How long do you have left to claim your compensation?
In most cases, personal injury claimants have a three-year limit in which to make a claim for compensation - but there are exceptions.
The date that limit of three years starts will depend on the circumstances of the injury or illness that the Claimant has sustained.
Three years from the date of the accident
In circumstances where the Claimant's injury is the result of an accident, and the Claimant was aware of their injuries from that date, the three year deadline starts from the date of the accident.
The date of knowledge of the injury or illness
In some situations, the Claimant may not immediately be aware that they have been injured following an accident or exposure to a hazardous substance. Many work-related illness claims are traced back not to a single event, but to ongoing circumstances, such as working for months or years in an environment without suitable ventilation or ear-protection.
For industrial disease claims, such as claims for noise-induced hearing loss or asbestos-related disease, the three-year limit starts from the Claimant's "date of knowledge". The "date of knowledge" is usually the date that the Claimant became aware of the cause of their injury or illness.
When does the date of knowledge start?
The date of knowledge is the date that the Claimant knew, or should have known, that their injury was the result of another party's negligence.
Depending on the nature of the injury or illness, the date of knowledge could be:
- the date that symptoms began,
- the date that the Claimant suspected that they had an injury or illness, or,
- the date that the Claimant received a medical diagnosis
Determining the date of knowledge is not always clear cut, and can be complicated in cases where the Claimant was initially diagnosed with a minor injury, only to discover some time later that their condition was more serious.
If you are considering making a claim and are unsure when your three-year limit started, an injury solicitor will be able to advise more fully and will confirm whether further expert medical opinion should be sought.
If Court proceedings are not formally commenced before the three-year deadline, the claim is statute-barred, meaning the three-year "statute of limitations" for the personal injury claim has expired. The statute of limitation for personal injury is authorised by the Limitation Act 1980, Section 11. If a case is statute-barred, or time-barred as it is sometimes called, the claim cannot proceed.
Although the majority of personal injury claims are settled out of Court, before legal proceedings are started, it is the threat of legal proceedings, and therefore higher legal fees, that incentivises both sides of the claim to agree a settlement amount.
Once a claim is statute-barred, legal action cannot be taken and the Claimant usually has no other formal means of seeking compensation.
Making an injury claim close to the three-year limit
When starting an injury claim, there are a number of questions and tasks to address before formal legal action should be undertaken.
Some of these tasks can take days, or even weeks, to compete, including:
- arranging an independent medical examination and written medical report
- gathering witness statements
- gathering other evidence, such as photographs, CCTV footage and expert testimony
It can be difficult, but not impossible, to make a successful injury claim even if there are only a few weeks left before the three-year limitation period ends. Whether or not such a late claim will succeed can depend on the circumstances of the case.
If you are reaching the end of the three-year period you have to make a claim, it is strongly recommended that you contact a solicitor as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Injury claims for children - What are the time limits?
A parent, guardian or other suitable "litigation friend" can make an injury claim on behalf of a child at any time up to the date of the child's 18th birthday. The date of the child's accident, or date of knowledge, could have occurred at any time prior to date the child turns eighteen.
If a claim is not made on their behalf, a Claimant who was injured before their 18th birthday has three years from that date, up to the date of their 21st birthday, to make an injury claim themselves.
Limitation periods for fatal injury or illness
Close family members may be able to make an injury claim on behalf of a person who has died as the result of another party's negligence. Provided that the limitation period has not run out during the lifetime of the deceased person, the family's limitation period of another three years commences from the date of death.
The cause of death may only be discovered at a later date, such as following a post-mortem. In these circumstances, the three-year period is considered to apply from this date of knowledge.
The three year limitation period for fatal injury claims applies regardless whether the deceased person had started an injury claim themselves at an earlier date.
Exceptions to the three-year time limit for injury claims
Although most claims must be made within the standard limitation period, there are a number of exceptions to the three-year rule. In addition to the special circumstances listed below, the Court may, in very rare circumstances, make an exception to the limitation period. An injury specialist solicitor will be able to advise further.
Time limits for injury claims in foreign countries
It may still be possible to make a claim following injury or illness outside the UK, however the time limits can vary.
Package holiday claim time limits
Special legislation applies in the cases where injury or illness occurs during a package holiday. The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 place obligations on tour operators to ensure that the hotels and facilities they send holidaymakers to are safe.
