If you have been injured through no fault of your own, whether as a result of a road traffic accident, an accident in your workplace or a slip, trip or fall on a public highway you may be considering making a claim for personal injury compensation. If you can prove that the accident occurred due to somebody else’s negligent act (or failure to act) then you are likely to be able to pursue a successful claim for compensation. However, there are very strict time limits for pursuing personal injury claims and there can be little, or nothing, you can do if you fail to act in time.
The general rule for adults who are considering making a claim for personal injury compensation is that you have three years from the date of the accident in which to pursue a claim.
If your claim has not been settled, or court proceedings have not been issued, by the third anniversary (3 years) of the accident then you will be prevented in law from making a claim. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are not easy to meet. However, if your injury or illness was caused by the negligent act or omission of a member of the medical profession, then your claim would be classed as a 'medical negligence' or 'clinical negligence' claim and the three year time limit may start from the time the act or omission of the medical professional treating you was identified as being the cause of your injury of illness (which may be some time after the actual event).
If your claim resulted from an industrial accident or illness the three year period does not start running until the claimant first had "knowledge" of the medical condition which is usually determined as the date upon which a positive diagnosis was confirmed by a qualified doctor.
The rules relating to children who have sustained injury or illness as a result of an accident are slightly different. The three year time limit still applies, however, 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 18th 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 their 21st birthday. 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 18) 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.
An anomaly to this is if an accident occurs on an aircraft where the limitation period is 2 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 your child has been injured it would be beneficial to talk through your options with a solicitor who specialises in child injury claims so that you are clear about what action you need to take.