The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Ireland
By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
Often the first step that a solicitor will need to consider when assessing any personal injury claims is the Statute of Limitations in Ireland. The Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland is the time limit within which an injured party can issue proceedings according to the Courts and Civil Liability Act 2004. In the majority of circumstances, a potential claimant has two years from the date of knowledge of an injury in which to initiate proceedings; however there are several exceptions.
The Date of Knowledge
More often than not, the date of knowledge of an injury will be the date on which the injury was sustained in an accident. It is therefore important that an injured party contacts a solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity following an accident or when knowledge of a preventable injury has occurred. The harsh reality is that, save for several specific exceptions, the opportunity to make a compensation claim will be lost precisely two years after the date of knowledge. If your circumstances do not fall within one of the special categories discussed below, your solicitor may well be unable to assist you.
Injuries to Children
In the case of a minor (the legal term for somebody under eighteen years), it is important to note that the legal date of knowledge of an injury is in fact the minor victim’s eighteenth birthday i.e. the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland for children does not begin to run until the child reaches his or her majority (eighteen years of age). Thereafter, under current law, the injured party (who has now reached their majority) has two years within which to submit an application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland or to issue proceedings in court.
A minor can, however, pursue a compensation claim before his or her eighteenth birthday provided a parent or guardian acts as his or her ‘next friend’. It is therefore still preferable that you contact a solicitor at the first opportunity if your child has been injured in circumstances where another party was at fault. An additional advantage of making a claim early is that your solicitor is more likely to be able to gather evidence in support of your child´s claim.
Asbestos and Acquired Injuries
Another exception to the standard tenet that the date of injury and the date of knowledge are the same is asbestos-related injury cases and other industrial diseases that have been acquired over a period of time. Given the nature of asbestos-related injuries, those affected may not be aware that they have contracted an asbestos-related injury for many years after exposure. In these circumstances, the two year time limit begins from when the injured party becomes aware that they had developed an asbestos-related injury such as mesothelioma.
Although other industrial diseases may not necessarily be as grave as mesothelioma – such as a repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome – the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland starts from the day on which the injured party is diagnosed with an injury which is attributable to the negligence of another party who owed them a duty of care.
Other Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Several other exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland exist, examples of which would include the misdiagnosis of an illness – where the injury claims Statute of Limitations in Ireland would not commence until the correct diagnosis had been made – or where a medical instrument has been left inside a patient during surgery which has resulted in a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition.
Accident victims who are considered to be mentally impaired or who sustain catastrophic injuries which prevent them from filing a personal injury claim, have two years from the date on which they are considered to be “capable” – if ever – in which to claim personal injury compensation in Ireland, and special exceptions have been made after application to the courts to claim compensation after the injury claims Statute of Limitations in Ireland would normally have expired.
How is the Statute of Limitations Date Calculated?
Provided that you contact a solicitor as soon as possible following an accident, the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland should not jeopardise your entitlement to compensation. Your solicitor will be well aware of the relevant time limits and will take care to ensure that, for example, the relevant forms are lodged with the Injuries Board Ireland within the allocated time (if that is required for your type of injury).
To explain the procedure however, it should be noted that the following dates are essential in calculating the Statute of Limitations.
a) Date of the accident or Date of Knowledge
b) Date of expiration of the two-year period from the date of the accident
c) Date ‘Form A” is lodged with the Injuries Board Ireland
d) Date of the “Section 50″ acknowledgement letter confirming your application
e) The Injuries Board Ireland “Authorisation”
f) Six months date from the “Authorisation”
g) Balance of two-year period for the issue of court proceedings
If we assume, for example, that “John” had an accident on the 1st of July 2010. John contacted his solicitor who made an application to the Injuries Board Ireland that was deemed received and complete on the 1st October 2010 (3 months after the date that the accident had occurred and when the Section 50 acknowledgement letter was dispatched).
The claim remained in the Injuries Board Ireland until the 1st of July 2011 when it was released by way of Authorisation due to the non-agreement of the Injuries Board´s assessment. The limitation period starts to run again 6 months later on the 1st of January 2012. A further period of one year and nine months remains (3 months of the two-year limitation period already having expired before the Injuries Board Ireland application was lodged), and so the limitation period for John’s claim will expire on the 31st of September 2013.
If all of this sounds a little complicated, you should remember that you will not need worry about the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in Ireland if you engage with a solicitor immediately after an accident.
- The Statute of Limitations limits how much time you are allowed after a personal injury to make a claim for compensation.
- In most cases, the Statute of Limitations allows two years from the date an injury was sustained or diagnosed.
- Under the Statute of Limitations, children are allowed two years from their eighteenth birthday in which to make a compensation claim.
- Other exceptions to the injury claims Statute of Limitations in Ireland exist for acquired injuries, incapacity and some claims for medical negligence.
- If you contact a solicitor in good time after you have sustained an injury, you should not be affected by the Statute of Limitations.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have been involved in an accident resulting from the negligence of another and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are strongly advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Do not rely on this article to determine the appropriate Statute of Limitations for injury claims in Ireland.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.