What is the Statute of Limitations?
The Statute of Limitations sets out the length of time a person has to make a claim as a result of an action or omission that gives rise to the claim.
Once the specified time has passed an action can no longer be brought.
The logic is grounded on common sense principles: after a certain length of time it is impossible to get accurate evidence – be it witnesses, people’s recollection etc. and the threat of legal action cannot hang over a person for an indefinite time.
Therefore, the law stepped in with the concept of the Statute of Limitations.
How long does a person have to take action?
If a person is outside the limitation period, they cannot take an action.
Strict time limits
Under our legal system there are strict time limits – known as ‘limitation periods’ – within which you are entitled to begin court proceedings seeking damages for personal injuries.
The consequences of failing to begin a court action within the allowed time limits are both stark and absolute: your entitlement to be compensated vanishes the moment the limitation period expires.
For personal injuries claims an injured party has, by and large, two years.
Although the Statute of Limitation for personal injury claims is two years, there is an exception where a person has no knowledge that an injury is connected with a wrong committed by someone else.
Legal safeguard to prevent injustice
The law on the Limitations does include rhis safeguard to prevent limitation periods from expiring in unjust circumstances.
As a result, in most medical negligence cases the “date of knowledge” argument is often central to the case.
The ‘date of knowledge’ ensures that the time limit does not run out before a person knew or ought to have known that they have an injury/action.
Date of Knowledge
The Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act 1991 introduced the ‘date of knowledge’ for personal injury cases. The date of knowledge is applied when the date the wrong/injury takes place differs from the date the wrong/injury is discovered. This means that in situations where the injury may not be obvious at first the time limit for actions does not begin until the injured party is aware of the injury.
In case of medical negligence, a person may not have knowledge of the injury for some considerable time.
The ‘date of knowledge’ ensures that the time limit does not run out before a person realises they have an injury/action.
The ‘date of knowledge’ test provides that the two-year period within which one must bring a personal injury claim will not begin to run until the date upon which you become aware of all of the following pieces of information:
§ You have been injured.
§ The injury which you have suffered is significant.
§ The injury was caused by the fault of someone else.
§ The identity of the person who caused you the injury.
Does the Statute of Limitation apply to other areas of law?
The Statute of Limitation applies in almost all areas of law , for example , in contract, property or employment cases.
Her are some exampes of the time periods:
- If going after an account – 6 years
- Tort other than personal injuries – 6 years
- Contract – 6 years
- Enforcing an arbitration award – 6 years
- Estate – 6 years or 12 years depending on circumstances
- Land – Adverse possession – 12 years, or 30 years if the State are taking an action
- Unfair dismissal – 6 months
It is important to know that there is no ‘date of knowledge’ safety net in non-personal injury litigation.
You need to be diligent in making sure that you do not fall foul of such time periods.
The material contained in this blog is provided for general information purposes only and does not amount to legal or other professional advice. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, we advise you to seek specific advice from us about any legal decision or course of action.