If you have experienced medical negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. However, there are some time limits for making a claim that you need to be aware of.
What is the time limit for making a medical negligence claim?
In the UK, the Limitation Act 1980 sets out the time limits for making different types of legal claim.
The time limit to make a claim is known as a limitation period and lasts three years. This time limit of three years applies in medical and clinical negligence cases.
However, there are some exceptions to the three-year limitation period – usually in medical negligence cases where the potential claimant is not an adult of sound mind.
The medical negligence time scale starts from the date the potential claimant first became aware of the negligence.
This could be the date the negligence occurred, or the date they started experiencing symptoms as a result of the negligence. In some cases, this could be many years after the negligence took place.
To make a successful medical negligence claim, court proceedings must be issued to the court before the limitation period expires.
Our medical negligence solicitors will be able to advise you on this process and the timeframes involved.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for children?
If the potential claimant was under 18 when the negligence occurred, the three-year time limit begins on the negligence victim’s 18th birthday. At this point, the young person legally becomes an adult and is deemed responsible for their legal affairs.
This means potential claimants have until their 21st birthday to start legal proceedings for medical negligence experienced in childhood.
An exception to this is if the potential claimant doesn’t have the mental capacity to manage their own affairs when they turn 18. In these circumstances, any claim would need to be brought on behalf of the claimant by a responsible adult.
Compensation claims involving children are often complicated, and so should always be handled by legal specialists in children’s injuries.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for vulnerable adults?
Adults who do not have the mental capacity to manage litigation and their own affairs do not have a time limit for when they can make a claim for medical negligence.
This could include adults with conditions such as:
- Severe learning difficulties and developmental disorders
- Brain damage
- Disability as a result of mental illness
This is because adults with diminished mental capacity cannot take full responsibility for their legal affairs and make an informed decision about making a claim.
However, if the potential claimant recovers from their condition, the three-year limitation period will begin from the date of recovery.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for deceased persons?
If someone dies within the three-year period since discovering medical negligence, their family has an additional three years to make a claim from the date of death.
If the medical negligence is discovered after the death of the victim, the family has three years to begin legal proceedings on behalf of the deceased’s estate. The limitation period begins when the medical negligence was discovered.
Why is there a time limit on making medical negligence claims?
Limitation periods - which are common in many types of civil claim - were introduced as protection for potential defendants.
The three-year period was introduced as a reasonable amount of time to enable someone to make a claim, while ensuring that they were made within a reasonable timeframe.
As time passes, it is more likely that evidence will be lost or destroyed, and witnesses may struggle to remember events clearly.
By ensuring claims are made promptly, the court is more likely to see a clearer picture of the event from the perspective of both parties.
Can I claim after the limitation period?
Unfortunately, if it has been more than three years since the victim discovered the negligence, and they are an adult of sound mind, it is unlikely the court will accept the claim.
How soon should I seek legal advice for medical negligence?
If you want to bring legal action against the NHS or a private medical practitioner, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Three years may seem like a long time, but it’s important to remember that this is the deadline to submit the claim to the court, not just to seek legal advice.
Medical negligence cases can be complex, so it’s important that your legal counsel has sufficient time to prepare and submit the claim to the court before the limitation period deadline.