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How long after an accident can I claim compensation for an injury?

Strict time limits dictate how long you have to make a claim for compensation after an injury. Our personal injury experts explain what those time limits are. 

Generally, those who are injured in an accident will not consider making a claim for compensation in the immediate aftermath. If you have been injured, initially, the primary focus will be on ensuring you get the right medical treatment so you can return to work and get back to everyday life.  

There are, however, strict time limits on making a personal injury claim. If those time limits are missed for any reason, you could lose out on the compensation you need to deal with the consequences of your accident. 

In this guide, we will tell you how long you have after an accident to claim personal injury compensation, what happens if you wait too long, and specify certain exceptions to the rule. 

What is the limitation period?

The amount of time you have to claim compensation for a personal injury is dictated by the limitation period.  In the UK, the limitation period to make an injury claim is:

  • Three years from the date on which the accident occurred; or
  • Three years from the date the claimant was aware of the injuries

This means that if you are aware of the accident and the injury it caused, you have three years from that date. If an injury or illness presents itself at a later date, the three year deadline begins from the date of knowledge. 

What happens if I don’t claim compensation within the time limit?

If you do not make a claim for compensation within the three year period, your claim will be what is known as “statute-barred” or “time-barred”. This means that the three-year “statue of limitations” for a personal injury claim has expired. 

If a claimant is statute-barred, legal action cannot be taken against another party and the claimant usually has no other formal means of claiming compensation. 

Different time limits for different personal injury claims

There are, however, a few exceptions to the limitation period. While no two personal injury cases are the same, we can note down some clear situations where the claimant may have much longer to bring forward a claim. 

Injury claims for children

Children cannot bring a claim on their behalf. A parent, guardian or other suitable litigation friend can make an injury claim for them instead. In this scenario, a claim can be made at any time before the child’s 18th birthday. This means the date of the child’s accident, or the date of knowledge, could occur at any time before the child turns 18. 

If a claim is not made on behalf of the child, they can make a claim when they turn 18. They have three years after their 18th birthday, until their 21st birthday, to do so. 

Where the injured party has died

Family members of someone who has died as a result of an injury can bring a compensation claim on their behalf. Provided the limitation period has not already run out during the lifetime of the deceased, the family’s limitation period resets and they will have another three years from the date of the death.

There may also be situations where the cause of death is discovered at a later date. In these circumstances, the limitation period begins from the date of knowledge. 

Those who lack mental capacity

If the injured party lacks mental capacity at the time of their accident, the limitation period only starts to run from the date when the claimant ceases to be under a mental disability, under the Mental Health Act 1983. This might mean, for many, there is no time limit for bringing a claim. Only if they regain mental capacity will the three year limitation start.

This also includes if the injured party regains mental capacity due to waking up from a coma. 

Similar to injury claims for children, a claimant who lacks capacity can have a litigation friend to claim on their behalf.

Industrial Disease claims

Time limits are often quite hard to apply to industrial disease claims due to their nature. Symptoms arising from industrial diseases or occupational injuries may develop over a sustained period of time, and it is sometimes difficult to determine an exact date of knowledge. 

As a result, if you believe you have a claim for compensation, court proceedings must commence within three years from the date when:

  • You first experienced symptoms;
  • and you have reasonable grounds to believe the symptoms are caused by your work or negligence by a third party

Injury or illness abroad 

Limitation periods are different across the world and can be shorter or longer than the UK depending on the country. We would advise that claimants seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident abroad to reduce the risk of being time-barred.

This also includes injury and illness on many international flights. 

Making a claim for compensation near the three-year limit

The law states that the limitation period for making a personal injury claim is three years, but in real life scenarios it is actually much shorter. Many solicitors will not take on cases that are near the three-year limit due to the amount of work and time it takes to get a claim into court. 

The limitation period relates specifically to the latest date court documents can, if necessary, be filed. This means, before then, solicitors need to arrange independent medical examination for the claimant, gather witness statements and other evidence, and establish liability. This can take anywhere upwards of six months. 

We would advise, if you have had an accident that wasn’t your fault, to get in touch with a solicitor as soon as possible to ensure you are not statute-barred and you can claim for the compensation that you deserve. 

How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help you?

At Percy Hughes & Roberts, our team understands that being injured through no fault of your own can be a stressful and traumatic time. This is why, if you have suffered an accident, our personal injury team is on-hand to guide you through any potential claim you may have, as quickly and as stress-free as possible.

Our personal injury team are all fully qualified solicitors with a wealth of experience to ensure you get compensated for your injuries and any financial losses. You will have direct contact with your own personal solicitor who will regularly update you on the status of your case.

Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts

To speak to an employment law solicitor for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.

Call us on 0151 666 9090, or fill out an online enquiry form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that's suitable for you.

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