Is There a Time Limit for Medical Negligence Claims?

Written by
Rachael O’Shaughnessy on
17 December 2021

What Is the Time Limit for Medical Negligence Claims*?

The time limit for medical negligence claims is generally two years from the time of the alleged negligence. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Read on to find out more about the statute of limitations in respect of medical negligence claims.

Date of Knowledge

The general rule is that a victim of medical negligence has two years less one day from the date of knowledge of the alleged medical negligence to issue court proceedings to initiate a personal injury claim.

The date of knowledge in a personal injury case is the date on which the injured person discovered the following:

  • That they had been injured,
  • That the injury was significant
  • That the injury resulted from medical negligence
  • They know the identity of the party at fault

Exceptions for Medical Negligence Legal Time Limits In Ireland

A victim may not be aware on the date of the alleged medical negligence that any negligence occurred. The person then arguably has two years less one day from the date of discovery of the alleged negligence. This could, for example, occur at a follow-up appointment when the patient discovers information about the origin of the negligence. Or indeed, it may not occur until the patient is in possession of a copy of his or her medical records. It is important to note that the date of discovery is the date the victim has constructive knowledge of the alleged medical negligence, in other words, when the victim should have known about it.

  • Time Limits for Children

Medical negligence claims involving children have a different time limit. Personal injury claims involving a minor (a person younger than 18) are approached differently to cases involving adults. A minor cannot make a claim until they turn 18. When they reach 18 years, they have 2 years less one day following their 18th birthday to issue court proceedings for a medical negligence claim. However, a parent or guardian may pursue a claim on their behalf before they turn 18 if they wish, under the “next friend rule.” Any settlement awarded to the child must be approved by way of a court ruling. Any settlement monies or court award is held in the Accountant's Office of the High Court until the minor reaches 18 years of age.

  • Time Limits for Individuals with a Disability

If the person to whom the right of action accrues is under a disability either at the time at which that right was accrued to them or at the date of their knowledge, the action may be brought at any time before the expiration of two years from the date when that person ceased to be under a disability or died, whichever event first occurred, notwithstanding that the usual two-year limitation period has expired.

  • Time Limits for Fatal Injury Claims

Where the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act of another, such as medical negligence, which would have entitled the deceased, but for their death, to maintain a personal injury claim and recover damages, such a claim may be brought by the dependents of the deceased. However, there may be only one claim. Such a claim shall not be brought after the expiration of two years from the date of the death or the date of knowledge of the person for whose benefit the action is brought, whichever is later.

Benefits Of Claiming Early

The benefit of claiming early is that as memories fade and witnesses become unavailable, it can be more difficult to get a full picture of what occurred. A person who is entitled to bring a claim should avoid delay in prosecuting a claim as the courts have inherent jurisdiction to dismiss an action by reason of inordinate and inexcusable delay, even though the action may have been commenced within the appropriate limitation period.

Medical negligence claims are not assessed by the Injuries Board. Therefore, the only way to stop the clock on the time limit is to issue legal proceedings.

If you have a query about whether you are within the statutory time period to bring a medical negligence claim, get in touch with one of our medical negligence solicitors today.

With over 50 years of expert legal experience advising patients, we are here to provide expert advice when you need it most.
Call us today on 1800 207 207 or contact us online.