The Regulations enable Claimants to make a claim against their tour operator in a UK Court, even if the accident occurred abroad. This means that the standard limit of three years from the date of the accident or "date of knowledge" is likely to apply.
Limits for other claims injury or illness abroad
Another country's time limit for a given injury claim may be shorter or longer than the UK's three-year limitation. Claimants should seek legal advice as soon as possible following an injury abroad to reduce the risk of the claim being time barred.
Limitation for injury and illness on board a flight
The time limit for airline-related injury claims varies depending on the circumstances:
- Domestic flights - For flights within the UK, the standard 3 year limit applies.
- Package holiday flights - For flights abroad booked as part of a package holiday, the 3 year limit will usually apply.
- Other international flights - If a passenger has booked an international flight through an airline directly, international law known as the Montreal Convention usually applies. Injury claims under the convention must be made within a two-year time limit. A small number of countries, however, have not signed the Convention and other time limits may apply when flying to one of these states.
Time limits for criminal injury compensation
Criminal injury claims are usually made through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The CICA apply a time limit of two years following the assault or other criminal incident, however other strict criteria also apply.
Limitation periods and the Mental Health Act 1983
If a Claimant was receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983 at the time of their injury, the three-year time limit would not start until the date the Claimant was discharged as a patient, or the date the conditions of their disability ended. The 3-year limit starts from the earlier of the two dates.
It may also be possible for a family member or friend to make a claim on behalf of a Claimant currently receiving treatment, as the Claimant's "litigation friend". In some cases, such a claim may be made before the Claimant has been discharged. This is a complex area of law, and specialist legal advice is strongly advised.
Time limits for injury or illness in the armed forces
Military personnel who have been injured in the course of the duty may make an armed forces injury claim for compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). Personnel have seven years from the date of their injury to file a claim through the AFCS.
An injury claim can also be made under civil law, which can result in more compensation being awarded, however the standard three-year limit would apply.
Limitation periods for cases of child abuse
There is no limitation for criminal cases of abuse, however the law relating to time limits for personal injury claims relating to historic abuse is still evolving. In the case of Ablett v Devon County Council , Lord Justice Sedley recognised that claims for sexual abuse may be brought for many years after the abuse occurred and that limitation periods were problematic in such cases.
The Court may consider that for the purposes of making a claim for historic abuse, the "date of knowledge" may be recognised as the date on which the Claimant was first able to appreciate the significance of the abuse that they had sustained. Specifically, the Court may consider this to be the date that the Claimant gains an understanding of the psychiatric harm that resulted from the abuse. This understanding could arise during the course of therapy, for example, in later life. This, however, is a very complex area of law, and specialist legal representation from an expert solicitor should be sought.
Time limits for personal injury claims
|Injury claim||Time limit*|
|Personal injury claims including slips and trip claims, road traffic accident claims and accident at work claims||3 years from the date of the accident or "date of knowledge"|
|Injury claims on behalf of children||Until the child's 18th birthday|
|Fatal injury or illness claims||3 years from the date of death or the date the cause of death is known|
|Package holiday claims||3 years from the date of the accident or "date of knowledge"|
|Claims for other accidents and illness abroad||Unknown, and will vary from country to country|
|International flight-related claims||2 years|
|Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) claims||2 years from the date of the incident|
|Claims for people treated under the Mental Health Act 1983||3 years from the date of discharge or the end of the disability|
|Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) claims||7 years|
*The time limits quoted in this table will not apply in all circumstances. It is strongly recommended that you speak to a specialist solicitor about your circumstance to determine how much time you have to make a claim and to discuss your options.
Am I too late to claim?
In very rare circumstances, at the Court's discretion, the statutory limitation date may be overridden under Section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980. The Court is unlikely to use these powers unless there is an exceptional reason for delay.
The Court will consider all the circumstances of the case, and evidence that the Claimant acted as promptly as reasonably possible once the Claimant became aware of their injury or illness will be a factor.
Given the nuances involved in determining the date of knowledge, people considering making a claim for their own injury or an injury claim on behalf of someone else, are strongly recommended to seek legal advice to determined whether they have a claim, and how long they have left to start proceedings.
Seek a solicitor's advice as soon as possible
If you have sustained an injury or illness as the result of another party's negligence, it is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Quittance's solicitors offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your claim and your options. Once you are armed with more information about how much you claim could be worth and how much time you have left, you can decide if and when you want to start your claim.
Call Quittance on 0800 612 7456 to speak to an expert about your potential claim, or request a callback here.