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Don't get caught out by the Limitation Act. Time limits on claims are critical!

I currently represent a client who suffered personal injuries as a result of long standing damp and mould in her property, which she moved into in 2009. My client suffered respiratory illness and skin problems. Her two young child also suffered respiratory injuries. Claims were brought against the local authority who had a statutory duty to keep the premises in good condition.

The local authority admitted liability promptly for the claims brought on behalf of my client’s two children, however they raised argument that my client’s claim was out of time. Further enquiries were made and my client’s medical records were obtained to check when she first started experiencing respiratory and skin problems and when she knew this could be attributed to the damp and mould in her property.

My client’s medical records confirmed she complained about her skin problems as early as April 2013 and was suffering from a long standing respiratory illness unrelated to the mould and damp in her property. Unfortunately the claim will have to be abandoned as it is deemed to be out of time.

So what could have been done to prevent the claim from being withdrawn?

Time limits for bringing negligence claims

Under section 11(4) of the Limitation Act 1980, the time limit in which to bring a claim for damages for personal injury is three years from the date on which the accident or incident occurred or three years from the date of knowledge of the injured person. Section 14 of the Limitation Act provides the definition of the date of knowledge. This is the date when the injured person:

  1. First had knowledge that the injury was significant; and
  2. That that the injury was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which was alleged to constitute the negligence, nuisance or breach of duty; and
  3. Knew the identity of the negligent party.

For my client, her case is statue barred from making a claim as the three year time limit has expired. The reason for this is not to prejudice potential defendants from having to defend claims on an indefinite basis. Section 33 of the Limitation Act however provides the Court with discretion to exclude the time limit, however these instances are rare and require special circumstances and therefore the safest course of action is to bring a claim within the three year limitation period.

Claims beyond the three years….

It is possible to bring a claim three years after the injury alleged, where it can be proved that it was not until after the three year period that the injury was caused by the act or omission of a negligent party.

The three-year limit does not apply in specific circumstances. Where the Claimant is under eighteen years of age and therefore a minor, the three year limitation period starts to run from their eighteenth birthday.

Criminal injuries time limit

A claim for criminal injuries compensation has a two year time limit from the date of the incident.

The rules surrounding the various limitation periods can be complex and it would be prudent to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure your claim is not statute barred.