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Is there a time limit for medical negligence claims?

If you believe you have suffered from medical negligence, it is important that you make your claim within the ‘limitation period’ of three years so that you can make a successful claim.

If you are unsure whether your claim will qualify, we’ve have put together the key information you need.

What is the time limit for medical negligence claims?

The time limit for making a claim for medical negligence is three years from the date of the your knowledge of the alleged negligence.

Sometimes the knowledge of the negligence is obvious, as you notice things are wrong right away or you are told something is not right following the treatment.

That would trigger your personal knowledge of the potential negligence. In other circumstances, this is not as straight forward (see below).

This time limit is important as it means that you must file your case and begin court proceedings within three years of your knowledge of the negligence occurring. If you do not you may have lost your right to claim.

What are the trigger events for the three-year time limit starting?

There are several instances in which the three-year time limit starts at different times for medical negligence claims and this all revolves around your knowledge. These circumstances include:

As mentioned above, sometimes things not being right are obvious and the three year period starts right away. An example of this is waking from an operation and being told it did not go right and you now have new health problems.

  • Knowledge of negligence – If you were unaware of any negligent care at the time it happened and this is found out later the three-year time limit starts with that knowledge. A missed diagnosis is usually the most common circumstance in which you are left unaware of the negligence.
  • Children – The three-year time limit to make a claim does not start until they reach 18 years of age. As a child there is no legal capacity for them to make a claim personally. An adult (usually mother or father) would need to make a claim on a child’s behalf, who is known as a ‘Litigation Friend’. As the three-year time limit does not begin for children until they reach their 18th birthday, it would run out the day before their 21st.
  • Death of claimant – While the claimant is living all the above rules apply. If in the unfortunate circumstance the claimant then passes away before being able to make or complete a medical negligence claim, the three-year limit starts once more from the date of death. This can be triggered from the negligence itself if it caused the death or it is triggered once more from the date of death. This is provided the date of death is within the original three-year period allowed. If the death happens after the three-year period has passed there would be no claim.
  • Mental capacity – If the claimant lacks the ability to understand that they have possibly suffered from medical negligence, the three-year limit does not begin until the claimant is deemed to have that understanding. In some situations this can mean the three-year rule never starts. If you know someone who lacks the mental capacity to recognise any alleged negligence, you must inform a solicitor of their lack of knowledge as soon as possible. Such a claimant will need a Litigation Friend to assist with the claim and act on their behalf. Medical evidence is required to confirm the lack of capacity of that the claimant has regained this.

What if I do not make my claim within the three years?

If you do not make your claim within three years of the alleged negligence taking place, the court is likely to refuse your case. Despite the limit, you are still able to make a claim after this time, however, it is unlikely that you will be able to proceed.

It is usually only under exceptional circumstances that a court will extend the three-year limit and it will be on a case-by-case basis this is assessed. Generally though, once the three years is deemed as passed, the claim is unlikely to succeed.

Hopefully, this information has demonstrated that it is vital that you contact a legal professional as soon as you are aware of medical negligence.

By making a claim as soon as possible, you are ensuring that the medical documentation needed to make a successful claim is easily available as well as protecting yourself from the penalty of the three-year limit.

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Making a Medical Negligence Claim

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