Medical Negligence Claims Time Limits: Your Guide

If you’ve been harmed because of the negligence of a medical professional, making a claim could help you to secure the compensation you need to aid your recovery.

This is why it’s so important that you’re aware of the medical negligence claims time limit, as missing the deadline could make it especially difficult for you to start a claim.

What is the medical negligence claims time limit?

How long you have to claim for medical negligence will to an extent depend on your circumstances.

But generally, you’ll have three years to start the process. This could be three years from when the negligence happened, or from when you first became aware of it – usually through a later assessment or diagnosis.

For example, if an instrument is left in your body during surgery, you may not realise it until you start to feel unwell and seek further medical attention. In these types of cases, you will have three years from the discovery to bring a claim.

If you’re making a claim on behalf of a loved one who has passed away, you will also typically have three years from the date of their death to start the legal process.

It is rare that the courts will extend the time limit for a claim that doesn’t fit any of the established exceptions. You can try to bring a medical negligence claim after three years, but the defendant will likely try to convince the court that the claim should be dismissed as it is past the deadline.

Why is there a deadline for medical negligence claims?

The three-year time limit on medical negligence claims was introduced under the 1980 Limitation Act. It was originally intended to provide a reasonable timeframe for individuals to bring a claim, while protecting potential defendants from ongoing litigation.

But in practice, the time limit on these types of claims has also helped to improve the strength of each case. Evidence can be lost or destroyed over time, and it may become more difficult for you to recall what happened. So making a claim within three years will be beneficial for you, too.

Are there exceptions to the medical negligence claims time limit?

Yes, there are a few exceptions to the three-year time limit. These will apply if:

  • You are claiming on behalf of a child
    If your child was harmed as a result of negligence, you’ll have until their 18th birthday to make a claim on their behalf. After this, if a claim hasn’t been made, the child will have until their 21st birthday to take legal action themselves.
  • You are claiming for someone who lacks mental capacity
    If you’re claiming on behalf of someone who lacks the mental capacity to bring a claim, there will be no time limit applied. This means that you can start a claim at any point as a litigation friend.
  • You didn’t know about the negligence until much later
    As we’ve mentioned, there will be some instances where the effects of a medical professional’s negligence won’t be apparent straight away. In these cases, you’ll be able to claim within three years of the ‘date of knowledge’ when you first discovered that negligence had taken place.

There is also no time limit for claims that have already begun. This is largely because medical negligence cases can become complicated, and the time it takes for each claim to settle will vary.

How long after medical negligence should I claim?

If you think you have grounds for a medical negligence claim, you should start the process as soon as you can. Not only will this help you to submit your claim within the time limit, it could also make it easier for you to remember the details of what happened.

Accessing relevant evidence such as medical records, reports and witness testimonies will often be more straightforward the sooner you claim, too. And if you have financial concerns, your solicitor may be able to arrange for you to receive interim payments while your claim is ongoing.

To find out more about your options, give us a call on the number at the top of the screen or request a callback. Our knowledgeable claims team are here to answer any questions you may have about the legal process.

Or, if you’d prefer, you can fill in our quick and easy online claims form.

However you get in touch, we’re here to support you.

Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances.


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