There are important time limits in medical negligence cases which are set out in the Limitation Act 1980. The time limit to make a claim is known as a limitation period.

The general rule is that court proceedings must be issued within three years from the date the negligence occurred or the date upon which you knew (or ought reasonably to have known) that you suffered an injury as a result of negligence.

There are some exceptions to the three-year limitation period, these include cases where the potential claimant is not an adult, or they lack metal capacity or where the claimant is deceased.

In the case of a child, the three-year time limit does not begin until they reach the age of 18, this means they have until their 21st birthday to issue legal proceedings.

Special rules apply to adults who do not have mental capacity to manage litigation and their own affairs. Where it is established that a claimant doesn’t have mental capacity there are no time limits. However, it is important that you seek legal advice on this point as soon as possible.

In the case of a fatality, the three-year time limit runs from the date of death (assuming there was a right of action at the time of death). A case can be brought by the Estate or dependants of the deceased.

Can I claim after the limitation period?

Unfortunately, if three years have passed since the date upon which you knew that medical negligence has occurred, your claim will likely be time-barred by the court. If you are unsure whether the three-year limitation period has expired you can contact a member of our medical negligence team for free advice.

What if I’m still receiving treatment?

The limitation period still applies even if you are still receiving ongoing treatment. Seeking legal advice in respect of a medical negligence claim should not affect any ongoing treatment.

What if there is going to be an inquest?

As above the limitation period still applies even where there will be an inquest to establish the cause of death. It is important that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

How soon should I seek legal advice for medical negligence?

If you have concerns about medical care, you have received and are considering legal action against the NHS or a private medical practitioner, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Medical negligence claims can be complex and require expert medical evidence. It is therefore important that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to allow sufficient time to prepare and submit a claim to the court before the limitation period expires.

Make an Enquiry

You can contact a member of the Ison Harrison Medical Negligence team for free, no-obligation advice on 01226 337842 or email

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