Claim time limits are important. Read our helpful review of a recent decision where someone lost out for not acting fast enough. Can we help you?
You must have seen adverts by Solicitors asking if you have had an accident in the last three years. Have you ever thought – why three years – and does it matter?
Corries are a leading specialist Personal Injury firm. Our team can help you with your accident or disease case. Read on about how letting matters slip may stop you getting the money you deserve.
The perils of not acting in time for an asbestos claim has been starkly punished by the courts in a recent claim..
Carry on reading to see how we can help you make sure that your claim is made in time and gets you the best compensation.
Claim time limits (Limitation)- what are they?
The idea behind limitation is the law likes certainty. A good legal system supports the economy. Where disputes arise between commercial or private persons and money is involved it is better for that money to be in the economy. Money held waiting for possible claims stalls the economy so it is said.
It is on this backdrop that the government passed the Limitation Act in 1980. This act of parliament set limitation periods for different legal claims and that same law still applies today.
If you have a contract or negligence issue then you have 6 years to make that claim.
For personal injury claims you have 3 years.
We will concentrate on the personal injuries aspect.
Limitation – What does three years actually mean?
What the three years actually means is that you have from the date of an accident or from when you were aware of having a disease within which to issue court proceedings.
The issue of court proceedings then freezes the claim. Those proceedings then must be either then or at the latest be served within four months.
So when does the clock run?
In an accident claim this is simple. You calculate the date you had an accident and make sure that your claim is issued before 3 years passes. An accident victim who might have a claim should make sure they contact a solicitor shortly after an accident. We recommend they do so certainly within the first year.
Leaving the claim later places your solicitor on the back foot.
With work disease claims this can be more difficult.
Date of knowledge – how do I know if I have got a work disease?
Typically in disease cases this is often harder to assess.
People with deafness from work often do not notice that they are going deaf. The television is turned up a bit louder, conversations involve shouting and complaints by family members about how deaf the husband or dad is. These discussions do not always set off knowledge that you have deafness. If you suspect it though you should get yourself checked out.
With chest disease, particularly asbestos disease, any clear diagnosis is usually given when a doctor explains in the consultation what is wrong with you.
In England and Wales the system currently is as follows:-
- If you have pleural plaques you have no current claim for compensation – it follows therefore that you are not under the same limitation pressures. We recommend you join our pleural plaque register. See here for details of the free register
- If however you have Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Pleural Thickening or Asbestosis then you have three years from the date that you were told by that Doctor to issue court proceedings. Even if the doctor is not clear or was unsure of your diagnosis you should at least contact a solicitor and have them on standby.
What if you choose not to bother?
This is entirely your decision. Millions of pounds are lost by people who simply cannot be bothered.
However there is only one chance to get compensation when you have been diagnosed. You have three years from that date.
We are often telephoned by clients or family members where someone has been diagnosed over three years ago. The person affected has usually come up with one of the following reasons why they did not claims
- I can’t be bothered
- It’ll take too much effort
- The lawyers will get all the money
- It’s not worth it
We have previously addressed this in an article setting out why all the above reasons are wrong. Click here
If someone you know has used one of these reasons then we call them a “Bullseye Person”. To quote the recently departed Jim Bowen they have lost on thousands of pounds in compensation. We are left to simply tell them “look at what you could have won”
Time Limits – recent case law
As solicitors we get very upset and want everyone who has got a reasonable claim to make it. Making compensation claims is difficult as it is. At Corries we have solicitors who have worked for defendant lawyers. The very first argument that a defendant asks in any claim is
“Is it out of time?”
If the claim is more than 3 years old they know straight away we are facing an uphill battle.
Cases involving arguments over limitation are difficult. Even where we can persuade a defendant that the case should be paid is often heavily discounted to reflect the risks that the claimant my walk out of the court with nothing.
A court has discretion to allow a case out of time. There is a list of factors which the court has to balance. It is on this background that a recent case is given a very clear warning to the slow or reluctant Claimant.
The Fudge decision
The recent case of Fudge v Hawkins & Holmes (1), F.G Minter(2) and Charles Winston(3) has given a clear warning for those who have quoted one of the reasons above or have been less than clear about their working life.
The Claimant aged 81 wanted provisional damages against the three defendants for diffuse pleural thickening. He worked for the three companies on a self employed basis from 1973 to 1978.
The Claimant had been told about asbestos disease in September 2008. He instructed his first solicitors in 2010. However as they could not find insurance for the company he thought he worked for, John Morgan Construction. They closed the file in May 2011. They told the client in the clearest terms that if he wanted to seek a second opinion he should do so very quickly.
The Claimant did not do anything until February 2015 when he approached a second solicitor. They took his case but did not issue court proceedings until two years later in February 2017.
The court decided to deal with the time limit issue in a hearing on its own.
In essence the court said that where a case was so clearly brought out of time the Claimant can only get the court’s discretion if it was fair to do so.
The court had to balance both the Claimant’s loss of a possible claim but also to be fair handed to the defendants. They would find it harder to defend the claim were documents were lost, witnesses had died and where evidence lost his clarity.
- Sadly in this trial the Claimant was unable to clearly explain to the court why there had been delays from 2011 to 2015.
- Secondly his evidence was inconsistent and became confused about the different companies he worked for, who took them over and what work he did for them.
- Thirdly the court had regard to the fact that the defendants own enquiries had shown how much worse the evidence had got over the years and the inability to find former witnesses or documents.
Time Limit Judgement
The judge went sensibly through the factors it must consider. It had regard to the fact that by not allowing the claim Mr Fudge would be denied compensation.
In this case sadly the court struck out Mr Fudge’s claim. He will receive no compensation. It is not known if he will appeal.
Will this affect other claims?
It is right to say that most limitation court cases stand on their own. Some poor cases for a Claimant can succeed and some weak cases for a Defendant can be successful for them.
The common thread that runs through them all is the speed with which someone has acted when they know they might have a claim.
To help you we suggest you follow our useful guide below.
If you have been diagnosed with asbestos disease you can avoid the same pitfalls by taking the following steps:-
- Instruct a solicitor – even if is not us! You should always take advice
- Make sure your solicitor gets your H M Revenue record to confirm your employers straightaway. This only takes about a month or so
- Go through your house and get together any documents you have about your working life. Send them to your solicitor
- Try and find any friends or former workmates you worked with. If you have no addresses give the names at least to your solicitor. We love to investigate!
- Ask your solicitor to put your work history in table form so you can then work out which of those involved exposure to asbestos
- If your memory is poor try and pinpoint any life events and events to confirm your employment with an employer. This might be when you got married, children were born or key historic events like Royal weddings or political events.
- Get all of this into a statement. Get it signed as soon as possible. Then work out with your solicitor who you wish to make a claim against and if it is worth it.
- Finally – keep your own diary and review the case each year after you were told. And ask if your solicitor has kept a diary of the dates as well
Howard Bonnett, Corries Asbestos Team Manager commented
“In an ideal world no asbestos victim would lose a claim. However the Fudge decision highlights the balancing act that a court has to perform.
If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with asbestos disease but won’t act then show them this article. They could be losing out on thousands of pounds. Solicitors can do most of the work for you – but only if they are instructed in time”
If you know someone with asbestos disease get them to call us now. Corries friendly team will happily talk through a potential case with you. If we can help you then we will tell you in straightforward language what is involved. If there is no claim then we will tell you that as well.
We can help you claim quickly and without fuss. Call us FREE on 0800 083 7839.
We would much prefer to tell you “Here’s what you have actually won”