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Medical negligence claims are often complex and may take time to resolve. It can also take a considerable amount of time to bring a claim. But claimants should avoid delay wherever possible, because there are time limits.
The Three Year Limit
If you are a mentally capable adult, then the standard time limit for making a medical negligence claim is three years.
This is three years from the date that:
• The negligence occurred, or
• You first became aware of symptoms, or
• You suffered a related illness, or
• Discovered a malpractice had occurred.
You may suffer damage or loss immediately as the result of negligence, but in some situations, the impact may only come to light some time afterwards.
The three year limit will therefore start either from the time of the incident, or from when you have knowledge of it if this happened later.
If you make a medical negligence claim, it is separate from any other complaints procedure you may have undertaken. Even if you have already written to the NHS to complain within the three year limit, this will not count as having made a claim.
If you make a claim due to someone dying as a result of negligence, then the three years apply from the date of death, or discovery of the negligence.
If someone dies during the process of a claim, their family will have three years from the date of their death to continue with the claim or, if necessary, to start the claim again.
Exceptions to the Standard Time Limit
If the person who has suffered injury or damage is under the age of 18, they have three years from the date of their 18th birthday to make a medical negligence claim.
The reason for this is that once the person is legally an adult, they can take charge of their own affairs to pursue a claim.
Where an adult person is deemed to lack mental capacity and is unable to manage their own affairs, but has suffered medical negligence as a child, the time limit will not apply.
There is also no immediate time limit to medical negligence claims where the person involved is a protected party. This usually applies to someone with either pre-diagnosed mental illness, or where the negligence has resulted in brain damage.
There can be cases of concealed negligence, where you discover negligence has occurred after a visit to the hospital. If you had a cancer misdiagnosis or botched operation, for example, you might not discover these things for many months.
Here, the three year limit applies from the point where you discover you have the injury.
It is uncommon to discover an injury 10 years after the negligence that caused, but it is not impossible. If this was the situation, you would then be able to claim medical negligence after 10 years.