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Is there a time limit on medical negligence claims?
Legal action must be started within three years of the date you first knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, that something had gone wrong with your medical treatment (this is called date of knowledge).
This will usually be quite soon after the operation or treatment has taken place, but occasionally it will not become obvious that an intervention has had long-term consequences until months, or sometimes years, after the event.
- If the claimant is under 18, the three-year time limit only expires on his/her 21st birthday
- For people under a legal disability (i.e. those suffering from a mental disorder), no limitation period applies
- If someone has died because of negligence, the three-year time limit runs from the date of death
The courts strictly enforce time limits and it is only in exceptional circumstances that a Judge will exercise discretion to allow a case to be brought "out of time".
As it takes time to investigate a claim, it is a good idea to start proceedings well before the end of the limitation period. Also, the sooner the case is investigated, the more likely it is that documents will still be available and that people will be able to remember what happened.