If you have been the victim of clinical negligence or an accident on the road, at work or in a public place, the law sets out certain restrictions on the length of time you are allowed to take before making a claim – in most cases in England and Wales, the limitation period spans three years from the date of the incident that gave rise to the claim.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. If the injured party is a child, for example, the three-year limitation period does not begin until their eighteenth birthday, and no limitation period applies to an injured person if, at the time they were entitled to make a claim, they were suffering from a mental disability that affected their legal capacity to act on their own behalf; in such cases, the limitation period comes into effect only from their recovery date. If the incident causes death, provided the death has occurred within three years, the claim schedule is reset so that the limitation period runs from the date of the death.
Not all potential claimants are immediately aware negligence has occurred – this knowledge may come to them some considerable time after the negligent act or acts took place.
In such cases, a limitation period is deemed to start from the date on which a claimant first comes to know not only that the injury in question is significant, but also the identity of the perpetrator and that the injury is directly attributable to the act or omission that is alleged to constitute their negligence. If, for example, you are told by your doctor on a number of occasions that a mole you think is suspicious is simply a benign wart but later that it is, in fact, a malignant melanoma, your date of knowledge would be the date you were correctly diagnosed: your three-year limitation period would run from that date.
The legal landscape is undeniably complex and these guidelines concern only claims for incidents that have occurred in England and Wales – different rules and limitation periods apply if the injuries were sustained in Scotland or Ireland, on a plane or at sea, or elsewhere in Europe.
If think you may have grounds for a potential clinical negligence or other personal injury claim and want to find out more, even if the incident in question occurred many years ago, call our expert team for confidential advice on 01243 786 668.
Head of clinical negligence
George Ide, LLP
Solicitors of Chichester and Bognor Regis