In England and Wales, you have three years from the date of the incident or accident which caused your injuries to make a personal injury claim. This is the same for a work accident, a car accident, a motorbike accident, and in fact most accidents that happen in England and Wales.
There are some exceptions to this rule though and the main exception is children.
If a child is injured in an incident or accident within England or Wales and someone else was responsible, they have until 3 years after their 18th birthday to make a personal injury claim. Their parents have a choice. They can make the claim on behalf of their child whilst they are under 18 years old, or allow their child to make the decision about making a claim once they become legally responsible at 18.
There are pros and cons for waiting.
If the accident happened when the child was very young, it could be much more difficult to argue for a fair amount of compensation to be paid many years afterwards. The impact of the accident and their injuries is less likely to be evident with the passage of time. This will not be the case with more serious injuries.
But, if your child has suffered from serious and life changing injuries, there is another more important reason to make a claim as soon as possible. There is every chance that we can secure a payment to be made to pay for additional rehabilitation, any necessary adaptations to your house or vehicle, before you settle the claim. This opportunity to give your child early help and support after their accident can be invaluable.
Even where their injuries are not so severe, experience shows that early treatment can make all the difference to their recovery.
Any personal injury compensation amount awarded to your child before they are 18 years old is placed into either the Court fund or into a Trust for them for when they reach 18. This money is accessible but you will need to apply to the Court for permission to access the funds. The Court needs to be sure that the money will be used for the benefit of your child.
However, deciding to wait until your child is 18 years old before making a personal injury claim can also be the right decision for you and your child. If you are not sure about what your child would want you to do, you can wait until your child is legally able to make decisions for themselves. At 18, they still have 3 years to decide whether to make a personal injury claim or not. This way, you are leaving that important decision up to them.
There are a couple more exceptions to the 3 year time limit. The second one is for people who die in an accident. The law recognises the sad fact that not everyone who dies from an accident dies immediately after the incident which resulted in their death. Sometimes people can live for weeks, months and even years after a life changing accident. Therefore, if a loved one dies from their injuries after an accident, you can make a personal injury claim on their behalf 3 years from the date of their death, rather than 3 years from the date of the accident.
Finally, if you or a loved one is injured in an accident so severely that they (or you) lose capacity to make decisions, the clock stops counting. For example, if a family member was in a coma, they can’t make decisions for themselves. This means they lack capacity. Alternatively, if you suffered from a head injury in the accident, this could leave you without capacity.
Capacity is a term used in law. It defines what you must be able to do to make decisions for yourself. If an accident leaves you or a family member in a position where you cannot make decisions for yourself, then you lack capacity.
Just because you or your loved one lacks capacity, it does not mean this is a permanent situation. Therefore, the clock only stops for the time you lack capacity. Once you regain capacity, the clock starts to run again. You may not regain capacity for years after your accident, but you will still have the 3 years to make a personal injury claim when you do.
If you never regain capacity, your time to make a personal injury claim will never expire and someone close to you can make a claim on your behalf.
There are many good reasons for making a claim as soon as possible after an accident.
You will need to have a medical examination with a doctor. The doctor will complete a report which outlines your injuries, the likelihood of a full recovery and an estimate of how long that will take. It is obvious that your injuries will be more apparent the sooner after the accident, so it makes sense to be seen by a doctor or medical specialist as soon as possible so this is documented.
If you need rehabilitation for your injuries, the sooner you get the treatment you need, the better your recovery will be and if you are unable to work, any financial settlement you get as a result of your injuries will be welcomed sooner rather than later to ease your financial issues.
At Co-op Legal Services, we know how difficult it can be following an accident. We want to do all we can to make it as easy and stress free as possible to make a claim and to get fair compensation for your injuries.
For more information on how to make a personal injury claim call our Personal Injury Solicitors on 0330 606 9587 or contact us online and we will help you.