Making a legal claim can be a daunting experience, especially when the claim involves a clinical organisation or medical professional.
Many of us aren’t sure what first steps to take in making a medical negligence claim. They can be complex, emotional times and you might come to find that the process has limitations too. One of those limitations you may come across whilst making a medical negligence claim is the time limit, or how long you have to make your claim. So, if your medical negligence happened a few years ago – what are your options?
The Time-Limit of Medical Negligence Claims
In most cases where the claimant is an adult, the time limit is 3 years from the ‘date of knowledge’. The ‘date of knowledge’ could refer to the date that the negligence occurred (if it was realised immediately), or it could refer to the date that you first observed symptoms, suffered a related illness, or when malpractices were discovered.
Exceptions to the Time-Limit to make a Medical Negligence Claim
There are some exceptions to the 3 year time-limit that you should be aware of, such as:
Claims concerning children:
For those under the age of eighteen that have suffered medical negligence, they have three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday. This exception is designed so that, once legally an adult, they are able to take matters into their own hands to pursue a medical negligence claim, should they want or need to.
Claims concerning those with mental disabilities or illnesses (both adults and children):
If the claimant is a protected party (someone with a pre-diagnosed mental condition), there is no immediate time-limit to make a claim. This is also the case if the negligence resulted in brain damage.
However, if they are deemed to have recovered from their mental illness and are considered to be capable of handling the matter properly, they will then have three years from the date of recovery.
If the claim concerns someone that has died:
In cases where the victim has sadly died, the family of the deceased have three years from the date of their death to bring forward a medical negligence claim on their behalf.
If a claimant is in the process of a medical negligence claim when they die, their family will again have three years from the date of death to continue with the claim via the personal representatives of the deceased.
If the claim concerns a concealed negligence:
In some cases, you may discover many years after a medical procedure that medical negligence actually took place. This could be because you may have had limited knowledge of the treatment and/or procedure at the time, or there have since been reports of high mortality rates, poor levels of care or if the trust you were under openly admits fault during an investigation.
Why is there a time limit to make a medical negligence claim?
Although the time-limit can be a cause for concern for many claimants that may not have been fully aware of their negligence, there are valid reasons as to why the limit has been set as three years. This is because:
• Witnesses can sometimes forget what happened over lengthy periods of time, this limiting accuracy.
• You may need compensation to deal with your illness of injury, sooner rather than later.
• Medical notes may become lost – especially as many hospitals and/or medical trusts only hold them for a required period of time.
With a three year time-limit, there is a better chance that you are able to gather the best information to help your claim deliver the best results to aid your recovery.
What if the time has expired?
If the time-limit has passed, your medical negligence claim is likely to be time –barred i.e. out of time.
Unfortunately, this can be a common occurrence. Many victims of medical negligence make a decision to ignore the claim promptly for many different reasons, preferring to pursue the claim at a later date.
However, we do always encourage you to seek legal advice still – no matter your circumstance – to fully explore any options you may have left. It is always worth obtaining legal advice from a specialised medical negligence solicitor to check when your time-limit ended. In some limited circumstances, a court may allow you to bring your claim outside of the time-limit; however, this is very much the exception and not the rule.
An experienced medical negligence solicitor has the resources, compassion and knowledge to best advice you on all of these matters, to make sure you are completely informed of your rights. If you require medical negligence legal advice, don’t hesitate to call our experts to discuss your options on 0800 230 0573.