Limitation: When is the deadline for bringing a claim?
When professional negligence occurs, how long do you have to do something about it?
There is a deadline by which a legal claim must be brought. This is called the limitation period. The usual time limit is six years from the date of the negligence.
It is not always apparent that there has been negligence until a number of years later. For example, you may not know that your surveyor missed a defect when you bought your property until a potential buyer’s surveyor spots it ten years later. There is therefore a second time limit of three years from the date that a claimant knew or ought to have known:
- The material facts of the damage;
- That it may have been due to negligence; and
- The identity of the defendant.
The law considers that a claimant ought to have known these things even if he could only have known with the help of an expert. So if a claimant thinks there is a possibility that there has been professional negligence, but is not sure, they should seek advice quickly because the three year clock may have already started.
In any event, a legal claim cannot be made if fifteen years have passed since the negligence occurred, unless it can be demonstrated that there has been deliberate concealment on the part of the professional.
Limitation is a complete defence
It is important for claimants and defendants to know that if the limitation period has expired then a defendant has a complete defence to a professional negligence claim. It does not matter whether a claimant is certain that they can prove the negligence. If the time limit has run out, there may be nothing that can be done.