Medical negligence claims can be complex in nature, and time limits to bring an action can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. As such, it is highly recommended that you do not delay seeking legal advice on claiming compensation, as doing so may jeopardise your chance of success.
For further guidance on statutory Limitation, please refer to the Limitation Act 1980.
For adults who are mentally capable, the time limit is three years from the ‘date of knowledge’. This could be the date the negligence occurred (if it was realised immediately), or the date you first observed symptoms, suffered a related illness, or malpractices were discovered.
A specialist Solicitor will first check if you have sufficient time left to make a claim. Medical negligence claims are quite complex and while you may be sure you have suffered due to negligence including botched surgery, or neglected care, some 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 to the court, not to speak to a Solicitor. Do not leave it too late to talk to a professional.
Children under the age of eighteen who have suffered from medical negligence have three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday to bring a claim forward. This is designed so once legally an adult, the individual can take matters into their own hands to pursue a medical negligence claim.
If an individual suffers from medical negligence as a child, but then as an adult are deemed to lack mental capacity, and therefore unable to manage their own affairs, there is no stated time limit.
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 the matter properly, they will have three years from the date of recovery.
Where the victim of negligence has died, the family of the deceased have 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 applies from the date of the death or discovery.
Additionally, if a claimant is in the process of 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 need to be completely reviewed or started again.
In some cases, a client may discover years after a trip to the hospital, medical negligence took place. This could be due to the limited knowledge of the medical procedure on the part of the patient, which they later gain an understanding of. Often this occurs when a doctor or hospital trust is exposed due to poor levels of care or high mortality rates, or if the trust openly admits fault during an investigation. If this happens, the limit is three years from either the date of knowledge, or when they ought to have reasonably known of the negligence.
Many people wonder why there should be a time limit — after all, it could be that you were unaware of the long-term effects of the neglect for many years. But there are valid reasons why the limit has been set at three years:
There is little doubt, the faster you get the process going, the more likely it is that you will have all the necessary evidence to achieve a quick, easy, and successful claim.
Generally speaking, you will already know if three years have passed since the negligence occurred, or you became aware of it. Unfortunately, in some cases, the victim of medical negligence has made a conscious decision to ignore the need to claim promptly, preferring to pursue the matter at a later date. If the limit has passed, your claim is likely to be barred.
However, it is always worth obtaining legal advice to check exactly when your time limit ended. There are some limited circumstances in which a court may allow you to bring your claim outside of the time limits, but never rely on being the case – these are very much the exception, not the rule.
An experienced and compassionate medical negligence Solicitor will advise you on all of these matters and make sure you’re informed as to your rights. A competent Lawyer will never pursue a claim that is likely to be unsuccessful, and especially not one which would be dismissed out of hand for being out of the time limit.