, from which they can start a claim themselves at any point before turning 21. You can learn more about making a claim on behalf of children by reading our guide to child injury claims.
An adult who lacks mental capacity under the Mental Health Act 1983 is regarded as a protected party. This could be due to any condition or injury, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- A traumatic brain injury or stroke
- An intellectual disability like Down syndrome
- A mental health condition like schizophrenia
- A neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s
In this case, the time limit is put on hold, and a litigation friend could claim on behalf of the injured person at any time. The three-year limitation period begins if they cease to be a protected party under the Act by regaining their mental capacity.
If you have suffered an injury due to an assault or another violent crime, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) will handle your case. There is a two-year time limit to claim for personal injury through the CICA, starting from the incident date. Those who were under 18 at the time of the incident have until their 20th birthday to make a claim. If no one reported the crime to the police before the injured person turned 18, the two-year time limit begins once a police report is made.
Claims for fatal accidents
If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence and qualify as their dependant, you can make a fatal accident claim within three years from the date of death. In some cases, the three-year limit may start to run from when a post-mortem has confirmed the cause of death.
Product liability claims
If you have suffered an injury due to a faulty product, such as a chair or vehicle, you are entitled to make a claim for compensation under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. There is a ten-year rule for claiming compensation for a defective product starting from the date the product was launched.
Accidents on board ships
If you suffered an accident or became ill at sea, you will usually have two years to start a claim. The personal injury limitation period may begin from the date of injury or when you leave the ship.
There is a two-year time limit to start a claim if you have suffered an injury or illness on an aircraft. In the case of international flights, the time begins to run from your arrival to your final destination. In the case of domestic flights, you have two years from the flight landing.
Armed Forces Compensation Claims (AFCS)
Military personnel injured on duty can claim compensation through the AFCS within seven years of their accident or illness. Claims related to mental health issues such as PTSD have a seven-year time limit starting from when you first sought medical help for the condition. If you were injured while serving in the armed forces, you can also claim under civil law within three years of the incident.
Different time limits apply to accidents abroad, depending on each country’s laws. For example, the time limit for personal injury claims is one year in Spain and Thailand and two years in Ireland and Canada.
Regardless of your circumstances, you should reach out to a solicitor as soon as possible if you want to make a compensation claim. They can let you know what time limit applies to your case and help you gather everything you need to start a personal injury claim. For a free case assessment, call 0800 678 1410 today or use our online claim form to request a call back.