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If you have been injured through no fault of your own, an injury solicitor can help you make a no win no fee personal injury claim
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Can I claim for an accident after 3 years?

Most personal injury claims need to be made within three years from the date of the accident. Failing to start your claim within this time limit will usually mean you are no longer entitled to claim compensation.

However, there are a few exceptions to this three year rule, when you may have more time to make your claim. In this guide, we will explain each of these potential time limit extensions.

When can I claim for an accident that happened more than 3 years ago?

Although most injury claims need to be made within the three year limitation period, there are some specific exceptions to this rule. In a nutshell, these are accidents involving children, claiming on behalf of someone who lacks mental capacity, fatal accident claims and the date of knowledge rule.

We will explain each of these exceptions to the limitation period below:

Accidents involving children

If a child is injured in an accident, a claim can be made on their behalf at any point up until their 18th birthday. In these circumstances, the three year time limit does not apply.

Whether the accident happened five years ago or 15 years ago, provided the injured person is under 18 years old, a personal injury claim can still be made.

The accident claim can be made on the child’s behalf by either a parent, a guardian or a litigation friend.

If a claim has not been made on behalf of the child, the standard three year limitation period will begin to count down on their 18th birthday. This gives them until the day they turn 21 to start a compensation claim in their own name.

Accident date vs the ‘date of knowledge’

If you have been involved in a car accident or slipped on a wet floor, there is a clear accident date from which the time limit begins.

However, there are some cases where you may be unaware that somebody else’s negligence caused your injury or illness until a later date.

For example, industrial diseases caused by being exposed to asbestos, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, may not develop until many years or even decades later.

In these cases, the three year time limit begins on the ‘date of knowledge’. This is the date you were made aware that somebody else’s negligence caused the injury or illness you suffered or are continuing to suffer from.

Medical negligence claims are another common example of where the date of knowledge may come into play. For instance, if a doctor made an error during a surgical procedure, it may not be discovered until a later date following further tests and examinations.

Claiming for a fatal accident or illness

If a person dies due to somebody else’s negligence, a close member of the family, such as a partner or child, may be able to make a compensation claim.

As long as the limitation period did not expire while the deceased person was alive, the family member still has a three-year time limit to start a personal injury claim in these circumstances. However, the time limit begins on the date the person died instead of the accident date.

If the cause of the death is not known until a post-mortem has been carried out, the date of knowledge principle discussed above would apply.

Claiming on behalf of somebody lacking mental capacity

If an adult does not have the required mental capacity to make a personal injury claim by themselves, another person can claim on their behalf. This would typically be a loved one, such as a spouse, parent or child, but could also be a close friend.

There is no time limit in these cases, so an accident claim can be made at any point.

What will happen if I don’t start a claim within the limitation period?

If you don’t make your injury claim within the relevant limitation period, it will be classed as statute-barred under the Limitation Act 1980. This means you will no longer be able to proceed with your claim.

The court does have the discretion to override the limitation period under Section 33 of the Limitation Act. However, the courts rarely use these powers and will only do so in exceptional circumstances when there is a strong reason for the delay.

Start your claim as soon as possible

As we have outlined in this guide, there are circumstances where you may be able to claim for an accident that happened over three years ago.

But as with most personal injury cases, the sooner you start your claim, the better. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it can be to gather evidence to support your claim.

If you wait too long, you will also run the risk of missing the deadline to start your claim. And as we mentioned above, if this happens, your claim would be statute-barred.

If you would like further information about making a personal injury claim, call free on 0800 678 1410 to speak to an experienced legal adviser. Alternatively, please enter your details into our online claim form, and a legal adviser will call you back.