Personal injury – time limits on claims
The most common claim in a personal injury case is negligence. In negligence cases a claim for compensation must be made within three years of you being first aware that you have suffered an injury. The distinction is important: in the case of an accident this is likely to be three years of the accident taking place. However in the case of an ‘environmental’ injury such as an illness caused by the presence of asbestos in the workplace, you may not be aware that you suffer from the disease until years after the original exposure. In such cases a claim is possible for up to three years after a diagnosis is made.
If your injury results from an assault you can make a claim against the assailant in the civil courts for up to six years after the attack took place. In most cases, claims for criminal injury with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA – http://www.cica.gov.uk) must be made within two years of the injury being suffered.
Time limits on claims involving aircraft and boats are less than three years and depend on the circumstances of the accident. Contact our claim support legal team for assistance with such claims.
After-death claims are relatively common, particularly in cases of ‘environmental’ diseases such as that caused by exposure to asbestos. If the person who has been injured dies within the normal three-year limit for making a claim, action can be taken on their behalf. Action is possible no more than three years after:
- the person died; or
- it was known (or could have been discovered) what caused the injury (if this is later than three years).
After-death claims require special guidance. Contact injurywatch.co.uk’s confidential claim support legal service for assistance with such claims.
The same time limits apply to a child’s claims as for adults, but the clock only starts running on their eighteenth birthday. A child does not need to wait until they are 18 to make a claim. But someone under 18 cannot take legal action in their own right: The law deals with this by allowing a ‘litigation friend’ to pursue the case on their behalf. A litigation friend might be
- a close relative;
- an adult friend;
- a social worker; or
- someone else appointed by the court.
Claims for injuries incurred abroad require special advice. Please contact injurywatch.co.uk’s confidential claim support legal service for assistance with such claims. .
Taking the proper steps
You will greatly enhance your chances of making a successful claim if you take the following steps as soon as possible after the accident happens:
- Ensure the police are called if you sustain any injury in a road traffic accident whether you are pedestrian, driver, passenger or responsible for the accident or not.
If the accident happened at work or in a shop, salon or hairdressers. if possible find out if the business has the correct insurance or has legal cover that could affect how your claim proceeds
- if you are the driver or insurer of the vehicle report any injury resulting from a road traffic accident to your insurance company. If you are a passenger in a vehicle and are injured in a road traffic accident, get confirmation in writing from the driver that the driver’s insurance company has been informed. If you do not also report the accident to the police at the time it may jeopardise the success of your claim. If the driver is not insured, or you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident you still may be able to obtain compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (http://www.mib.org.uk).
- Notify your employer if the accident took place at work. If you are self-employed, you must record the accident yourself. The accident must be reported in the accident book. Your employer has a legal responsibility to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority environmental department and can be prosecuted if they fail to do so. Accidents should be notified to the Incident Contact Centre: tel: 0845 300 9923 (http://www.riddor.gov.uk).
- Report the injury (however seemingly trivial) to your doctor because the full extent of the injury may not be immediately apparent. If you subsequently go to court to get compensation for the injury, the initial medical report will provide evidence to support your claim.
- Gather evidence about both the accident and your injuries
- get names and addresses for anyone who witnessed the accident, the names and department of any emergency staff who attended you and any medical staff you saw in connection with your injuries;
- take photographs of the scene of the accident and any other items relevant to the cause of the injury (such as a piece of defective machinery or a broken paving stone);
- make detailed notes of when, where and what occurred and any other factors which which might have contributed to your injury while it is fresh in your mind. Make sure you date all your notes and photographs;
- If you visit a doctor for treatment after the accident, ask them to record the fact that you had an accident and full details of the injuries which occurred. Their records will be evidence that your injuries were caused by the accident, which will be helpful if you later decide to make a claim. For injuries that you can see, photographs of the injury will also be helpful. Make sure you have a note of the date the photos were taken.
- Maintain a record of all the expenses you incur which directly result from the accident and keep all receipts for payments you make. This may be to replace clothing or damaged equipment, repair a vehicle, medical costs (including transport costs for hospital visits).
- Make and keep detailed records of any loss of earnings you suffer as a result of the accident.
If your injury is very minor you can make choose only to make a complaint to the body concerned to prevent a similar incident happening again and perhaps secure an apology. Most official bodies have formal complaints procedures but these can be time consuming and your best outcome might be an explanation, prevention of a similar future event and an apology.
If your complaint is for a very minor injury on private premises (such as a shop) you may secure an apology and a small amount of money or goods as a token of goodwill. (See smaller claims, consumer injuries and alternatives to court for claims where the compensation is likely to be less than £1,000). Please contact injurywatch.co.uk’s confidential claim support legal teaam if you need guidance on likely