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How long do I have to make a claim after an accident?

View profile for Pauline Smith
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When should an accident or disease be reported to the Health and Safety Executive?

So you’ve been injured at work, and need to be off for a few weeks whilst you recover. Your employer is seemingly understanding and tells you that they’ll pay your wages – if you don’t make a claim. But what if you’re finding the job increasingly difficult due to an injury which simply isn’t resolving or you need lots of ongoing treatment and time off work? Where does this leave you if months, or even years have passed since the accident?

In the UK under the Limitation Act 1980, accidents at work, on the street, or on someone else’s premises, generally have a limitation date of three years from the date of accident. This time limit also applies to claims where you may have been injured by a faulty product, or by poor service, as well as animal attacks, amongst others. This means that you have three years to bring court proceedings against any potential defendant or opponent. If you do not either settle your claim, or issue court proceedings by that third anniversary, your case will become “statute barred”. This means that you will have lost the right to bring a claim against that defendant because you didn’t issue formal court proceedings within that timeframe. A court will not disallow you from issuing court proceedings after the limitation date, however, it is highly likely that your opponent would raise the missed limitation date as an issue in their defence, and the court may be likely to take on board their point and dismiss the claim, as being out of time.

Limitation dates for those injured as children

But what if you are a child when you are involved in an accident, and for whatever reason, your parent decides not to bring a claim for you around the time that it happens? The law in relation to children having accidents is clear – you have three years from your 18th birthday in which to make a claim. And this can actually happen. I brought a claim for a 17 year old boy in the not too distant past – his accident occurred when he fell from a highchair when he was just two years old. Fortunately, due to the limitation laws in the UK, he was able to pursue a claim and successfully recover compensation.

Limitation dates for accidents abroad

There are exceptions to the rule however. In cases which occur on foreign soil, each country tends to have their own limitation date, so it is wise to check with an experienced solicitor that they are fully conversant with the individual country’s time limits. Stephensons have specialists who deal with claims following accidents overseas, and who can advise you on the limitation point.

Limitation dates for those who pass away during a claim

Additionally, if someone makes a personal injury claim but unfortunately dies before the claim is resolved, then the three year limitation date will run from the date that the injured person dies, should the person named as their personal representative want to continue with the claim for them.

Limitation dates for criminal injuries

Criminal injuries compensation claims tend only to have a two year limitation, and there would have to be good grounds for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to consider any claim made after that period.

Limitation dates for those who's injuries only come to light after three years has passed

There is also a deviation from the three year limitation when someone may have been injured, but the injury or a health condition only comes to light sometime after. This is called “date of knowledge”, and often comes to light in claims where someone has been injured as a result of poor working conditions years earlier, for example, asbestosis or work related hearing loss claims. That person may have worked in hazardous conditions many years ago, but may only have got a diagnosis of their condition fairly recently. Although, technically the limitation date of three years will have long passed, the fact that their work related condition has only recently come to light, would mean that the three year period would be extended from the “date of knowledge”, or definite diagnosis.

How Stephensons can help

Our advice would be to always seek specialist help at the earliest possible opportunity. If you decide to make a claim very late in the day, it may be difficult to find legal representation, as there would simply not be enough time for a claimant representative to carry out all necessary investigations and to gather sufficient evidence to be able to issue court proceedings with the limitation clock ticking. 

If you have had an accident, or suffered an injury, within the last three years, or have been made unwell as a result of working conditions, and you are unsure whether you have the time to make a claim, then please contact Stephensons personal injury department for specialist advice on 0175 321 6399.

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