Can I claim for an accident after three years?

In most cases, you must start a personal injury claim within three years of the date of the accident that led to your injury.

Unfortunately, many people miss the opportunity to bring a claim for compensation because they’re unaware of the deadline. While some remain blissfully unaware they could ever have brought a claim in the first place, others find out too late and end up reflecting on what might have been. Worst of all, people can sometimes live with their injuries for many years, knowing they’ve missed the chance to claim personal injury compensation.

You won’t be able to bring a personal injury claim after the three-year limitation has passed just because you weren’t aware you could.

But there are several circumstances where you can bring a claim outside of the three-year period.

When can you claim for an accident outside of the three-year limitation period?

If you’re claiming for a child under 18

If your child suffers an injury, you can bring a claim on their behalf at any time until their 18th birthday.

If you don’t bring a claim on their behalf, the three-year time limitation starts on their 18th birthday, from which point they can consider bringing a claim themselves.

Effectively, this means your child has until their 21st birthday to bring a personal injury compensation claim for an accident when they were under 18.

If you or the person who had the accident cannot make a claim themselves

There is no time limitation in cases where a person who suffered an injury lacks the mental capacity to bring a claim themselves. This is the case irrespective of whether they lacked mental capacity before the accident or if the accident led to a brain injury or another outcome that resulted in the person lacking the mental capacity to bring a claim.

In these scenarios, a three-year time limitation will only begin if the person in question is later deemed to have regained mental capacity. The three years start from the date a medical professional considered them to have regained capacity.

If your injuries weren’t immediately apparent (Date of Knowledge)

This is the most common situation when the three-year time limitation would differ.

If your injuries or an illness are not immediately apparent after an accident, or you find out later that you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, which often happens in industrial disease claims, then the three years start from the “date of knowledge.” This is the date when you discovered your injuries or illness.

If a claimant dies during the claims process

If a loved one dies while bringing a personal injury claim, you have three years from their date of death to complete their claim on behalf of their estate, regardless of whether their cause of death is linked to the accident and injury they were claiming for.

Similarly, the three-year time limit will apply if you’re looking to bring a fatal accident claim should a loved one die in such circumstances. Note the date of knowledge exception applies in fatal accident cases, too.

If a court says you can claim

While the three-year time limitation is clear-cut, courts can override it and grant you permission to bring a claim at their discretion under section 33 of the Limitations Act 1980. There are only very limited circumstances, including in fatal accident claims, where courts do not have the power to override the three-year limitation.

If you apply to a court to bring a claim outside of the three-year time limitation, the court will consider things like the following:

  • How far outside the three-year time limit you’re looking to bring a claim.
  • The reason you’re claiming at such a later date.
  • If the delay has reduced the quality, relevance or availability of evidence.
  • The conduct of the defendant after the alleged incident that caused your injury.
  • If you have or are likely to have a long-term disability due to your injury.
  • If you’ve acted “promptly and reasonably” once you were aware you might have grounds for a claim.
  • What actions you have taken to get legal advice, and the nature of any advice you’ve received.

The court will use these considerations to determine whether it would be “fair and just” to allow you to bring your claim. It is up to you to demonstrate this is the case.

If you were a member of the Armed Forces

If you have suffered an injury serving in the Armed Forces after April 6th 2005, you have a seven-year time limit from the date of injury to bring a claim. The seven-year limitation also applies to the date of knowledge. So, for example, if you sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving your position, the seven years would start from the date you first sought help.

Are there any circumstances where a time limit shorter than three years applies?

A two-year time limitation applies to injuries in accidents at sea, on an aircraft or if bringing a claim after suffering an injury due to a criminal act, such as being assaulted.

Why is it best to bring a personal injury claim as soon as possible?

The most obvious reason is to ensure you don’t miss the relevant time limit.

However, in all cases, it’s best to start your claim as soon as possible to maximise your potential compensation. This is because you will have a more precise, longer-term body of evidence demonstrating liability and your injuries. You’ll also benefit from a personal injury solicitor advising you on what additional expenses you can claim back.

Start your personal injury claim with LawPlus Solicitors

Injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault? Unsure if you’re outside of the relevant time limitation?

Contact LawPlus Solicitors today for a free, no-obligation review of your accident and injury and take the first steps to getting the compensation you deserve.


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