Before any claim begins, a prudent solicitor must always establish that the claim is being brought within the allocated time under law. This is in order for the claim to be brought within the period of time allocated under the statute of limitations. If a claim is not brought within time it is statute barred and the action fails. This is due to the fact that the law prescribes certain periods of time within which a claim must be brought so that there is certainty in law when a claim begins and ends. As the vast majority of claims taken by individuals relate to personal injury claims, we should look at the law governing statute of limitations in respect of personal injury claims.
Generally speaking, all claims must be brought into existence within two years of the date of knowledge of the claim where the claim is based on negligence. This therefore applies to all cases brought for for road traffic accidents, workplace accidents, public place accidents etc. This limitation period is in set down in law under Section 7 Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004 which amended the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991. However, given the fact almost all claims for personal injuries must be brought to of the personal injuries assessment board, now known as the injuries board, has meant that it is not always straightforward when the two year period ends.
Once the injuries board receives a completed application, they then issue an acknowledgement in accordance with Section 50 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act, 2003. This acknowledgement states that the statute of limitation is paused for the duration of the assessment by the injuries board. If an assessment is rejected either at the outset by the respondents or if an assessment is rejected by either party upon the issuing of assessment by the injuries board, then period of time does not start again until six months after the authorisation issued to bring proceedings. Confused? An example might assist:
Let’s use an example where Sarah is a passenger in a vehicle involved in a road traffic accident on 1 January 2014 where she sustained injuries. Therefore, the statute of limitations in order for her to bring her claim to the court is 1 January 2016 i.e. two years. Sarah must first bring her application to the injuries board. Sarah lodges her application to the injuries board on 1 June 2014. The injuries board sends a Section 50 acknowledgement letter on 1st July 2014 indicating that the application has been received and that for the purposes of her claim, the statute of limitations is now put on hold pending assessment by the injuries board. The injuries board must assess the claim within nine months of 1 July 2014. Now let’s say the claim is assessed and the assessment is rejected in January 2015. The injuries board then issues the authorisation to allow Sarah to commence court proceedings. The latest Sarah will then be allowed to bring her claim is 1st January 2017. This date is arrived at by the following: When Sarah received the Section 50 acknowledgement on 1st July, 2014 there was eighteen months before her claim expired. That period of 18 months was suspended while the matter was in the injuries board being assessed and it only recommences six months after the injuries board issues an authorisation to commence the proceedings. Therefore, the 18 months started counting down in July 2015 i.e six months after the authorisation to commence court proceedings issued in January, 2015.
Obviously Sarah is not in danger of her claim being statute barred by virtue of the fact that she sought legal assistance early and was given advice immediately for her claim. The matter becomes much more serious and time conscious where an individual seeks advice approaching two years after the claim.
Children and injuries
There is an exception to the two-year rule which applies to children. As children do not have legal capacity to provide instructions to their solicitors, with parents being in the primary position to do so, the law allows for an injuries claim on behalf of the child to be brought within two years of their child reaching the age of 18. Clearly an injury to a child when he is five years old and which is not brought some potential 15 years later poses its own difficulties in terms of recollection of events, records and diagnosis of the injury, it is still permitted under law with the advice that assistance should always be sought at the earliest opportunity.
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