You do not have an indefinite period in which to bring a claim. To prevent individuals from being sued for events that transpired many years previously (when all evidence of these events is likely to be difficult to locate or in poor condition) legislators have set a time limit on how long you have to bring a claim.
Why Might You Wait to Bring A Claim?
If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to heal and get better. Some people find bringing a claim to be a very stressful experience and putting yourself under a level of stress while you are injured is not going to be beneficial to you in any way.
Bringing a claim is always easier when you know exactly what you are claiming for, a claim for a broken leg that took 12 months to heal completely will be far easier to value than a claim for a still healing broken leg that we do not yet know how long it will take to heal. It is possible to estimate but estimating always runs the risk of being inaccurate and once you have settled a claim you cannot go back to the Defendant for more compensation because you settled to low.
How Long do you Have?
While it is wise to wait until you have healed before you consider bringing a claim for financial compensation, due to the stress involved in bringing a claim as well as the difficulties involved in valuing an injury that could take six weeks or six months to heal. You cannot wait indefinitely.
For a personal injury claim such as a slip/trip injury, road traffic accidents, injury at work, etc. you will have three years to make a claim. That is three years from the date of your accident before you have to lodge a claim form with the Court and pay the Court fee.
If the person who suffered the negligence and the injury is a child, for legal purposes this means a person who is under the age of 18, then the three-year deadline does not run from the date of their accident. Instead, their limitation clock will start the countdown from the date of their 18th birthday. This means that a person injured when they were under 18 must put a claim form in with the Court and pay the Court fee by their 21st birthday.
If your injury was caused by an assault and you are bringing a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) you only have two years to bring a claim.
If you intend to use a solicitor to bring your claim, then it is highly advisable that you approach one before your limitation deadline. I would recommend at least six months or more before your limitation deadline runs out. This is to give your solicitors time to fully investigate your claim, by obtaining your medical records, reviewing these, instructing a medical expert, receiving and reviewing the report, calculating your potential financial losses as well as the value of your injury. All of these jobs take time, and once a claim form is issued by the Court, your claim becomes subject to a Court timetable and deadlines. If for whatever reason, you and your solicitor cannot make a deadline set down by the Court you must put an application to the Court asking for more time, at the time of writing this article the fee to put in an application is £100.00.
What Happens if You Miss Your Limitation Deadline
If you fail to issue a claim form with the Court before your three-year deadline has passed your claim will be statute barred. This means that by law you will not be able to pursue a claim, you will have lost your opportunity to resolve your claim and potentially receive financial compensation for your injury.
It is possible for you to lodge a claim after the three-year deadline has passed and then argue in Court that you have a good reason for missing the deadline and the Court should allow your claim to proceed. However, this is a risky approach to take, very risky. If you miss your deadline by so much as a day, you risk losing the right to pursue your claim, and you will lose any money you have paid in Court Fees, expert fees and any other expense incurred to bring your claim.
A good excuse is very subjective, what you believe to be a good excuse could be very different to what the court believes is a good excuse. But, to be clear, ignorance is not a good excuse. You will be very unlikely to succeed with the excuse that you were unaware of the limitation deadline until you lodged your claim form.
In conclusion, you should now have an understanding of limitation and why it is wise to sometimes wait a while before bringing a claim but why you should still keep an eye on your limitation deadline. You should now also have an understanding of the consequences of missing your limitation deadline.