What is the statute of limitations for professional negligence claims in the UK?
The Statute of Limitations for professional negligence came into force in the UK in 1980 with the passing of the Limitation Act, which places a time limit on making a claim for professional negligence. The time limits differ depending on the nature of professional negligence which is being claimed for.
When negligence leads to a personal injury being sustained, such as for medical negligence or clinical malpractice, the time frame for claiming compensation is three years from the date of knowledge of an injury. However, the Statute of Limitations for a breach in the terms of a contract is considerably longer than a personal injury caused by a medical professional.
Claims for professional negligence for contract breaches can be filed up to six years from the date of the breach in the contract. Contract breaches can apply to poor advice from an accountant or solicitor resulting in a loss, or a failure to provide a service by any professional which has resulted in damages being caused.
The time frame for making any claims for professional negligence is fixed, although determining when that time period starts can be problematic as limitation law is complex. In some cases the time period can start from the date of the act of negligence, or it may be from the date when the damage from that negligence is realised.
When one party is not aware of an act of negligence, the time limit may only be three years, which would commence from the date when it would be reasonable to accept that the negligent third party should have been aware of negligence or losses.
The Statute of Limitations for professional negligence is strict, although in some exceptional cases it may be extended. If the facts of the case are not known and cannot be determined, a judge may agree to an extension of three years. Typically, judges are keen to enforce the statute of limitations and extensions are a rare exception. An example when an extension may be possible is when the damage or knowledge of negligence was not known until after the limitation period had expired, although any extension past three years from the end of the limitation period is unlikely to be granted.
Since limitation law is highly complex, a solicitor should be consulted to determine what the Statute of Limitations is for a particular claim. You should not assume you have plenty of time in order to take legal action to recover compensation, and you should speak to a solicitor for advice on how limitation law applies to your case as soon as you are aware that you have sustained a loss or been affected by professional negligence.