If you are considering claiming damages for Personal injury or medical negligence, it is important to be aware of the time limit for making a claim. This time limit is known as the ‘limitation period’. In Ireland most claims for personal injury and Medical negligence following an incident are subject to a 2 year Statute of limitation period. This generally means that the Injuries Board or court proceedings must be started within 2 years of the date of the accident or negligence.
Most Personal injury Medical negligence solicitors are experienced in assessing potential claims and are available to assist you with any questions you may have. Such a legal firm will ensure that you are made aware of any limitation issues and if you have good grounds to make a claim. In some cases, where the injury or disease is not immediately apparent, the 2 year period will start to run from the date that you knew that the injury was connected to the original accident or negligent act. This is known as the ‘date of knowledge’ and is usually most relevant to claims for industrial diseases that develop over a number of years.
Good examples are claims for diseases caused by exposure to asbestos and which may not develop until years after the original exposure. In most cases involving an accident it will be apparent that some kind of injury has been sustained and the two year period starts to run immediately, even if you later discover that the injury was more serious than you first thought. If court proceedings are not started within the 2 year limitation period your claim will become ‘statute-barred’.
If you start court proceedings after the end of the 2 year period you will generally need the permission of the court to continue with your claim. However, Injuries Board or court permission is granted subject to very strict criteria and is not guaranteed. It is therefore extremely important to ensure that Injuries Board or court proceedings are commenced within the 2 year period.
Beware: the 2 year limitation period does not apply to all claims
There are some claims that are subject to a shorter limitation period. In particular, claims brought in respect of criminal injuries are subject to shorter limitation periods. Claims arising out of an accident outside of the IRELAND, including accidents on planes and boats, may also have shorter limitation period. Different limitation rules also apply to claims made on behalf of children for whom the limitation period generally starts to run when they reach the age of 18. The claimant’s actual date of knowledge is the date on which they first have knowledge of the following facts:
- the injury in question is significant
- the injury is attributable to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence, nuisance or breach of duty
- the identity of the defendant, and
- the identity of that person and any relevant additional facts, if it is alleged that the injury was caused by someone other than the defendant
The claimant’s knowledge is taken to include anything that they might reasonably have been expected to discover themselves or with the help of expert advice, eg from a doctor. Time will start to run from this constructive date of knowledge if the court is satisfied that the claimant reasonably could and should have ascertained the information listed above, even if this is before they actually had knowledge of this information. You should consult your Personal injury solicitor for advice about the limitation period that applies to your particular claim.
Do not delay!
It is important to understand that the limitation period rules require the formal step of issuing court proceedings to be taken within the limitation period. It is not sufficient to instruct solicitors or submit a claim to an insurer within the limitation period – formal Injuries Board or court proceedings must actually be commenced. If you are considering making a claim you should ideally contact a Personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after the injury is sustained. There are investigations and other important steps that must be completed before a solicitor can issue your claim at court.
You may therefore find it difficult to find a solicitor who will accept your claim if your first instructions to them are very close to the end of the limitation period.