If you’re considering seeking compensation for medical malpractice by a healthcare provider or medical professional, you’ll need to be aware of how much time you have to bring forward your claim.
As with all legal proceedings, the statute of limitations puts a time limit on when you can bring forward a claim for an injury caused by medical negligence. Knowing how long you have left in your limitation period will help your solicitor evaluate your case to see whether there is enough time to bring the case forward. This is particularly important for complicated cases, as your legal team will need more time to properly evaluate all of the evidence.
At OH Parsons, we’re experts when it comes to medical negligence. We have decades of experience helping victims of medical malpractice receive the compensation they deserve. In this blog post, we’ll explain the time limits on making a medical negligence claim, so that you’re able to begin pursuing any legal action before it’s too late.
What is the time limit for making a medical negligence claim?
For most cases of personal injury caused by medical negligence, you have 3 years to bring forward your claim and begin court proceedings. This time limit either starts from when the treatment that caused the injury occurred, or whenever you noticed or found out that the treatment had caused injury. For example, if you find out that your doctor missed signs of cancer on routine scans 2 years ago, causing your cancer to progress much further than if it had been noticed immediately, your time limit to make a medical negligence claim would begin from when you became aware of the malpractice, not from when the mistake occurred. Alternatively, if you are immediately made aware after surgery that there was an error, your time limit would begin at that point.
It should also be noted that the limitation is only on bringing your claim forward. Cases may take many years to resolve, particularly where the parties can’t reach a consensus on compensation, or the defendant denies wrongdoing. Within the context of the limitation period, this isn’t a problem. So long as you’ve submitted your claim to the court, you won’t have to worry about additional time limits.
Why is there a medical negligence claims time limit?
The statute of limitations is designed to protect defendants from unfair legal action. Once this limitation window has run out, you would be unable to bring forward any claim for that case of malpractice. The medical negligence claims limit is designed to prevent either the prosecution or the defence from being unfairly hindered by inaccurate evidence and to help avoid an unjust verdict.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward: the further away from the incident, the less accurate the information might be. Hospitals and healthcare providers are only required to keep patient records for a certain period of time – which means if you claim after the records have been destroyed, your solicitor wouldn’t be able to access this information during discovery in order to build a full picture of whether there was a breach of duty. Further, witness testimony will get cloudy the further away from the event you get. This means important facts of your case might be missed or misconstrued. In order to reach a just verdict, you need to ensure that your case is brought forward within 3 years.
Can I claim after the limitation period?
While the time limit for most cases of personal injury caused by medical malpractice is 3 years, there are a few exceptions to this limitation period. This is to make sure that those who might not be fully responsible for their own legal affairs have sufficient time to bring a case forward and seek compensation for their injuries. There are three explicit exemptions to the statute of limitations on medical negligence, but you may find that the court will give you special permission to bring forward a case without these exemptions. However, the rules around this are very complicated, so we would advise seeking legal guidance as soon as you can to see if this is possible.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for vulnerable adults?
In cases of medical negligence in vulnerable adults, there is no limitation on when a case can be brought forward. This protected group is defined as having diminished mental capacity, which means that they are unable to take full responsibility for their legal affairs and so cannot make an informed decision about making a medical negligence claim. Specific examples of adults who might be defined as vulnerable include those with severe learning difficulties or developmental disorders, dementia, brain damage or a disability caused by mental illness.
It is important to note that if brain damage was caused by the incident of medical malpractice and the victim recovers enough to be deemed able to take responsibility for their legal affairs, then the standard 3-year medical negligence claims time limit begins from the date of recovery.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for a deceased person?
In the rare cases that someone dies from medical negligence, their family would have 3 years to file a case on the deceased’s behalf. If their loved one had already begun proceedings for their claim, the family would have 3 years from the date of death to complete the claim. However, if the deceased person had not begun making a claim, their family would need to begin legal proceedings on behalf of their estate within 3 years of the negligence being discovered.
What is the medical negligence claim time limit for children?
Similarly to medically vulnerable adults, children are not deemed to be fully responsible for their legal affairs, and so cannot make an informed decision about making a medical negligence claim. Instead, the time limit begins from the victim’s 18th birthday, as this is when they’re defined as a legal adult and so therefore can make an informed decision about their legal affairs. The claimant would then have 3 years from their 18th birthday to begin legal proceedings.
However, it should be noted that if an adult brings the case forward on their child’s behalf before their 18th birthday, the victim wouldn’t be able to pursue a medical negligence claim again on their own.
How soon should I seek legal advice for medical negligence?
In order to give your legal team the best chance of success, we recommend seeking legal advice as soon as you are aware that medical malpractice has taken place. By reaching out to a specialist solicitor to get guidance on whether you have sufficient grounds for a case, and how much time might be left within your limitations period.
It is worth noting that some solicitors might not be able to take your case on if there’s less than a year left in your limitation period. There might not be enough time to explore all of the evidence in order to demonstrate that there was a breach of the healthcare provider’s duty of care, and that this caused harm. This becomes even more important in complicated cases, as there might be a lot of evidence and testimony to work through, and your solicitor might have engaged multiple independent medical experts to evaluate whether there was a breach of duty and the scope of your injuries.
Make a claim within your limitation period with OH Parsons
If you’re unsure whether there is enough time to bring forward your medical negligence claim, we can help. OH Parsons offers free legal advice, so we can evaluate your medical records and see if you have grounds for a case, and if that case can be brought forward within the limitation window. On top of this, we also offer a no-win, no-fee service to give you peace of mind while legal proceedings are ongoing. Get in touch with us today and we’d be happy to help evaluate your case.