Three Year Time Limit For Making A Claim

Three Year Time Limit For Making A Claim

Dear Alexa

I was involved in an accident in July 2009. I hurt my neck. I did not think that it was anything particularly serious and I did not make a claim about it. However, it never really got better and I started to feel more widespread aches and pains. Eventually, I went to my GP, but nothing was diagnosed until very recently when I was told that I was suffering from fibromyalgia. I think that the fibromyalgia developed from the accident but a Solicitor told me that I am now too late to make a claim. Is that correct?

You have raised some important issues. The basic rule is that a person only has three years from the date of their accident to start a claim through the Courts, otherwise they are time-barred. At first blush, you are therefore too late.

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The three-year time limit for starting a Court case usually starts when the accident happens. However, it can start in some circumstances from “the date of knowledge…of the person injured”. To have that knowledge you must know that the injury was significant. The question that needs to be asked is whether you would have reasonably considered it sufficiently serious to justify commencing proceedings for damages because of it. You did not know you had fibromyalgia. You would not even have known that you had chronic pain syndrome, but you did know that you had suffered a neck injury. I suspect, therefore, based on the decided cases, that you would fail in an argument that you did not have the proper knowledge.

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However, there is another element here. The Court has an unfettered discretion to extend the three-year time limit and will do so if it considers that it would be equitable to allow an action to proceed. You are presumably in a pretty bad way with your fibromyalgia, so you would be seriously prejudiced if you could not proceed with the case, even though the three-year time limit has expired. Your opponent might argue that he was also prejudiced because it is now very late in the day for him to investigate your claim. If he already admitted liability or it is obvious that he was liable for causing the accident, that should not be much of an obstacle.

These are difficult situations. I would urge you to see experienced injury lawyers who understand fibromyalgia as soon as possible.

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