Medical negligence claims, like many types of criminal charges, are limited in terms of how long you can wait to file a claim. These time limits exist to protect the rights of the accused since it becomes nearly impossible to defend yourself against twenty-year-old claims whether criminal or civil.
Then there’s the fact that you hurt your case by adopting a wait and see attitude, living with the condition. The other side can claim it isn’t that serious since you lived with it for so long. However, the actual time limit that applies varies, depending on the situation. Let’s get a better understanding of the time limits for medical negligence UK claims.
The Three-Year Rule
Section 11 Limitation Act 1980 is called the three-year rule. It says that the claim must be issued by the court within three years of either the accident/negligent act or a date of knowledge. In other words, a claim form has to be issued by the court by the end of the three-year period.
The date of knowledge is the date when someone either became aware or should have been aware of the person who injured them, recognized the significant injury and the fact that the injury is attributable to the defendant. For example, the patient who visits a doctor a week after an accident has the injury misdiagnosed and then suffers because it heals wrong can use the date that they were misdiagnosed for the “Three Year Rule”.
If the hospital sent someone home early and their condition worsens, the point at which it is certain the hospital was wrong could arguably be used as the “date of knowledge”, even though it is days or weeks after the hospital discharge. In a worst-case scenario, cancer or another terminal condition is diagnosed years later, shortly before death or even during the autopsy. Always seek legal advice to determine the “date of knowledge” since this is always complicated and made more so by the treatment that occurred over several years.
When someone has died due to medical malpractice or mistakes, the deceased’s estate must file a claim within three years of death.
Exceptions to the Three-Year Rule
If the medical negligence was within three years of the person’s death, the estate or the dependents of the deceased have up to three years after the death to file a claim.
When the medical claim is on behalf of a minor (when injured), the three-year period does not start until the child has reached age 18. This means the minor can file a medical negligence claim right up until they hit age 21. Parents are certainly entitled to file a medical negligence claim on behalf of their child well before that point.
The parent, in this case, will act as what is called a “Litigation friend”. If you think that a doctor misdiagnosed your child, leading to long-term health problems, consult with the best medical negligence solicitors in the UK to determine your options. Many medical negligence solicitors such as The Medical Negligence Experts will be able to tell you immediately if you have a solid case on your hands, by offering a free initial consultation, as well as advice pages on their website.
In some cases, cases of negligence can only start to appear years after the incident. For example, victims of obstetric negligence may not realise that the child has issues until they start showing symptoms later on and the root cause is determined when the child is several years old.
When the young adult suffered brain damage because of an incident that affected their mental capacities, a potential claimant over 21 may not have the capacity to ever file a claim on their own behalf. Mental incapacity creates many exceptions to the three-year rule. Someone left with brain damage after an accident may not be able to file a claim. This is also very common when it comes to misdiagnosis claims for brain concussions for instance. In these case, it may take several years for someone to recover their mental faculties to the point they could file the claim. This may be due to mental illness, dementia, or traumatic brain injuries.
This causes a situation where the three-year period never starts. According to law, if a person did not have the capacity to file a claim at the time of the accident, only when will they have their full mental capacity will the countdown start. Therefore, some cases can be filed decades after a case, even with the three-year rule.
There might be some issues with these kinds of suits. For instance, many medical records may be missing or inaccessible. But for the most part, this shouldn’t be an issue if the case is filed before the age of 21. This is why it’s essential to document everything from the time of birth and consider the possibility of negligence if you start seeing any signs of impairment.
If the legal proceedings aren’t in line with the time limits, the court may not allow you to pursue the claim. Yes, the courts can rule for an exception beyond those listed above, but you shouldn’t expect it. This is why you need to contact a medical negligence claims UK expert as soon as you suspect you have a medical claim. If you are dealing with a disabled adult or child, also seek the advice of a medical negligence claims expert so that you can know when and if you have a case before time runs out.
Even if you think you’re outside of the time limit, contact a legal professional for advice instead of assuming you have no options. For example, you could file a claim for medical malpractice because someone delayed sending your loved one to a hospital, gave inappropriate care, gave incorrect advice on how to treat a condition or substandard care that contributed to someone’s death. It may be possible to go back after someone has died and sue for medical malpractice through the initial injury that contributed to their death was years ago.
In some cases, there are multiple parties involved, and even if the first incident is past the time limit, subsequent ones are not. For example, a nursing home that failed to send a relative to the hospital when they were ill is negligent on one front, while the hospital that sent them home without proper treatment is guilty on another. Delays in diagnosing a condition like diabetes cause harm, while someone subsequently failing to give the patient proper injections made it worse and could still be liable even if the “three-year” date for the original diabetes diagnosis has passed.
Whether you’re a parent or patient, concerned child or caregiver, if you think that you or your loved one has suffered medical negligence, malpractice, or substandard care, you should seek the help of medical negligence lawyers as soon as possible. The ability to file a medical negligence claim is typically limited to three years, and every day you wait could cost you your ability to file a claim. Even if your situation is an exception to the three-year rule, you still don’t want to wait because you should seek the compensation for your injuries as soon as possible and maximize the odds of winning your case.