Yes, generally you do have 3 years (called the limitation period) from the date of the accident or injury in which to bring a claim (meaning that you must either settle your claim or issue proceedings in the Courts within 3 years) but there are exceptions to the 3 year rule.
Any Personal Injury Lawyer that does not know the rules relating to limitation is heading for big trouble so make sure you speak to a good and experienced Personal Injury Lawyer. Keep in mind, the main source of negligence actions against Personal Injury Lawyers relates to the Limitation Period.
This article provides you with only a brief overview of the law relating to Limitation and is by no means exhaustive. So, as I have said above, for the very best advice relating to your claim speak to a good Personal Injury Lawyer.
I expect you are aware that the vast majority of Personal Injury claims are subject to a 3 year limitation period.
If you haven’t heard it on the radio, seen it on the TV or read it in the newspaper, I don’t know where you have been hiding but I am sure those of you not secluded away from mainstrean media will have seen the ads especially on the telly saying give us a call if you have had an accident in the last 3 years.
Well, what those ad’s dont tell you is that you don’t always actually have 3 years to bring a personal injury claim. So, I just want to highlight some of the exceptions in this article to try and raise a bit of awareness for those client’s left out by the ad’s.
For example if you have suffered an assault (i.e. been beaten up) then as this is not an action under negligence you actually have 6 years to bring a claim and not the 3 years as advertised on the telly.
The limitation Act 1980 actually specifies that the time limit is 3 years for personal injury claims from:
a) the date on which the cause of action accrued; or
b) the date of knowledge (if later) of the person injured
The law of date of knowledge is complex particularly in the fields of industrial disease and medical negligence claims.
Date on which the cause of action accrued
In most cases this is usually straightforward and it usually does relate to the date of the accident. The cause of action is established when the existence of a duty of care, a breach of that duty and damage caused by that breach are proved.
Furthermore, the cause of action accrues as soon as you have suffered any damage which is more than “minimal” even if you are unaware of the fact.
Time stops running when you issue proceedings, so it is not necessary that your claim has to be settled within 3 years of the relevant date but that proceedings must be issued within 3 years of the relevant date, if your claim has not been settled.
Date of knowledge
This is the date on which you first had knowledge of the following facts –
a) that the injury in question was significant;
b) that the injury was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence, nuisance or breach of duty: and
c) the identity of the defendant; and
d) if it is alleged that the act or omission was that of a person other than the defendant, the identity of that person and the additional facts supporting the bringing of an action against the defendant
Exceptions to the 3 year rule
There are a number of personal injury claims where the 3 year rule does not apply.
i) cases with limitation periods of less than 3 years
ii) cases with limitation periods of more than 3 years
iii) infants and patients
iv) fatal accidents
v) date of knowledge
vi) Court discretion
Cases where limitation less than 3 years
Accidents which happen in the air or on water (e.g. aeroplane or ship) have a 2 year limitation period. I suggest you speak to a good Personal Injury Lawyer for further advice in this regard.
For a claim with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) any claim must be made as soon as possible after an incident and must be received by the Authority no more than 2 years after the incident. Although it may be worth making a case to the claims officer to waive the time limit if you are out of time.
Limitation periods greater than 3 years
An Assault is not an action for neglgence so the 3 year limit does not apply. Instead for assault you have 6 years to bring an action, although you will do well to remember that a claim through the CICA will still have to be made within 2 years.
Consumer Protection Act Claims
Personal injury claims under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 have a 10 year limitation period.
Breach of contract
These claims can be brought within 6 years of the relevant date.
Infants and patients
The general rule under the limitation act is that the limitation period for minors (those under the age of 18 years) is that the limitation period does not run until their 18th birthday. In practice this means that the last day for issuing proceedings or settling the claim is their 21st birthday.
A patient suffering from a disability under the act is the same as a person suffering from a “mental disorder” as defined by the Mental health Act 1983. If the Claimant is a patient at the time of the accident, or rendered a patient by the accident and remains under a disability then the limitation period never starts to run. However, if the claimant’s disability arises later or if there is a period of lucidity when the claimant is not a patient, then the limitation period starts to run. Once the period starts to run it does not stop.
The right for the deceased’s estate to make a claim for damages applies whether or not the deceased had started proceedings prior to his death.
The safest assumption to make, when the death was immediate is that the 3 year limitation period runs from the date of the death.
For a more detailed explanation for the limitation period which applies and when it runs out you should speak to a specialist Personal injury lawyer.
Under section 33 of the limitation act the Court has discretion to disapply the the strict time limit for certain actions in respect of personal injuries or death. Again, this is a fairly complicated area so it’s best to speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer. If you post a reply to this blog, with a query then as always I will do my best to answer you query as soon as I possibly can.