How Long After an Accident Can I Claim Compensation?
Generally, a claim for personal injury compensation must be made within three years of the date of the accident or within three years of the date when you became aware your injury was linked to an accident or an event.
For example, in a road traffic accident or an accident in the workplace, you have up to 3 years from the date of the accident to make a claim. However, you may have suffered an injury as a result of continued exposure to a risk, for example, if you have been exposed to unreasonably high levels of noise in your work environment, but experience a hearing loss many years later in life. If you believe your hearing loss may have been as a result of your working environment, then you have three years from the date when you were told, or became aware of, the fact your injury or illness was caused by the accident or exposure. This is also known as the ‘date of knowledge’.
We would always recommend pursuing a claim as soon as possible, particularly if the matter may be disputed and you need to collect evidence to support your claim and succeed in obtaining compensation. Please take a look at our detailed discussion about evidence and the importance of collating the same as soon as possible here.
If you have intimated a claim but have not reached an agreement in respect of your compensation with the party at fault, then you must pursue the matter in Court, ie, you must issue court proceedings, within three years. Failure to do so will result in your claim being ‘statute barred’. This is known as the ‘limitation date’.
What are the limitation dates?
Following an accident, an individual does not have an unlimited amount of time to bring a claim. Under English law the Limitation period means that there is a set period of time by which you can bring a claim.
Below is a simple guide showing the limitation periods for each type of claim:
Accident Type How long do I have to make a claim?
Road traffic accident 3 years from the date of the accident
Accident at work 3 years from the date of the accident
Slip, trip or fall 3 years from the date of the accident or injury
Industrial disease 3 years from the date of knowledge or diagnosis of the disease
Clinical / Medical negligence 3 years from the date of the cause of injury or the date of knowledge of the injury
Criminal injury 2 years from the date of the criminal act (when the assault took place)
Aviation accident 2 years from the date of the accident
Accident on a boat 2 years from the date of the accident
Human Rights Act Claim 1 year from the date of the breach
Is there an exception to the rule?
The general rule for adults who are considering making a claim for personal injury compensation is that you have three years from the date of the accident or incident in which to bring a claim. If your claim has not settled, or court proceedings have not been issued, by the third anniversary of the accident that you will be prevented in law from making a claim.
The exception to this rule is for children and those claimants who are or have been under a disability as defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2015.
Children have three years from the date of their 18th birthday in which to bring a claim. In the case of a child their claim must have settled, or court proceedings must be issued before the child/adult reaches their 21st birthday.
For Claimants who are or have been under a disability as defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 at the time that the cause of action arises the time starts to run when the individual recovers capacity/ceases to be disabled. However, in a case where a limitation period has already started to run, but a Claimant later becomes disabled, the disability would not stop the limitation period. It would instead continue to run, even during their period of subsequent disability.
However, we would always recommend starting your claim as soon as possible after the accident or injury. Your recollection of events will be clearer and if there is any uncertainty about who the claim should be made against it will allow the solicitor more time to find the right opponent.
What if I die before my case is settled?
The general rule is that if you die within three years of the accident then the personal representatives of your estate will have three years from the date you died to commence court proceedings.
Can I claim for an accident after 3 years?
If you or your solicitor have missed the time limit for making a claim, it is possible to ask the permission of the court to proceed with your case. The court has the discretion to allow the claim to go ahead in special circumstances.
In deciding whether to disapply the limitation period the court will look at the following:
- The length of and reasons for the delay
- Whether the delay has caused the loss of cogency of evidence
- The conduct of the defendant in the preservation/destruction of documents
- Whether the claimant acted promptly and reasonably once he/she knew of possible action
- The steps taken by the claimant to take legal/medical advice
You must demonstrate compelling reasons to explain the delay, evidence to support the claim and satisfy the court that the opponent will not be prejudiced and there will be a fair trial.
Important point to note
Remember, although you have up to 3 years to make a claim, depending on the type of accident, it is usually much easier to claim compensation if you speak to a solicitor as soon after the accident or injury as possible.