Many people seem to be unaware that the time limits laid down by law for taking compensation claims have been considerably reduced in recent years so it is vital that injured claimants seek advice at the earliest opportunity and get their claims processed in time.

Many people will be familiar with the expression “statute barred” which means that a claim fails because it has not been commenced legally within the time specified by the statute of limitations.  Different time limits exit for different types of claims and also there are some “sneaky”  provisions that can catch the unwary out if they delay. 

In claims for personal injuries, such as road traffic accidents, accidents at work or “trip and fall”  type cases, the time limit is a period of 2 years from the date of the accident giving rise to the claim.  A claimant must lodge the claim with the Injuries Board within the 2 year period.  In most cases, once the claim is lodged with the Injuries Board, time stops running against the claimant, although there are dangerous exceptions.  For instance, where a driver causing a road traffic accident dies in the accident,  injured persons must bring a claim against his estate and in that case, the application to the Injuries Board does not stop time running – so caution is needed.  It is essential to identify the correct person to sue and, if there is more than one party at fault, to ensure that the claim is made in time against all responsible parties.

Different time limits apply to different types of cases.  Actions for breach of contract or to recover a debt must be commenced within 6 years and actions for the recovery of land are generally 12 years.

Very short time limits apply in employment cases.  Applications for unfair dismissal must be brought within  six months and claims for redundancy within one year.  Claims arising from defamation have a 1 year time limit which can be extended for a further year in limited circumstances.

There are some exceptions to these time limit rules such as for persons under the age of 18 against whom time does not run until they reach the age of 18 and, similarly, in respect of persons mentally impaired.  In relation to claims for compensation involving sexual abuse or cases arising out of medical negligence, the statute of limitations applies but factors such as the date of knowledge by the claimant of the cause of the claim and psychological factors are taken into account by a Court in deciding whether the limitation period applies or not.  In such cases it is vital that proper legal advice be taken.  The time limits are strict and it may be very difficult to issue proceedings immediately if time is running out where, for instance, medical records and medical reports need to be obtained and delay by a claimant can be fatal to such claims.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the one body which is generally exempt from time limits or the statute of limitations is, of course, the Revenue Commissioners, whose claims to recover taxes and penalties are not fettered by any limitation period!