The Personal Injury Blog

Limitation Periods in Personal Injury Claims

If you are considering making a claim for personal injury it is important to be aware that there are strict time limits for starting a claim. If you miss the window you may be left unable to pursue your claim for compensation, no matter how justified your claim may be.

Limitation law is very complicated. Most of the various limitation periods are set out in the Limitations Act 1980. Claims relating to personal injuries in England and Wales usually have to be brought within 3 years of an injury occurring, meaning that certain papers and a fee must be filed at court by the due date to prevent the claim expiring. It is therefore very important when considering a personal injury claim that you contact a Solicitor as soon as possible and definitely before the end of the 3 year time limit.

There are some circumstances where the strict 3 year time period does not apply:

Claims for Children:

If the person injured was under 18 at the time the injury occurred, the 3 year time limit only runs from the day that they reach 18. This means that they (or anyone making a claim on their behalf) effectively have until the child’s 21st birthday to start a claim.

Claimants Lacking Capacity:

If the injured person lacks the mental capacity to understand or bring a claim, the law recognises that these individuals could be unjustly penalised by the 3 year time limit. If the victim lacks capacity prior to or from the date that they were injured, the three year time limit will not begin until the injured person regains capacity. It may be the case that the injured person never regains capacity which means that a claim can be brought at any time by a representative of the injured person. We would however recommend that the representative contacts a Solicitor as soon as practicable, particularly because memories fade, scenes of accidents change and there are many other reasons why claims brought soon after an accident are more likely to succeed than those brought later.

If the injured person loses capacity at some time after they were injured however the 3 year time limit still applies and proceedings must be commenced within that period.

Assault Claims:

If you are injured as a result of being assaulted you may be able to lodge a claim with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and the time limit for submitting a claim is within 2 years of the incident date.

Date of Knowledge:

There are circumstances where it is difficult to identify the exact date when an injury occurred and therefore when the 3 year time limit begins to run. A common example of this would be in Noise Induced Hearing Loss cases where the deafness manifests itself some years later than the exposure to negligently high levels of noise. Asbestos-related disease cases, where the claimant was exposed to asbestos at work commonly arise up to 40 years after the exposure when the symptoms first become apparent.

In this situation the limitation period starts to run from the “date of knowledge” of the injured person.

There are three main requirements of establishing when a claimant can be said to have knowledge:

  • When they knew or should have known that the injury was significant
  • When they realised or should have realised that that the injury was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence or breach of duty and
  • When they knew or should have been able to establish the identity of the defendant.

It is for a Judge to decide when the injured person’s date of knowledge arose and because of this, cases are often fought, won and lost on the issue of date of knowledge. Again we would advise those contemplating claims for industrial diseases or Clinical Negligence to consult a solicitor as soon as possible after they suspect that they may have a valid claim.


In unfortunate cases where the injured person dies within the 3 year limitation period, the time limit is extended to 3 years from the date of death or the date of knowledge of the deceased, whichever is the later. This allows the deceased’s estate to bring a claim on their behalf.

Further exceptions to the 3 Year Time Limit:

Where the accident occurred on an aeroplane, hot air balloon or a boat, for example a cruise ship, the limitation period is 2 years from the date of the accident or injury. Accidents which occur abroad may be subject to different time limits such as one year in Spain. If in doubt, you should consult a solicitor as soon as possible after your accident!

Limitation period issues can be complex and the facts of each case are different and need to be considered on their own merits. It is therefore very important that expert legal advice is sought as soon as you realise you have suffered an injury.

The team at Taylor&Emmet are experienced in assessing claims and are able to assist you with any questions you may have. We can ensure that that you are made aware of any limitation issues and we can advise you accordingly.

If you wish to speak to one of our team then please call us on 0114 218 4000 or email

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