Can I Claim for an Accident After 3 Years?
There are statutory limitation periods for bringing a personal injury claim.
Under section 11(4) of the Limitation Act 1980, the time limit in which to bring a claim for damages for personal injury is:
- a) three years from the date on which the accident or incident occurred; or
- b) three years from the date of knowledge of the injured person
This will apply for injuries to both a person’s physical and mental condition.
The reason for the limit on bringing claims is to prevent prejudice to potential Defendants from having to defend claims on an indefinite basis.
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What is ‘date of knowledge’?
This is defined by section 14 of the Limitation Act as the date when the injured person:
- First had knowledge that the injury was significant; and
- 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
- Knew the identity of the negligent party
For many personal injury claims, the time limit is easily identified as the date of the accident, but It can be difficult to determine the date of knowledge. For example, in medical negligence cases, industrial disease cases involving lung injury caused by Asbestos, or in abuse cases when the injuries were not immediately apparent and the injured person only later obtained knowledge that those injuries were sufficiently serious to justify bringing a claim.
How to make a personal injury claim
For the purposes of the Act, a claim is “brought” when the Claimant’s request for the issue of a claim form is delivered to the correct court office during its opening hours. A claim form can also now be issued electronically via the Court’s Damages Claims Portal.
To see an estimate of how much you could claim for your injury, you can use our personal injury compensation calculator.
Exceptions to the 3 year Limitation Period
The three-year limit does not apply in specific circumstances. Examples are as follows:
1. Children – 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.
2. No capacity to litigate – if a person lacks capacity to litigate then the time to bring a claim does not start to run until capacity is regained.
3. Agreement – it is possible that the Defendant may agree that the limitation period should not apply for a certain period of time – this can happen for example, when the parties are close to negotiating a settlement.
4. If the Claimant dies prior to expiry of the 3 year period (even if they are under age 18), the limitation period will be extended to 3 years from the date of death.
Air, water and accidents abroad
Care also needs to be taken for Personal Injury claims caused when travelling by air (including accidents anywhere on or near an aircraft of any type); accidents on the sea or water, which have different limitation periods; or for accidents that occur abroad – different limitation periods apply in foreign jurisdictions.
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What to do if the Limitation period may have expired
Section 33 of the Limitation Act provides the Court with discretion to exclude the time limit (but this may not apply to claims caused by air, water or accidents abroad)
The claimant will need to show that they have a valid claim with prospects of success and can justify the reason for the delay and prove that their prejudice in being unable to bring a claim would outweigh the prejudice to the Defendant in bringing that claim late. The Court will wish to ensure that despite the delay there is sufficient knowledge and documentation available so that there can be a fair trial.
These instances are rare and require special circumstances. Examples where applications to extend limitation have been successful arise in cases of historical abuse, clinical negligence or industrial disease claims where the date of knowledge needs to be determined.
Criminal injuries time limit
A claim for criminal injuries compensation generally has a two year time limit from the date of the incident, but there are exceptions where the application is made on behalf of a minor, or if there has been historic sexual abuse or psychological symptoms that have affected the ability to bring a claim.
The rules surrounding the various limitation periods can be complex and we recommend getting in touch with a specialist personal injury lawyer who can guide you.
How long can a personal injury claim stay open?
Your claim will remain open until it either settles, the court proceedings have concluded or you discontinue it.
Generally to prevent a personal injury claim from becoming statute barred under the Limitation Act 1980, court proceedings need to be issued within 3 years of the date of knowledge of the injuries.