What are the exceptions to the three year rule?

If you have suffered an injury that was not your fault, then you may well be aware of the fact that you could be eligible to claim compensation from the responsible party. However, one thing that many people are not aware of is that there is a three year rule within the UK during which time you have to settle the claim or issue proceedings; otherwise your claim will be considered invalid. This is what is known as the ‘limitation period’.

Whilst this limitation period is generally applied to all cases in the UK, there are a number of situations in which the limitation period is either lengthened or reduced, according to individual circumstances.

Firstly, it is important to consider the date of the accident. Whilst you might have had an accident on one particular day, this is not necessarily the date from which the three year rule will begin to be applied. The three year period actually starts from what is called the ‘Date of Knowledge’.

The ‘Date of Knowledge’ is considered to be the date on which you first realised (in legal speak):

  1. that the injury in question was significant;
  2. that the injury was attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence, nuisance or breach of duty;
  3. the identity of the defendant; and
  4. if it is alleged that the act or omission was that of a person other than the defendant, the identity of that person and the additional facts supporting the bringing of an action against the defendant.

Of course, this could well be the date of the accident, but that does not necessarily mean that it will be.

There are also a couple of areas where the limitation of claims becomes less than three years. Firstly, any claim which takes place either in the air or on water – i.e. on a plane or a ship – has a two year limitation period. The same goes for a claim with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (the CICA), where any claim should be made as soon as possible after the incident and where the claim must also be made within a two year period.

If you are the victim of assault, meanwhile, the three year limit is not applied, due to the fact that this is not technically an accusation of negligence. However, it is worth noting that this is only the case when the claim is carried out through a private solicitor – if done through the CICA, that body’s two-year ruling will still apply.

Other exceptions include the following:

  • If a case is made under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, then the limitation period is 10 years.
  • The limitation period for minors does not begin running until they are 18 years old – therefore, the final deadline for making a claim is typically their 21st birthday.
  • In the event of fatal accidents, the limitation period runs from the date of death, with the odd exception.
  • Finally, on some occasions a court may decide to adjust the limitation period, this is allowed under ‘court’s discretion’.
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