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Time limits on medical negligence claims

Information about medical negligence time limits

For many medical negligence claims, a time limit applies for issuing a claim form at court. This is known as the ‘limitation period’ – how long the law allows someone to start an action or claim against another party in court. Issuing a claim form officially starts your claim and is usually done by a lawyer

If you think you may have a claim but are unsure if you’re too late to bring one, read through our answers to frequently asked questions around the time limit for medical negligence claims to find out.

What is the time limit for medical negligence claims?

The usual time limit for bringing a medical negligence claim is three years. This can be three years from:

  • The date you were injured
  • Or the date when you first realised you had suffered an injury due to potential medical negligence.

There are some important exceptions to this rule, which could extend the limitation period. See below for more information.

Can I sue the NHS after three years?

There are some exceptions to this time limit that can allow you to make a claim against the NHS after three years has passed since the injury occurred.

Exceptions to the three year rule

There are also special rules for people who are not capable of managing their own affairs because of a mental disability. This is a term with a specific legal definition, which you can consider to see if it may apply to your case. One of our claims experts are able to advise you about this, with the help of medical experts if necessary.

If the definition does apply, the three-year period does not start until the disability ends. In many cases, the practical effect will be that the time limit does not apply at all.

The three-year time limit does not start until the child's 18th birthday, if the injury occurred before then. A child therefore has until their 21st birthday to issue a claim form at court for medical negligence, unless the ‘mental disability’ exception also applies.

Can I claim medical negligence after five or ten years?

If your claim falls under one of the special circumstances listed above then yes, it is possible to claim medical negligence after five or ten years. It may also be possible to claim if the event occurred five or more years ago, but you were not aware of your injury or that there was potential negligence.

Why should I start a medical negligence claim early?

The three-year limit is important. If you want to make a claim with less than a year remaining, solicitors may not always be able to take your case due to the complexities involved. If you feel that there is a lot of time available to bring a medical negligence claim, there are many reasons why it makes sense to act sooner rather than later.

Benefits of starting a claim early

By making a claim you may be able to receive financial support in advance of the final decision. This can help you get the medical help you need on an ongoing basis – from hospital treatments to rehabilitation – and allow you to make any necessary home improvements.

Medical notes may be hard to find after many years, and witnesses may not remember what happened as well, which can make the details of your case harder to prove. Bringing a claim sooner rather than later can help you make a more compelling case.

If your claim does not involve a child or person with a mental disability, and your injury happened more than three years ago, it may still be possible to bring a claim. However, these rules are complicated and may involve going to court for special permission to bring the claim beyond the time limit. In this situation, we will need to consider the facts of your case before we can advise you.

Are there time limits for how long a medical negligence claim takes?

No, there is no time limit on the time it takes for a case to conclude once you’ve started the process. This is provided the initial claim was made within the statutory limitation period.

How long does the average medical negligence claim take?

The time taken to pursue a medical negligence claim from beginning to end can vary. It may take years rather than months, and often depends on:

  • The severity of your injuries.
  • Whether the claim is contested.
  • How fast the relevant hospital discloses your medical records.
  • If the case goes to court.

There are other, more complicated factors that may determine how long your claim takes to process.

For more information, help and advice around medical negligence, visit our FAQs and insights page.