Perhaps the first step to consider in assessing any personal injury action is to consider whether it is in fact too late to start proceedings. The Statute of Limitations is the time limit within which an injured party can issue proceedings. According to the Courts and Civil Liability Act, in the majority of circumstances, a person who has been injured has two years from the date of knowledge to institute proceedings.
More often than not, the date of knowledge will be the date on which the injury was sustained. It is therefore important that an injured party contacts a solicitor at their earliest convenience following an accident. 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.
In the case of a minor (the legal term for somebody under eighteen years), it is important to note that the date of knowledge of the injury is in fact the minor victim’s eighteenth birthday i.e. time does not begin to run against the injured infant until the infant 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 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 such as witness statements.
Another exception to the standard assumption that the date of injury and the date of knowledge are identical is asbestos-related injury cases. 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 became aware that they had developed an asbestos-related injury such as mesothelioma.
Other exceptions to the Statute of Limitations may apply to your particular circumstances, such as industrial diseases, and it is always advisable that you contact a solicitor to discuss your options if you have been injured due to the negligence of another party.
Provided that you contact a solicitor as soon as possible following an accident, the Statute of Limitations should not jeopardise your claim in any way. 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 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
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
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 2008. John contacted his solicitor who made an application to the Injuries Board Ireland that was deemed received and complete on the 1st October 2008 (3 months after the date that the accident had occurred). The claim remained in the Injuries Board Ireland until the 1st of July 2009 when it was released by way of Authorisation. The limitation period starts to run again 6 months later on the 1st of April 2010. 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 December 2011 (being the day before 1st of January 2012; i.e., 1 year and 9 months from the 6 month period).
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