How long do I have to make a claim for personal injury compensation?

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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.

How long after an injury can I claim compensation?

Although there are time limits in which you must have commenced court proceedings for your personal injury claim there is no amount of time that you have to wait before you can start your claim.

One of the advantages of filing a claim shortly after the accident is that it will be easier to find any witnesses, they will be more likely to provide statements and their recollection of events will be clearer. Also if there is any uncertainty as to who the claim should be made against it will give more time to find the right opponent.

If you've any questions or concerns about starting a compensation claim, please read our guide on how to make a personal injury claim or get in touch.

Adult Personal Injury Claims

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 or incident in which to bring 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 'clinical or medical negligence' 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.

How long do I have to bring a compensation claim for a child's injury?

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 put in 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 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 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.

What if I die before my case is settled?

The general rule is that if you die within three years of the accident then the personal representative of your estate (executor, next of kin etc.) will have three years from the date you died to commence court proceedings.

So what are the personal injury claim time limits for each type of case?

Accident Type How long do I have to make a claim?
Road Accident Three years from the accident regardless of the type of vehicle (car, motorbike, bicycle etc.)
Accident at Work Three years from the workplace accident
Industrial Disease Three years from the date of knowledge or diagnosis of the disease
Slip, Trip, Fall Accident Three years from the accident or injury
Medical Negligence Three years from the date of the cause of injury or the date of knowledge of the injury
Criminal Injury Two years from the date of the criminal act (when the assault took place etc.)

The above are simple guidelines and if you have any queries about the time limits you should seek advice from an expert personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the accident or date of knowledge.

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