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What Are The Time Limits For Suing The NHS? – How Long Do I Have To Make A Compensation Claim Against The NHS?

By Daniel Archer. Last Updated 6th May 2022. Have you been the victim of medical negligence and suffered avoidable harm because of it? If so, you may already know that you could make a medical negligence claim, but did you know that there is a time limit for suing the NHS, and it could differ depending on your circumstances? This guide offers insight into the medical negligence time limit that could apply in certain circumstances and gives you information about different medical negligence claim time limits that could apply if you are claiming on behalf of a child, how your mental health could affect your time limit, and details of other factors that could affect how long you could have to claim.

Time limit for suing NHS guideHere at Legal Expert, we could offer you guidance over the phone on the appropriate medical negligence time limit in the UK for your claim, as well as helping provide you with a lawyer that could handle a clinical negligence claim on your behalf. You can reach our helpline on 0800 073 8804 if you’d like more information on this.

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A Guide To Time Limits For Suing The NHS

This guide provides detailed information regarding the medical negligence limitation period in the UK, specifically relating to NHS claims. If you are looking to sue the NHS for medical malpractice, whether due to a misdiagnosis, a surgical error, negligent maternity or cancer care, or another type of negligence that has caused you to suffer harm, you may be already aware that there is usually a medical malpractice time limit, but you may not be aware that the time limit for suing the NHS could begin sometime after a negligent act.

In the sections below, we discuss suing the NHS in detail, giving you an idea of the types of claims that could result in compensation, as well as offering some insight as to the compensation amounts that could be appropriate for some injuries that could relate to medical negligence. However, the main focus of this guide is the medical negligence time limit, and we will discuss in detail what could affect the limitation period and how long certain claimants may have to launch a claim.

What Does It Mean To Sue The NHS?

The NHS treats millions of patients in a range of different settings, such as GP clinics, hospitals and even dentists. All professionals working for the NHS have a duty of care to provide their patients with safe, effective healthcare services. If they fail to do so, then this could constitute negligence. If such negligence causes a person to suffer harm that could have been avoided, then this could lead to an injured party having reason to claim compensation.

Breaches Of The NHS Duty Of Care

When claiming for medical negligence, you would have to prove that the NHS professional in question breached the duty of care they had towards you. According to NHS Resolution, the actions of the practitioner should be assessed in such cases to ascertain whether their care could be considered to have fallen below accepted professional standards. The Bolam Principle is one of the accepted tests for this. It looks at whether a responsible body of clinical opinion would support the actions of the practitioner. The test doesn’t consider what could have been done differently, it considers what should have been done differently.

Why Do People Sue The NHS For Compensation?

There are several reasons why people might sue the NHS for compensation. These could include:

  • GP Negligence – Whether your GP had misdiagnosed you, given you an incorrect prescription, or failed to refer you for tests you should have had to properly diagnose a condition, if GP negligence has led to you suffering avoidable harm, you could look into suing the NHS.
  • Childbirth Negligence – If you or your child were harmed due to the negligent actions of midwives, nursing staff, doctors, or surgeons, you could be entitled to claim compensation.
  • Surgical Negligence – While there could be risks of having surgery, this does not mean you could not look into suing the NHS if your surgeon had been negligent and caused you harm.
  • Dental Negligence – Whether your dentist failed to spot the signs of oral cancer, or broke a healthy tooth while extracting another, acts of dental negligence that lead to patients suffering avoidable harm could result in claims against the NHS.
  • Hospital Negligence – Whether you were subject to insufficient monitoring in hospital that led to you suffering avoidable harm, or you acquired an infection that should have been prevented while in hospital, this could also lead to a claim for compensation.

Coronavirus Compensation Claims

It has been reported in the media that coronavirus has been contracted by patients while in hospital, leading to at least one death. If negligent medical care led to you acquiring COVID-19 (coronavirus) while in hospital, this could also lead to a claim for compensation. There should be stringent procedures in hospitals to avoid non-COVID patients being infected while they are in hospital. If standards fail and you have contracted coronavirus as a result, this could potentially lead to a claim.

Source www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/24/woman-first-uk-victim-die-coronavirus-caught-hospital-marita-edwards

Applicable Time Limits To Sue The NHS

If you are looking for information regarding the time limit for suing the NHS, the below table could offer some assistance.

SituationMedical negligence claim limitation period
Claimant immediately aware that negligence had caused avoidable harm3 years from the date of the negligent act
Claimant made aware later that negligence had caused avoidable harm3 years from the date of the discovery
Those without capacityNo limit (There are some limits to those claiming on the injured party’s behalf – please see later sections or call our team for specific guidance)

Child NHS Negligence Claim Time Limits

When it comes to NHS negligence involving a child, it would depend on who was bringing the claim and when as to what time limit for suing the NHS could apply.

In general, if you are a parent claiming on behalf of a child, you would have until their 18th birthday to launch a claim as their litigation friend. This would be the same whether you discovered the harm was caused by the negligence right away or not. If a child wanted to claim once they turned 18, they could have 3 years to claim, up until their 21st birthday. However, if they did not discover that negligent medical care had caused avoidable harm until they were an adult, the three-year medical negligence time limit would apply from the date of discovery.

How Are Time Limits Affected By Mental Health?

If you suffer from a mental health condition, it may be considered that you have diminished capacity to claim, which could affect the time limit for suing the NHS. If you are unable to manage your affairs, then someone could claim on your behalf. However, you could also have three years from the date you recovered from your mental health condition to launch a claim for compensation.

What Is Causation In A Claim Against The NHS?

In addition to considering whether a breach of the duty of care has occurred, those pursuing a case against the NHS would have to prove that the harm that the injured party suffered would not, on the balance of probabilities, have occurred had the practitioner not been negligent.

