Personal Injury Claim Time Limits
In Northern Ireland, you have three years to bring a personal injury claim. If you miss the three year limitation period, you have missed your chance to get compensation. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
Three years to bring a claim
If you are injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you are entitled to make a personal injury claim. This is when you take legal action against those responsible for your injuries. This might be your employer, in the case of a work accident claim. Or it could be a driver, in the case of a road traffic accident.
If your claim is successful, you are awarded compensation for your pain, suffering and financial losses. However, you only have a short time limit in which to bring a claim. Otherwise, solicitors and insurance companies would be dealing with personal injury claims from 10 or 20 years ago. This would make litigation very open-ended.
To prevent this, the law states that you have three years to bring a personal injury claim.
This three year period usually starts from the date of your accident. For example, if you were knocked off your bike on 1 August 2019 (and you did not suffer any kind of mental impairment), you have until 1 August 2022 to bring a claim. You will know straightaway that you have been injured by a negligent driver, so the clock starts ticking.
Sometimes, the three year period starts from the date of knowledge instead. This is when you should reasonably have suspected that you could have grounds for a personal injury claim. This often happens with asbestos-related diseases that do not surface until years after the exposure. In such cases, the clock starts from the day you are diagnosed.
Child injury claims
There are some exceptions to this rule, one of which is child injury claims. In Northern Ireland, an injured person under the age of 18 cannot bring a claim on their own. This means the three year time limit does not start until their 18th birthday. Often, their claim is settled before this date by their next friend.
Another exception is where the injured person lacks mental capacity. This is when he or she cannot manage their own affairs. In these personal injury cases, there is no time limit. This applies so long as the injured person lacks mental capacity.
What if I miss the deadline?
If you miss the three year limitation period and none of the exceptions apply, you have missed your chance to claim compensation. This is an upsetting position to be in. You may have a very strong claim, yet you may find that a solicitor will not take it on. Sometimes it is possible to extend the deadline, but it is by no means guaranteed.
To avoid disappointment and to get the compensation you deserve, we recommend getting early legal advice. Three years might seem like a long time. However, your solicitor needs to investigation your claim, get medical reports, review your medical records and negotiate a settlement. The more time your solicitor has to do this, the better.
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