What is the Statute of Limitations for minors?
The Statute of Limitations for minors for personal injury claims is the same as adults in the UK; however how the time limit is applied differs considerably. In the UK, personal injury claims must be made within three years of the date of injury or the ‘Date of Knowledge’ of an injury when it is not immediately apparent.
The Statute of Limitations for minors is also three years, but the clock does not start until the child becomes a legal adult. It is not possible for a minor to take legal action, instruct a solicitor or legally request that an adult pursues a compensation claim on their behalf. All claims must therefore wait until the date of the eighteenth birthday of the victim to be filed, giving a child until the age of twenty-one in order to initiate legal action to recover personal injury compensation.
There are two notable exceptions to the three year time limit. The Statute of Limitations for injuries to children which have been sustained at sea or on an airplane is two years rather than three, as these claims are governed by international law.
In the case of an injury to a child which affects mental capacity, such as brain injuries sustained in an accident, the time period for claiming may never elapse. Only when mental ability has been regained will the time period for claiming be applied. Should the child recover, the three year time limit would commence from the date when it can be medically established than sufficient mental function has been regained.
Even though the Statute of Limitations for injuries to children does not commence until adulthood, this does not mean that a claim for compensation cannot be initiated before the eighteenth birthday of the victim. Personal injury claims for minors can be filed on the child’s behalf by an adult acting as a ‘litigation friend’ for the child.
A litigation friend must be approved by the courts and satisfy certain criteria. There cannot be any conflict of interest, a litigation friend must be able to convince a judge that it is the child’s best interests that the claim is made sooner rather than later, and all financial responsibility for pursuing the claim must be borne by the litigation friend.
Personal injury claims for minors should always be discussed with a personal injury solicitor to determine whether it is in the best interests of the child that a claim is filed by a litigation friend rather than delaying the claim until the child reaches adulthood. Evidence of negligence should be collected promptly to ensure the claim – whenever it is made – has the highest probability of being successful, and the assistance of a solicitor will be invaluable in this regard.