If you think you may have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence you may rightly ask ‘what are the time-limits on medical compensation claims?’ This short article explains the statutory time limit, the exceptions to the rule and how the Limitation Act 1980 relates to medical negligence claims.
Time Limits on Medical Compensation Claims
Typically, claims for medical compensation resulting from negligence are subject to a three year time limit. This time limit is the standard time limitation limitation period for all personal injuries within the UK and is set by the Limitation Act 1980 Section 11(4).
Section 14 of the Act declares that the ‘date of knowledge’ is the date when the injured person knew that the injury was significant, knew that it was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which was alleged to constitute the negligent act, and knew the identity of the negligent party.
From a medical negligence perspective, the ‘date of knowledge’ may be much later than when the alleged negligence occurred. For instance, should a surgical instrument be left inside a patient.
The three year time limitation commences at the time of the accident or from the date the injured person knew that their injury was resulting from a medical accident. Logically, it is possible that a claim for medical compensation can be made much later than the standard three year time limitation period if the injured person has only recently become aware that the injury and the medical accident are linked. Under Section 14, the legal term for such awareness being recognised is known as the ‘date of knowledge’ and is defined as the date when the injured person knew that their injury was significant, knew it was due in whole or part to the alleged negligence and when they knew the identity of the alleged negligent party.
Exceptions to Medical Negligence Time Limits
There are notable exceptions to the three year time limit rule. These are:
- Children under the age of 18
Medical accidents as a result of negligence happen to children as well as adults. The law recognises this and provides for special allowances for children. The law states that the three year time limit for medical claims will not begin until the injured person has reached their eighteenth birthday. Logically, a child injured before their eighteenth birthday, therefore, has until their 21st birthday to issue a claim.
Additionally, the law does allow for a parent or guardian to represent a child in a medical compensation claim. Any compensation awarded will be held in an account that can be accessed when the child becomes 18.
- Exceptions for those unable to manage their affairs due to mental disability.
Exceptions also apply to individuals who are being treated under the Mental Health Act. The three year time limit begins when they have been discharged as a patient and their legal incapacity is removed.
- Discretion on wavering the three year time limitation
Finally, if you were injured more than three years ago but you have only recently understood this was as a result of medical negligence , it may still be possible to commence a medical compensation claim. Section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980 allows for courts to use its discretion and waiver the three year limitation taking into account the prejudice to both the Claimant and the Defendant in its decision. When making its decision The Court will make considerations regarding such things as the reason and length of the delay, the impact on the quality of the evidence and other relevant factors.
However, such exceptions are rare and professional legal advice should be sought on whether you have a reasonable chance of making a successful claim.
Advice on Medical Compensation Time Limits
My advice is that should your medical injury fall within the statutory time limit then you should not delay in seeking legal support from a specialist medical negligence lawyer. Not least because the practicalities of collating persuasive evidence for a successful claim is made more difficult with the passage of time. For instance, a medical lawyer will be seeking access to relevant medical records and/or witnesses to an event. Such evidence becomes more difficult to collate with the passage of time. For the strongest possible case you should seek advice sooner rather than later.
This has been a brief article on the time limits on medical compensation claims by Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher is a medical compensation lawyer with a team of medical compensation legal experts behind him.