The quick answer is that following an accident at work you have three years from the date of injury to formalise a compensation claim.
That said, as is true for most things in the legal world, there are exceptions and complications to the time limits. This article is not legal advice, and you should seek specialist advice if you are worried about the time limit for a personal injury claim. We would be happy to hear from you.
What are the time limits for Accident at Work claims?
The time limits relating to personal injury claims are governed by the Limitation Act 1980, in particular Section 11, which you can read here.
Essentially the legislation states that for actions involving personal injury, the applicable Limitation period is three years. The date runs from either:
a) the date on which the cause of action accrued (i.e. the accident date); or
b) the date of knowledge (if later) of the person injured.
‘Date of knowledge’ is used instead of the date of accident in cases where the precise date is not known, for example for people who have suffered an industrial illness such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. These diseases arise over a period of time, rather than on a single identifiable date. As such the three-year period runs from the date the injured person became aware of their condition. The same can be true for medical negligence cases. This can be a complex area of law. For the overwhelming majority of Accident at Work claims, the date on which the accident occurred is known and this is the date used for calculating the time limit. For example, if you were injured at work on the 1st June 2020 your right to claim would expire on the 31st May 2023. Beyond this date, your claim would become ‘statute barred’ – this means that, subject to some limited exceptions, you would no longer be able to pursue a claim.
What do I need to do to prevent my case becoming time-barred?
If you settle your case within the three-year period, then the time limit has no relevance. If you don’t settle your case within the three-year period, you will need to formally commence court proceedings before the deadline. So, if you were injured on the 1st June 2020, you would have until 31st May 2023 to commence court proceedings. Provided court action is started before the third anniversary, your claim can continue.
Are there exemptions to the time limits?
The time limit is different for children and for those with diminished mental capacity (see Mental Capacity Act 2005). Injured children have three years from their 18th birthday to formalise a claim, rather than having three years from the date of the accident. That means if you were injured as a child, you have until your 21st birthday to claim for personal injury.
The rules governing claimants who are subject to the Mental Capacity Act are complex and require specialist advice. If you have a question about how the time limits affect people who lack mental capacity, please get in touch with us and we will be happy to answer your questions.
There is also a lot of nuance regarding how to apply the Limitation Act. There are different time limits for different geographical locations – notably accidents which happen abroad are subject to different time limits (often much shorter). Accidents which happen on aircraft are also subject to different rules, with only two years to formalise your claim. The rules can also be different for people who die as a result of their accident, or during their compensation claim.
What should I do if I have a claim or I’m worried about time limits?
Leaving a case until the last minute is always a bad idea. Older cases are harder to win, not least because evidence is normally harder to find. Often clients who have been injured in workplace accidents delay making a claim because they fear they will upset their employer and/or are worried they could lose their job, making a bad situation worse. We are sensitive to these issues and can advise you of your best options – overwhelmingly clients do not regret commencing a claim. All good employers have insurance to cover them for accident claims and decent employers will want you to be compensated for your injury.
You might be interested to read our case study about a former client who suffered an Accident at Work but waited until just days before the Limitation deadline to start his claim – we worked hard to commence his claim within the deadline and went on to recover £1,000,000 for him and his family. Had he waited a week longer he would have been entitled to nothing at all.
If you have suffered a personal injury, or have another legal problem you need help with, please contact our specialist solicitors today for a free no obligation discussion.
You can call us on 0161 989 9400 or complete the contact us form.