Or call free on:
0800 234 6438
We take your data seriously. See our privacy policy & terms.
By submitting this form you agree to be contacted by our partners.

Limitation Periods in a Personal Injury Claims

What is a limitation period?

A limitation period is a fixed period of time during which a formal legal claim should be commenced. Limitation periods are fixed under the Limitation Act 1980. If proceedings are not started within the limitation period prescribed by the Act, the claim is likely to be time barred and the claim cannot be brought.

Limitation periods are important for public policy reasons, for instance, by providing certainty to the potential parties to litigation. There is a limitation period in most types of litigation, including personal injury claims.

What is a personal injury claim?

A personal injury claim is a legal claim for compensation for personal injury, harm, illness or condition. To succeed, the claimant must prove on the balance of probability that the harm or injury suffered was a direct result of the negligence or breach of duty of the defendant.

What is the limitation period in personal injury claims?

The limitation period for personal injury claims is generally three years. This means claims must be commenced in the courts within three years from the date on which the accident or incident occurred in which the injuries were caused; or three years from the date of ‘knowledge’. In most cases, it will be clear when the personal injuries were caused.

What is the ‘date of knowledge’?

Where it later comes to light that a claimant that can make a claim, this is where the ‘date of knowledge is relevant’. The date of knowledge under the 1980 Act is the actual date when the claimant became aware of the following:

  • The injury in question is significant
  • The injury is directly attributable to the negligent acts or omissions, or breach of duty, of the other party, and
  • The identity of the defendant

These will be questions of fact, and your knowledge will include anything you may have reasonably expected to discover or determine. This may include the help of your doctor. For instance, you may have sustained an injury or contracted a condition or disease that does not become manifest until sometime after the actual date of the incident. In other cases, it may be the cumulative effect of, for instance, consistently poor working conditions. You will need to take medical advice as to what may have caused the condition, and when.

The law requires that you must be able to show knowledge of the ‘essence’ of the act or omission of the third party which is alleged to have caused the injury or condition.

What is the limitation period where children are concerned?

In the case of children who have suffered harm or personal injury, the three-year limitation period does not start until the child’s eighteenth birthday. A child can therefore start a formal claim for personal injury compensation up until the age of 21 – even if the injuries occurred during childbirth.

In practice, it is still advisable to start a claim as early as possible while the evidence is fresh. However, where children are concerned it can take many years before a child is fully recovered. This exception to the 3-year limitation period is crucial in allowing plenty of time for the true extent of an injury to a child to be known.

What’s the limitation period for those with mental health conditions?

Individuals who are being treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 also have an extended time in which to bring their personal injury claim. Similarly, those rendered of unsound mind because of the accident or incident complained of have an extended time in which to bring their claim. The 3-year limitation period will not start to run until they have recovered from their mental disability and regained their mental capacity.

What happens on the claimant’s death?

If the individual dies within the three-year limitation period, this period is extended to three years from the date of their death. This makes it possible for the claimant’s estate to claim on their behalf.

Are there any other exceptions?

A claimant is not prevented from making a personal injury claim simply because it is ‘out of time’, however, normally the defence would apply to have the claim struck out on the basis that it is time barred. That said, the Court has the discretion to extend the three-year limitation period in cases that are not covered specifically by the statutory exceptions above.

It is rare for the court to allow a claim to continue if the limitation period has expired. To exercise its discretion in the claimant’s favour, the court will have to be satisfied that there are very good reasons to do so, for instance, the claim is a very good one and liability is undisputed by the defendant. The conduct of the parties and the reasons for the delay will be some of the factors taken into account by the court.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.

By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.

If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.