How long after an accident can you make a claim?

If you’ve suffered an injury through no fault of your own, then it’s quite likely that you’ll want to make a claim against the person who was at fault.


There are all sorts of different accident types which can give rise to a claim – and in each individual case you’ll need to ensure that you know how to make a claim.


If you intend to issue legal proceedings, then you need to ensure that you comply with certain limitation periods and these vary slightly between different claim types.


In this article, we look at the different accidents that can give rise to a claim and ask the question – “how long after an accident can you make a claim?”



What type of accident can give rise to a claim?


Put simply, virtually any type of accident can give rise to a legal claim. You only need to prove that the accident has caused you some sort of damage or detriment – for example, a personal injury which has subsequently given rise to physical pain, harm, suffering or financial disadvantage.


Whilst not an exclusive list, typical claim types can often include some of the following:-


  1. Road traffic collisions


According to the Department for Transport, whilst there was a positive decrease of 5% in both road deaths and casualties between June 2016 and June 2017, the number of victims still amounted to some 176,500. Of these, incident types included impacts with pedestrians, vehicle collisions and motorcycling accidents.


  1. An accident at work


Unfortunately, accidents at work aren’t simply limited to higher risk professions, such as motorway maintenance workers, armed police and so on. They can occur in any type of workplace and can even necessitate prosecutions being made against employers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In a recent publication issued by the Health and Safety Executive, it was established that during 2016, 137 workers were killed during the course of their employment, with an estimated 609,000 workers having suffered non-fatal injuries as a direct result of a given work activity (such as falling from height or lifting heavy goods).


  1. The onset of an industrial disease


Under Regulation 8 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (otherwise referred to as “RIDDOR”), both employers and the self-employed are required to report cases of certain diagnosed diseases which are linked with occupational exposure to specific hazards. These can typically include carpal tunnel syndrome, occupational dermatitis, vibration syndrome and tendonitis. Any reportable disease must be diagnosed by a qualified doctor and claims are often then made against an employer based on the subsequent medical findings.


  1. Slips, trips and falls


It’s no great secret that slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere and at any time. However, whether they’re on private or public land, they can still result in a claim being made – particularly in cases where preventative action should have been taken (for example, an employer’s failure to display warning signs by a wet floor, or a local authority’s failure to section off a damaged kerb or pavement area).


  1. Medical negligence


Medical claims can be made for a whole host of different reasons, including failure to diagnose a specific medical condition, failure to obtain full patient consent or damage caused by a specific procedure. Medical claims also include those brought against dentists.


  1. Criminal injuries


If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having been assaulted or have been caused other harm due to a criminal offence, then you can make a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. These claims will usually be accompanied by both police and witness statements, together with photographic evidence, to clearly show the amount of harm caused at the time the incident occurred.



So how long after an accident can I make a claim?


Generally speaking, for injuries sustained in a car accident to making a sports injury claim you have three years from the date of the incident in question to make a claim against the other party. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:


  • For criminal injuries, the CICA usually require that any type of claim be made within two years of the injury being inflicted (although this can sometimes be extended albeit in very exceptional circumstances).


  • For those aged under 18, then the three-year period usually runs from their 18th birthday (which effectively gives them until the age of 21 in order to make a claim in their own right).


  • In cases of industrial disease, then the claim period doesn’t typically run until 3 years once the potential claimant becomes aware of the condition. This is primarily due to the fact that he or she might not immediately be made aware of the condition – for example, hearing loss – which might take some considerable time to manifest itself and then fully become known.


  • If your injury occurred on either a plane or boat then the limitation period is usually reduced to just two years. However, claims of this nature are typically covered by travel insurance, so it’s always advisable to check your policy and familiarise yourself with any restrictions or requirements which might be applied in the small print. Generally speaking, any claim abroad will need to be substantiated with as much documentary evidence as possible (ideally from a local hospital or medical centre), together with photographic and witness evidence.


  • In the case of contractual claims, then the time limitation period is usually six years although again, it’s certainly advisable to seek legal advice since each case will need to be considered on its own merit.


  • Finally, with regard to dental claims (for example, a claim against an NHS dentist), then the general requirement is that claims should be made within three years from the date which you become aware you may have had inadequate treatment. Very often, of course, negligence claims of this nature might well give rise to further treatment and for this reason as much information should be established at the very soonest opportunity.


In the unfortunate event that you die prior to having your claim settled, then the personal representative or your estate (otherwise known as the ‘executor’ or ‘next of kin’) will have a further three years from the date on which you die to commence any Court proceedings.





From a legal perspective, any intended claim should be made at the very soonest opportunity since this will give rise to the strongest type of evidence.


If you’re intending to make a claim looking at claiming compensation for an injury to the lower body for instance, then it’s crucial to gather as much evidence as possible and any good solicitor will certainly point you in the right direction when it comes to deciding on what you might need in order to prove liability.


Unfortunately, if you adopt the attitude of simply “waiting and seeing” how things progress then you could well find yourself out of the limitation period and will then be unable to make a claim. The Courts refer to this process as being “time barred.”


Ultimately, the key thing to remember is that whilst there are limits on the time you must have made your claim by, there are certainly no limits as to how soon you can start the ball rolling.


Consequently, even if you don’t feel you have sufficient evidence to make the claim just yet, it’s certainly advisable to put the other side on notice and produce what you can – when you can. This way you reduce the risk of your claim failing whilst also putting yourself in a much better position to be transparent about the extent of your injuries or other associated claim. Another key advantage of doing this, of course, is that by filing your claim early on, you’ll also be much more likely to find any witnesses who should certainly have a much clearer recollection of what happened. This is obviously much preferable to asking for a detailed statement some months down the line.


So, by way of conclusion, whatever type of claim you’re looking to make, do it right, do it well within time and always ensure you take legal advice if you think you need it.

Smith Jones Solicitors