The nature of medical negligence claims are very complex, and dependent on individual circumstances, time limits to bring an action may vary depending on the circumstances. However you should assume that it will be as normal, which is laid out below – this is why it is especially important that you act quickly if you think you have a claim. Don’t wait a while before speaking to a medical negligence solicitor, act quickly.
For further guidance on statutory Limitation, please refer to the Limitation Act 1980.
In Most Cases
For adults who are mentally capable, the time limit is three years from what is called the “date of knowledge”. This could be either the date that the negligence occurred, if it was realised immediately, or from the date when any symptoms, illnesses or malpractices were discovered.
When you talk to a solicitor, they will be able to explain to you whether you have an appropriate amount of time left to make the claim worth pursing. Medical negligence claims are quite complex and while you may know immediately if you have suffered from negligence such as botched surgery or had your care neglected, certain forms of negligence such as undiagnosed cancer may not become apparent until months or years later. In this case, you would have three years from the time you find out.
Please be aware that this is the time limit to issue a claim form, not to speak to a solicitor. Do not leave it too late to talk to a professional.
As you might expect, children are an important exception to the general rule.
In the case of a victim under the age of eighteen, they have three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday to bring a claim forward. This is specifically arranged so that a child can take it into their own hands to pursue a medical negligence claim for themselves once they have the legal right.
If the child grows into an adult who is deemed to be lacking in mental capacity and is unable to manage their own affairs, there is no time limit.
Victims With Unsound Mind
If the Defendant is a protected party (usually someone with a pre-diagnosed mental illness), there is no immediate time limit for their claim. This is also true if the negligence resulted in brain damage.
If, however, they recover from their mental illness and are considered to be capable of handling these matters, they will then have three years from the date of recovery.
Where the victim of negligence has died, the family of the deceased has three years from the date of the death to bring forward a claim on behalf of the victim’s estate. If an instance of negligence is undetected until the victim dies, the three year limitation is also from the date of the death or discovery.
Additionally, if someone is in the process of taking out a medical negligence claim when they die, the family will again have three years from the date of death to continue with their claim, as it may require some considerable re-working,
In some cases, a client may discover years after an inauspicious trip to the hospital that medical negligence took place. This could be due to a limited knowledge of medical procedure on the part of the patient that is only discovered years later – often this occurs when a doctor or hospital trust has been exposed as having poor levels of care or high mortality rates much later under investigation, or if the trust admitted fault openly. At these times, the limit will be three years from either the date of knowledge, or when they ought to have reasonably known of the negligence.
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