UK Statute of Limitations

The UK Statute of Limitations

The UK Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims was introduced in 1980 as part of the Limitation Act and places a limit on the length of time potential claimants have in which to make a claim for personal injury compensation. The “Statute” serves two purposes -it ensures that claims for compensation are made when evidence of liability is most recent, and protects defendants from the constant fear of litigation.

In the UK, the time limit for making a claim for personal injury compensation is generally three years. There are exceptions to this rule which can extend or reduce the length of time available and, although this page provides information about how the UK Statute of Limitations can affect your eligibility to claim personal injury compensation, you should always confirm with a solicitor that your claim falls within the time restrictions for claiming compensation in the UK.

When Does the Time Limit Begin?

The time limit for making a claim for a personal injury in the UK starts on the date you are aware that you have sustained an injury. In most cases, this will be on the day that an accident occurred and you sought medical attention for your injuries – something which you should always make a priority, not just for the sake of your health, but to prevent your claim from being contested on the grounds that your injury at the time did not warrant professional medical attention.

However, in some scenarios – such as if you have contracted an industrial disease which has developed over a period of time or have suffered an injury due a previous medical error – the ‘Date of Knowledge’ or ‘Date of Discovery’ is the date on which an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition is diagnosed. It is from this date that the three year time restrictions for claiming compensation in the UK would begin.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in the UK

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in the UK most frequently exist when there is a conflict with other legislation, when the claimant is not considered capable of supporting their claim or when special circumstances occur. The following are just a selection of examples in which the time limit for making a claim for personal injury compensation can be changed.

The Montreal and Athens Conventions

The Montreal Convention (1999) and the Athens Convention (1974) govern the length of time a person has in which to make a personal injury claim for compensation when they have been injured in an airplane or while at sea. These conventions apply to the UK and any other country which has ratified them – to or from which you may be travelling – and reduces the time available in which to make an injury claim to two years.

Conflicts with the Consumer Protection Act

If you were to sustain an injury due to faulty product you have purchased, you are allowed three years in which to make a product liability claim for compensation provided that the faulty product has been in market circulation for less than ten years. Therefore, if you were to sustain an injury due to a manufacturing or design error nine years after the product was first introduced into the UK, you would only have one year in which to claim product liability compensation.

Personal Injury Claims for Children

It is not possible by law for a minor to either initiate legal action to recover compensation or instruct a solicitor to act on their behalf. Therefore, the time restrictions for claiming compensation for injuries to children do not commence until the child reaches the age of eighteen. A parent or guardian is however allowed to make a personal injury claim on behalf of their child at any time prior to the child reaching the age of majority acting as a “Litigation Friend”.

Catastrophic Brain Injury and the Mental Health Act

Under the Mental Health Act (1983) a claimant must have the mental capacity to take legal action. Therefore, if a victim were to be left in a coma after an accident, the time limit for making a claim for a personal injury in the UK would not begin until they had been medically acknowledged as regaining cognitive ability. Should they never regain the mental capacity to take legal action, a claim can be made on the victim´s behalf by a “Litigation Friend”.

Extensions to the Statute of Limitations in the UK

In exceptional circumstances exclusions and exceptions can be made to the Statute of Limitations in the UK. Only a court has the authority to extend the UK Statute of Limitations, although there is a concept in law known as a “Standstill Agreement” which effectively stops the clock and with which it is possible to extend the time restrictions for claiming compensation in the UK should all parties concerned in the action agree.

UK Statute of Limitations – Summary

It is often important to consider the time limit for making a claim for personal injury compensation to prevent your claim being time-barred by the UK Statute of Limitations. Two or three years may seem like ample time to prepare an injury compensation claim; however, when the long term effects of an injury have to be taken into account to ensure that a claimant is appropriately compensated, two or three years can sometimes be completely inadequate.

As mentioned above, there are several occasions when the period of time allowed by Statute of Limitations can be reduced and therefore it is always advisable to speak with an injury claims solicitor at the first possible moment after you or somebody close to you have been injured in an accident for which you were not to blame.

All articles are written or edited by Eoin Campbell.