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Time limits on medical negligence claims

I've just read/heard about someone making a successful claim - the same thing has happened to me or my child or someone I cared for years ago. I didn't know I could sue. Can you help me?

There are time limits which apply to most legal claims. This is the time limit for actually issuing a claim form at court, not just consulting a lawyer. For personal injuries, including clinical negligence cases, the usual time limit is three years from the date you were injured. However there are some important exceptions to this rule.

I've been told it’s too late to bring a legal claim because I was injured more than 3 years ago. But it's not my fault, because I didn't know about the time limit and anyway I have been very poorly. Are there exceptions to the 3-year rule?

Yes, special rules apply to children. The three year time limit will not begin to run until the child's 18th birthday, if the injury occurred before then. A child therefore has until his or her 21st birthday to issue a claim form at court.

There are also special rules for people who are not capable of managing their own affairs because of mental disability. This is a term with a specific legal definition. You should not assume it applies in your case. We will be able to advise you about this, with the help of medical experts if necessary. If it does apply, the three year period does not start until the disability ends. In many cases the practical effect of this will be that the time limit does not apply at all.

Even if you therefore have plenty of time to bring a case, you should not delay. Medical notes may be hard to find after many years, and witnesses may not remember what happened, making the case harder to prove. You may need compensation sooner rather than later.

If your case does not fall within the two special areas noted above, and your injury happened more than three years ago, it may still be possible to bring a claim. However, these rules are complicated, and we will need to consider the facts of your case before we can advise you.