Don’t miss the time limit to claim
Understanding the different time limits that apply for personal injury claims can be a tricky business – even for lawyers.
After all, the broad heading of “personal injury” covers a whole range of different matters, including motor vehicle accidents, work accidents, medical negligence, public liability (“slips and falls”) and dust diseases. The time limits can vary depending on the type of claim.
There’s a general rule that you have three years to commence legal action from the time of your accident.
Under the Limitation Act the court may grant a five year extension if it thinks it’s just and reasonable to do so. And it can extend beyond that for three years from the date of discoverability, usually to cover conditions that don’t show up for a long time. In law speak, the date of “discoverability” means when you know (or ought to have known) three things; that an injury has occurred, that it was someone else’s fault, and that it’s serious enough to justify suing. But different rules apply if you let the time run out for accidents on the road or at work.
In addition to the three year limit, other time limits apply for some accident claims.
For example, under the Motor Accident Compensation Act you have to notify the police within 28 days of your motor vehicle accident. Then you have to lodge a claim form with your CTP insurer within 6 months.
And for work accidents, you need to let your employer know of your injury immediately and it’s their job to notify their insurer within 48 hours. They must provide you with a claim form within seven days, and the compensation claim should be lodged within six months of the injury.
If you’re injured in an aircraft or an accident involving two boats colliding, or you’re making a victims compensation claim, the time limit is two years, not three.
For dust disease cases there is no time limit, because asbestos disease symptoms can take many years to appear.
Different rules apply again if you suffer injury as a minor (under 18) due to a parent / guardian’s negligence. In that instance, the three year time limit to sue doesn’t start until you’re twenty five. (Later still if you haven’t “discovered” the cause of your injury/illness at that time).
And if your lawyer doesn’t meet the relevant time limits, you can sue them. This gets particularly murky as the time limit for suing the lawyer who missed the time limit (still with me?) is six years.
Clearly the law isn’t always black and white.
Just be aware that time limits exist. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, don’t delay in seeing a lawyer.