If you are looking to claim compensation for clinical or medical negligence you must start your claim within 3 years. This is called the limitation period. If you don’t start your claim within this period you will usually be prevented from bringing it by the court.
From what date does the limitation period / three-year deadline start?
The 3-year time limit starts to run from either the date you had your negligent treatment or from the date you first realised that you had suffered injury as a result of negligence. This later date is called your 'date of knowledge'.
To protect your position it is usually safer to assume that your 3-year time limit runs from the date you received treatment, unless your solicitor advises you otherwise.
Are there any exceptions to the three-year time limit?
Yes. The time limit does not start to run until the person bringing the claim has legal capacity.
Children do not have legal capacity. This means that the 3-year time limit does not start to run until a person turns 18. In other words a child injured at birth has until their 21st birthday to start a claim. However, they do not have to wait until they turn 18 to start a claim. A parent, or other person who is close to the child, can make a claim on their behalf. The person acting on behalf of the child is called their 'litigation friend'.
This exception does not just apply to children. For example, if the case involves a person who is unable to manage their own affairs because of a mental disability, the 3-year time limit does not start to run until (and unless) they recover from their disability.
It is possible, in extreme circumstances, for the Court to allow a claim even after the 3-year limit has passed. However this is very much the exception, not the rule. You cannot rely on this happening. You need a very good reason why you were not able to pursue your claim within the 3 years.
You should always seek advice from a solicitor about the possibility of starting a claim, regardless of the time that has elapsed since your treatment.
When should I think about instruct a solicitor for my claim?
You should try to instruct a solicitor as soon as possible, as your solicitor will need time to investigate and prepare your case before the 3-year time limit expires. Your solicitor will need to locate and request medical records and instruct experts to report on your treatment, for example. This can be a lengthy process.
At Davies and Partners Solicitors we have a highly experienced team of specialist clinical negligence solicitors able to advise you fully on this, and any other matters related to your clinical negligence claim.