Do personal injury claims have a time limit?

By Matthew Gray, Trainee Solicitor

If you have been involved in an accident and would like to make a personal injury claim then you should seek legal advice as early as possible or risk running out of time.

Let’s say, for example, that you have been in a car accident which was the fault of a third party driver and you wish to claim compensation for your injuries and any other losses you have suffered.

Under Scots law you have three years from the date of the accident to either agree a settlement with the third party’s insurance company or a court action must be raised and served to protect your claim from ‘time-barring’.

Personal Injury claims

Three years may seem like a long time but personal injury cases can be complex and gathering evidence to support your claim is not always straightforward. It is important to allow as much time as possible for us here at Gildeas to work with you to build a robust case.

The three year limit, known as ‘time-bar’ in the legal profession, is based on the premise that it is unfair for the third party to defend a claim or court action against them in relation to something which happened a long time ago. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, it is fair to set a time limit. Another factor is that the evidence used in personal injury claims can become less reliable over time.

The rules around time-bar can be found in the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973. Sections 17 and 18 of the legislation state that the pursuer loses their entitlement to claim three years from:

  • the date on which the injuries were sustained;
  • the date the individual became aware, or in the opinion of the court it would have been reasonably practicable with regard to all the circumstances to become aware that an injury was sustained which could be attributable to the act or omission of another person in whole or in part; and
  • the relative’s date of death.

However, there are some exceptions. The three year time-bar period does not start until an individual has turned 16 years of age. Furthermore, the rules are different when death or injury has stemmed from a defect in a product or an injury has occurred on an aircraft.

A court also has the power to override the limitation period if it feels it is appropriate, allowing a claim to be brought which would otherwise be time-barred.

The onus is on you as the pursuer to persuade the court that it would be appropriate to allow the claim to proceed. This is not a risk you want to take if it can be avoided and unless the court agrees to it, your claim will be time-barred.

If you have been involved in an accident, we would always advise seeking legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. The more time we have to work with you gathering evidence and building a strong case, the more likely it is that we will get you the settlement you deserve.

Contact us today to discuss how we can provide you with assistance following an accident.