Wanstalls Solicitors

Time Limits for Industrial Disease Claims

Generally in British law there is a three year limitation period that applies to claims for damages for personal injury.

This means that if a claim has not been settled or court proceedings commenced by the third anniversary of an accident then the claim is likely to be “statute barred” in other words it cannot proceed as it is out of time.

The three year time limit is quite simple in accident claims as it runs from the date of the accident to the third anniversary of that date.

The situation is much more complicated in industrial disease claims as they are also subject to the three year limit but when does the three years start to run?

The Limitation Act says that the three years starts to run from when the person making the claim has certain knowledge. That knowledge is:-

a)    The injury in question was significant (this does not mean serious it means more than trivial).

b)    The injury is attributable in whole or in part to the act or omission which is alleged to constitute negligence, nuisance or breach of duty, and

c)    The identity of the defendant.

Once a person has this knowledge it is referred to as their “date of knowledge” and the three years runs from that date.

What does this mean in practical terms? Let us say that a person becomes aware that their hearing is defective, they have worked in a noisy work environment and they visit their GP complaining of the problem with their hearing and their GP suggests that it may be due to their exposure to high levels of noise at work.

Whilst establishing a person’s date of knowledge cannot be exact in the above example the date of the visit to the GP would probably constitute the person date of knowledge and they would then have three years to bring a claim for noise induced hearing loss from that date.

The court does have a discretion to not allow a claim to be struck out for being out of time but whether the court will exercise its discretion will depend very much on the reason for a person not brining a claim within the three years and how far they are past the three year period.

It is never advisable to have to rely on the courts discretion so as soon as you think you may have a claim for an industrial disease consult a solicitor do not delay as delay may prevent you from having a successful claim.

There are exceptions to the three year time limit the most common one that I come across is children. Where someone is under the age of 18 at the time of the accident the three year time limit does not start to run until their 18th birthday and therefore expires on their 21st birthday.

More obscure exceptions to the three year time limit are claims for people injured when passengers on ships or aircraft. These are covered not by UK law but be international conventions and in both cases the time limit is not three years but only two!

The biggest mistake that anyone can make is to delay making a claim taking the view that there is no rush as they have three years. The longer you leave making a claim the more difficult it is to investigate.

Witnesses memories fade over time, people move and cannot be traced, vital documentary evidence may no longer be available.

My advice to anyone involved in an accident or who believes they may be suffering from an industrial disease is contact me as quickly as possible. The sooner I can start investigating an accident the better the prospects of the claim being successful.

The golden rule is “if in doubt ask” don’t delay call me on 0191 375 3938 to discuss your potential claim as soon as possible. There is no charge for discussing a potential claim and no obligation.

Some solicitors actually make it a rule that they will not take on a claim if there is less than 12 months to go till the limitation period expires. I don’t have such a hard and fast rule so even if the claim is well into the limitation period still give me a call!

Ian Wanstall

Evidence in Accident Claims

This handy guide discusses the importance of evidence in a road traffic accident claim. Find out how and what evidence you should make sure you collect in the unfortunate event you have an accident.

There are two aspects to any personal injury claim:-

Liability – Is there someone to blame against whom a claim can be made successfully.

Quantum – The value of the claim based on the nature and severity of the injury and any losses or expenses arising from the injury.

If we are unable to prove that another person is liable for the accident then there is no claim and the question of the value of the claim becomes irrelevant.

What happened to cause the accident is of course of the greatest importance but what is of equal importance is being able to prove what happened – in other words having evidence.

Making sure you have a successful claim starts with what you do in the immediate aftermath of an accident. The steps that you can take to make sure that you can be compensated for the injuries that someone else has caused you varies depending on the type of accident.

The most important information that I need in order to pursue a claim for a client is the name and address of the other person involved and the registration of the vehicle.

It is difficult as you will inevitably be shocked and shaken up by what has just happened, but it is vital that as much information as possible is gathered accurately at the scene of the accident.

Get the other drivers details and make sure that they are written down accurately. Witnesses are surprisingly rare in motor accidents as other drivers tend to drive away but if you are lucky enough to have a witness then get their details.

There is a very useful piece of equipment these days that did not exist when I first started as a solicitor and that is the mobile phone! Most modern mobile phones take excellent photographs. Use you mobile phone to take pictures of the other vehicle, its registration number, its position especially if it hasn’t been moved since the accident and any damage to the other vehicle.

Don’t forget to also take photographs of your own vehicle showing its position in relation to the other vehicle and any damage to your vehicle.

Use your phone to call the police particularly in more serious accidents or if the other person is being un-cooperative. Unfortunately the police often won’t attend if there is no immediate sign of injury to the parties involved but if they do come out and prepare a police accident report this can be vital evidence when dealing with liability.

By all means ask the person who has caused the accident for their insurance details but often people don’t actually know their insurance details and don’t have their insurance documents with them. This is generally not a problem since as a solicitor I have access to the Motor Insurers Database. With the registration number and the date of the accident I can do a search and usually this will give me all the insurance details for the other driver’s insurers.

If you are involved in an accident on a bus there is other information that is useful. Keep your ticket as proof that you were travelling on that bus at the time. If you are aware that you have been injured at the time report this to the driver. Get the drivers name and driver number and be ready to describe the driver.

As with any motor accident get the registration number of the bus but also the route number.

If possible get details of any witnesses and use your mobile phone to photograph any damage to the bus.

I had a case once where a bus drove into some railings, the passengers got off and the bus drove away! Fortunately my client had photographed the damage to the front of the bus and the railings before the bus drove away. The bus company claimed to have no report of the incident and without the client’s photographs as evidence the claim could well have failed!

In most road traffic accidents the issue of liability is straight forward but even the simplest accident can be made complicated if the basic information about the person responsible is not available.

In more complicated accidents evidence may be crucial in enabling a claim to be successful.

The most extreme form of evidence gathering that I have come across are motorcyclists who have web cams attached to their helmets. These record the whole journey and if, for example, an accident is caused by another vehicle pulling out on the motorcyclist (a very common cause of motorcycle accidents) the whole incident is captured on the camera. This of course assumes that the camera survives the accident!

As with any accident if you are involved in a road traffic accident and want to discuss if you have a possible claim just give me a call and I will be happy to discuss it. Call me on 0191 375 3938 there is no charge and no obligation just useful advice!

Ian Wanstall