Is There a Time Limit for Personal Injury Claims?

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By Crispin Bateman

on Tuesday 9 April 2019

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Personal injury claims - what's the time limit?

When making a personal injury claim in the UK, there is a limitation period of three years – meaning that after 3 years, you cannot make a claim for personal injury compensation.

While this is true, it is also open to some exceptions and certain conditions over when the three-year period starts and ends. This article is here to look in depth at the statute of limitations in the UK with personal injury compensation claims and to make sure you know the law.

Understanding dates – when the time frame starts

Knowing when to count the time from is obviously important.

The date of injury

In many cases, there is a clear-cut date when the accident happened. This is known as the date of injury and if it is known, it forms the start position from which the countdown starts ticking.

The date of injury works well for many cases - it can be the date of a road traffic accident you were involved in, or the date of an accident at work. It is important that there is a record of the date, so if you are in the situation where this should be the case but there is no record, make sure to write down the date of injury as soon as possible and see if you can obtain some evidence for it.

The date of knowledge

In some cases, the date of injury isn’t known. In these cases, the start date is set as the date of knowledge, sometimes called the date of diagnosis. It refers to the first time that you became aware of your injury.

The date of knowledge is important with cases of industrial disease like asbestos-related cancer. In these cases, the time is set from the day the doctor or other medical professional attributed your illness to the cause.

The date of knowledge is also relevant in many mental health cases, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and situations of abuse.

Coming of age date

In cases involving children where a claim has not been initiated on their behalf by a parent or guardian, the start date is set to the victim’s 18th birthday – the coming-of-age date.

Date of death

When claiming compensation on behalf of the family of the deceased, the date of death serves as the start position where no previous claim was put in process by the deceased before their passing.

For example, if a road traffic accident led to complications and death two months after the initial incident, then a family member wishing to make a claim must do so based on the date of death. If, however, there was already a claim in place initiated by the deceased, then the initiation date is the date of injury.

Deceased date of knowledge

It could be that it is only at the post-mortem that the cause of death becomes known. In these situations, the date of that examination becomes the date of knowledge regarding the deceased and is used as the start date for limitations.

The deadline – what is the time limit for accident claims?

The time limit is set at three years from the start date, but what does that mean? What must you do within the time limit?

The deadline is the date at which the matter is filed for court proceedings.

That makes a lot of sense – it’s the first time the court hear of the situation. But how does that happen?

Understanding the personal injury claims process – how delays can make the deadline slip away

It is important that you contact Accident Line Direct as soon as possible after your accident. It is a fair assumption to think that three years is a long time and you can bring the claim to light tomorrow, next week, or in a while. But there is a lot that must happen before filing to court and there may be enough delay in this process to eat up many of the months and years.

Delay stage 1 – contacting the personal injury lawyers

The first time a delay is likely to occur is with you, as the victim and claimant, failing to contact us at Accident Line Direct in a timely fashion. For every day, week and month that passes between your start time and the day we find out about it, it’s a day, week or month lost.

It’s important that you do not delay here, but contact us at Accident Line Direct immediately.

Delay stage 2 – assessment of the case

We work as fast as possible to move your case forward, but it is important that we undertake a period of due diligence and properly analyse your case to see if it has strong legal grounds for success.

This period is typically swift but still adds to the delay.

Delay stage 3 – gathering evidence and building the case

Depending on the complexity of your claim, it can take many months to properly build a strong case that will succeed when put under the scrutiny of opposing lawyers. We will work with you throughout this process, obtaining evidence from all aspects of the case and putting together a compelling argument.

Delay stage 4 – negotiation

Most personal injury cases are dealt with outside of an official court hearing. Accident Line Direct’s team has a comprehensive understanding of the law and uses this to negotiate with any opposing legal team to hopefully reach a sensible solution and agreeable financial compensation without the need to involve the courts.

Like the ‘gathering evidence’ stage, the process of negotiation can be time-consuming and stretch over months, especially when the case is complicated as may happen with clinical and medical negligence cases, industrial deafness and disease and any case with a long history.

Happily, spending the appropriate time in this stage often leads to a more successful conclusion and it is rarely time wasted.

Of course, throughout the process, we are aware of the time frame and should the deadline approach, we will always put a filing through for a court hearing before the time limit passes.

How long do you really have to make a claim for personal injury – the real timelines and exceptions

For most cases, the time limit is three years from the start date as described above.

Exception 1 - the Mental Health Act 1983

In a change to the start date, the time limit on accident claims made by someone who was receiving treatment under the 1983 Mental Health Act does not start until they are discharged from care, or the date on which the conditions of the disability ended (whichever comes first).

At this point, the relevant statute of limitations (typically three years) begins.

Exception 2 - CICA (criminal injuries compensation authority) claims

Unlike the standard time frame, CICA imposes a two-year statute of limitations on claims that are due to an assault or another criminal injury.

For more information on making a claim through CICA, please read our article Criminal Injury Compensation Claims.

Exception 3 – AFCS (armed forces compensation scheme) claims

Injury claims made by the military through the armed forces compensation scheme have an extended seven-years in order to initiate a claim.

If the victim chooses to pursue a civil claim rather than use the AFCS because they want to claim in a civil court where the compensation may be higher, then the standard time limits will apply.

Typical time frames


Start date

Time frame

Broken wrist from accident at work

Date of injury

3 years

Kidney damage from road traffic accident

Date of injury

3 years

Lung cancer due to exposure from hazardous materials at work

Date of knowledge

3 years

PTSD as a result of multi-car road traffic accident

Date of knowledge

3 years

PTSD due to time in military service

Date of knowledge

7 years through AFCS, 3 years in civil court

Psychological trauma from child abuse

18th birthday or date of knowledge (whichever is later)

3 years

Paralysis due to a violent attack in the street

Date of injury

2 years through CICA

Sexual attack while in psychiatric care

Date of discharge from care

3 years


How long do personal injury claims take to settle?

As detailed above, most claims are settled before they reach court in the process of negotiation between us and the defending party. We will always seek to obtain the highest possible financial settlement on your behalf and follow the same guidelines on compensation amounts as are available to the courts.

As all parties are fully aware of the three-year limitation before a claim must go to court, if it is resolved in the negotiation phase, it is usual for the claim to be settled before this time limit is up.

If a negotiation period cannot result in a final settlement, then it will be brought for a court hearing where delays of up to 12 months can occur. The courts tend to prioritise high-value cases over smaller ones, so you are likely to be seen sooner if the level of compensation is determined to be high (over £12,000).

Once the settlement is agreed, you can expect payment in full within 14 to 21 days.

How can Accident Line Direct help?

At Accident Line Direct, we specialise in personal injury claims for both physical and mental health injuries. We have an expert team of No Win No Fee solicitors who can help you through every aspect of your personal injury claim to obtain the highest level of accident compensation in the UK.

Whether you are making a road traffic accident claim, a request for compensation after an accident at work, or if you are claiming on behalf of a child or someone else, we have the right specialist solicitors with experience to help.

For more information, please read our extensive library of articles here on the Accident Line Direct website or contact us either through our online form or simply by giving us a call. Our advisors are here to listen to you and will help you through this difficult process with compassion and understanding.

Call today to find out more.

0808 1454275

Accident Line Direct can help you begin your potential claim, get in touch today!

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