The UK Statute of Limitations for personal injuries is a time limit placed on personal injury compensation claims in the UK. It was introduced as part of the Limitation Act in 1980 and serves two purposes — to ensure that the evidence gathered in personal injury cases is as recent as possible, and to protect defendants against a persistent fear of litigation.
The time limit on compensation claims in the UK is generally set at three years however there are exceptions to the rule. Although this page aims to provide you with as much information as possible on the time limit for claims in the UK, it should not be used as a substitute for legal advice — if you have questions regarding the impact the Statute of Limitations may have on your claim for compensation, speak with a personal injury claims solicitor at the first possible opportunity.
When Does the UK Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries Take Effect?
The UK Statute of Limitations for personal injuries begins from the date on which you first become aware of your injury or illness. In most instances this means the date on which your injury was first suffered — however as the symptoms of some conditions can take years to manifest themselves, it can vary. It is important to note that seeking medical attention as soon as you discover your injury or illness is vital — not just to safeguarding your health, but also to ensuring that your claim for compensation is unimpeded by accusations that you contributed to your own condition by failing to have it treated in time.
Exceptions to the Time Limit in Compensation Claims
Conflicts with other legislation or instances in which a claimant is unable to support their claim for compensation are the situations in which exceptions to the UK Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries most often occur. Here are a few examples of instances in which the time limit on personal injury claims may be altered:-
The Athens and Montreal Conventions
The Athens Convention (1974) and the Montreal Convention (1974) dictate the amount of time a person injured on an aeroplane or at sea has to pursue personal injury claims. These conventions apply in the UK and in other countries in which they have been ratified — they reduce the amount of time a claimant has to pursue compensation to two years.
The UK Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries and Conflicts with the Consumer Protection Act
The time limit for claims in the UK can be altered when a conflict with the Consumer Protection Act arises. If you were to injure yourself due to a fault in a product you have purchased, you are allowed to pursue a claim for compensation for up to three years, once the product has been available in the UK for less than ten years. The longer the product has been in circulation, the less time personal injury claims have to be pursued. If you were to sustain an injury because of a product nine years after it was released onto the market, you would only have one year in which to claim public liability compensation for example.
The Time Limit on Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Claims for Children
It is not legal for persons under the age of 18 to pursue a claim for compensation or instruct a solicitor, and therefore the three-year time limit on compensation claims in the UK cannot be applied. However, a parent or guardian may initiate a claim on behalf of the child before they reach adulthood, or alternatively they can wait until the child is old enough to pursue a claim on their own, at which time the time limit takes effect.
The Mental Health Act and a Catastrophic Brain Injury
Under the Mental Health Act (1983) a claimant must possess the cognitive ability to be able to pursue a claim for compensation. If an accident victim is left comatose by an accident, the time limit imposed by the UK Statute of Limitations for personal injuries is paused until the person regains the mental capacity to be able to pursue a claim. If a person never regains cognitive ability, a claim can be made on their behalf by a ‘Litigation Friend’.
Extensions to the Time Limit on Personal Injury Claims
Persons pursuing personal injury claims may, in certain special circumstances, be granted extensions. These extensions to the UK Statute of Limitations for personal injuries may only be granted by a court. There is also the concept of a “Standstill Agreement” which effectively stops the clock on claims. The measure must be agreed upon by all parties beforehand however.
Summary — The Statute of Limitations in the UK
Considering the implications the UK Statute of Limitations for personal injuries may have on your claim for compensation may allow you to prevent it from being time-barred. Although two or three years may seem like ample time in which to pursue personal injury claims, preparing a compensation claim can take a long time, so starting as soon as possible is important. Also, when the long term consequences of a serious injury have been taken into consideration, three years may be entirely inadequate.
As mentioned above, several instances exist in which time limit for claims in the UK can be reduced or extended — for this reason it is imperative that you speak with a personal injury claims solicitor about the time limit on compensation claims in the UK and the impact it may have on your claim.