How long do you have to make a personal injury claim?

You may wonder when is it the right time to make a claim for personal injury and when will it be too late to get the compensation you are rightly entitled to. The UK legislation states that there is a time limit of 3 years. This is known as the limitation period. The 3 years initially starts from:

  • The date of the accident; or
  • The date of knowledge of the accident of the injured party

This is determined by whichever date is later and is governed by the Limitation Act 1980.

Date of Knowledge of the Accident in personal Injury

This is when the injured party has actual knowledge of the accident itself. The limitation period will not start at the date of the accident if the injured party does not have any knowledge of the right to claim. There are certain grounds which the injured party needs to demonstrate in order to show that they did not have actual ‘knowledge’ of the accident at the time. These are:

  • That the injury caused from the accident was substantial
  • That the injury caused within the accident was attributable, to the act and omission of the negligence or breach of duty
  • Identity of the other party at fault
  • Supporting evidence to suggest that the other party is at fault

If under the circumstances you will like to claim for personal injury later than the limitation period, then it is vital to establish the right date of knowledge.

However, there may be circumstances where injuries from an accident have slowly developed after many years due to the accident and knowledge of the connection between the injury and the accident is associated far later than the expiry of the 3 years’ limitation period. In this circumstance, there is an exception where the limitation period starts 3 years from the date in which the injured party can establish that the injuries surfaced are linked to the accident.

Minors / Disability & Making a Claim

The limitation period may also vary in regards to an individual who is identified under the category of disability. This is identified under the Limitation Act 1980. Individuals who are identified as disabled are:

  • Individuals who lack mental capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, or
  • If the individual is under the age of 18 years old

If the claimant identifies as a child, then the limitation period starts 3 years from the date they turn 18. This means after the child turns 18 they have up until their 21st birthday to put forward the claim. However, the claim may be brought forward earlier if a litigation friend puts through the claim. This is an adult who can choose to put the claim through on behalf of the child. This is usually the child’s parents in most circumstances.

Furthermore, if the injured party identifies as a person who lacks mental capacity as recognised under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 the same conditions apply – which states that up until the date in which the disability ceases then the individual has 3 years to bring a claim. If an individual does identify as having a mental illness, then it is also advisable to obtain evidential proof to illustrate this.


If the injured party dies before the limitation period has expired, then limitation starts from the date of death of the injured party and this is also 3 years from that date. This is mentioned in the Limitation Act 1980 (Section 11(5)). This is so that it allows the deceased’s estate to potentially put forward a claim.


It is vital to keep track of the limitation period and to establish how far down the line you are in regards to your claim. If you exceed the limitation period and bring forward a claim, then it may be considered ‘statute-barred’. This means you will no longer be able to put forward the claim.

There may be circumstances where individuals have put forward claims even after the limitation period of 3 years however, majority of the claims that do so are unsuccessful as the defence may argue that you have exceeded the limitation period, which the court will take into great consideration. Therefore, prepare wisely and take heed in knowing the limitation period for your claim in light of your accident circumstances.