As a personal injury lawyer, one of my concerns is to consider whether a claim is brought in time. In other words, whether I can issue proceedings within the three year limit imposed by The Limitation Act 1980. According to this act, the three year period runs from the date the cause of action accrued, or the date of the Claimant’s knowledge, if later.

If my client was involved, for example, in a road accident, or an accident at work, and was injured on that date, it is clear that time runs from then.

However, in many cases, it is not as straight forward as that. For example, a person was exposed to excessive levels of noise decades ago. However, he says it is only now that he is aware of suffering hearing loss, perhaps because age related loss is compounding the problem. Or a person is suffering back pain which she thinks may be due to a job she has been doing for a number of years. I must consider at what time my client’s date of knowledge starts to run. Similarly, a client has undergone surgery, the problem continues and, in due course, a further operation is required. She suspects that the initial surgery was not properly performed. However, the initial surgery was a number of years earlier.

None of these automatically mean the person cannot bring a claim but, as lawyers, we must consider the wording of the Act and, if necessary, how the courts have applied that. Much depends on the facts of the particular case.

I have been told that a person has not spoken to a solicitor earlier as they were still employed by the company who caused their injury, or because they remained a patient under that hospital and did not want it to affect their treatment. Perfectly understandable reasons, but could result in them being out of time for bringing a claim.

The important thing is to speak to a solicitor, as soon as you suspect that you may have suffered an injury due to the fault of another, to give yourself the best chance of bringing a claim and receiving compensation.