In some cases, some conditions could be difficult to diagnose and treat, regardless of the standard of care you’d experienced. The outcome of your medical care may have been similar even if negligence had not occurred. If this is the case, then you may not be eligible to claim compensation. If you would like us to assess whether you could be entitled to claim, we could do so free of charge, and without obligation, for you to use our services. Simply call our team on the number at the top of this page.

Who Could My NHS Negligence Claim Be Made Against?

As well as wanting to know the medical negligence claim limitation period for your claim, you may also wish to know who you could claim compensation against for NHS negligence.

While the NHS Litigation Authority, now called NHS Resolution, could handle many claims against the NHS, you could in some cases, claim against the medical professional. This could include:

  • GPs
  • Hospital doctors
  • Dentists
  • Cosmetic Surgeons

Some compensation schemes have been specially set up to compensate victims, such as the Vaccine Damage Unit for harm suffered due to a vaccination, or the MacFarlane Trust for those who have contracted HIV from haemophilia treatment.

If you are unsure as to who your claim would be against, and whether this would affect the medical negligence time limit applicable to your claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.

How Could A Solicitor Help You Claim Against The NHS?

As well as wanting to know the time limit for suing the NHS that could apply to your claim, you may want to know is it hard to sue the NHS? Every case is different and while some may be fairly straightforward, it could be beneficial for you to utilise the services of a medical malpractice lawyer for your claim. Medical negligence claims can be complex, as you would have to prove that but for the negligence you’d suffered, you would not have been harmed in the manner that you were. An experienced medical negligence solicitor would have the ability to build a strong case on your behalf and could advise you on any offers of compensation you receive to help you determine whether it could be a good idea to take the offer or whether you could fight for more.

If you are considering claiming compensation but are unsure whether you could be within the medical negligence time limit, or you have questions about getting started with a claim, we could help. Here at Legal Expert, we’d be glad to offer you free, no-obligation advice on eligibility for compensation. We could also offer to connect you with a clinical negligence lawyer working on a No Win, No Fee basis too, something we’ll explain below.

When you call our team, we’ll listen carefully to what has happened to you and offer you advice that is tailored to your circumstances. We’ll answer all of your questions, explaining any legal terms along the way so you know exactly where you stand. If we feel that you could have a valid claim for compensation, we could offer to provide you with a lawyer that could help you with your claim.

We have helped many people in a variety of situations claim compensation for injuries they’ve incurred due to someone else’s negligence. Many of our clients have praised our company, due to our commitment to providing a service that puts the injured party first. We’d be happy to help you too.

Suing The NHS Compensation Claims Calculator

In addition to wanting to know the time limit for suing the NHS for negligence, you may want to know how much compensation you could receive. When you are claiming compensation, you may be surprised to learn that there are two types of damages you may be able to claim. The first is known as general damages. This is an award that is designed to compensate you for the suffering, loss of amenity and pain you’ve experienced because of your injuries. 

If you are wondering how much this could be for your specific injuries, you may have been looking for a clinical negligence or personal injury claims calculator to help you work this out. We have not chosen to supply such a calculator on this page. Instead, we have taken figures from the Judicial College Guidelines, a legal publication used by solicitors and the courts to value injuries.

However, we should mention that the amounts in the table are still only rough guidelines. You would need to attend an appointment with an independent medic as part of your medical malpractice or personal injury claim. They would review your medical notes, examine you, if necessary, and write a medical report that could be used to evidence your injuries and prognosis. Armed with these facts, your solicitor can hone in on a value and could argue for higher compensation awards.

Injury TypeGuideline BracketNotes
Chest injuries (G)Fractures of ribs or soft tissue injuries causing serious pain and disability over a period of weeks only.Up to £3,710
Chest injuries (C)Where injury to the lungs and chest leads to disabilities that continue.£29,380 to £51,460
Lung cancerSevere pain would likely be experienced and quality of life and lung function would be impacted.£65,710 to £91,350
Kidney damageWhere there is loss or serious permanent damage to both kidneys.£158,970 to £197,480
HerniaPain continues after repair and there is a restriction on physical activity.£13,980 to £22,680
Brain damage - moderateModerate to modest intellectual deficits could remain that eliminate/reduce the ability of thee injured party to work. Development of epilepsy could be a future risk.£85,150 to £140,870
PoisoningSignificant levels of discomfort, alteration of the function of the bowels, cramps and fatigue. Hospitalisation might be necessary but full recovery within 102 years.£3,710 to £8,950
InfertilityFailure to accurately diagnose an ectopic pregnancy with complications.£31,950 to £95,850

If you cannot find the injuries you’ve suffered in the table above, please call our team. We would be glad to look into the guideline payout amounts that could be appropriate for your injuries.

Special Damages Victims Of NHS Negligence Could Claim

As well as claiming for general damages, you could also receive special damages. This head of claim is designed to compensate you for losses and costs incurred directly because of your injuries. They might include, but are not limited to:

  • Income losses – If your injuries have meant you’ve needed time off work, you may not receive as much income as you usually would. Loss of earnings could be included as special damages within your claim. Should your injuries be so serious that they prevent you from returning to work at all, it could be that future loss of earnings are included within your claim too.
  • Care costs – Some injuries may mean you are unable to take care of usual tasks such as washing, dressing and cleaning. If you have needed care at home, these costs could also be included as special damages.
  • Medical expenses – Have you paid for prescription medicines or other medical costs such as counselling or physiotherapy due to your injuries? If you have, these costs could be compensated for as special damages.
  • Travel costs – Journeys to the hospital or doctor’s surgery, or your lawyer’s office that have arisen because of your injuries, could also be included.

If you have incurred any expenses/losses due to your injuries, you must be able to prove them to claim compensation for them. It is therefore very important that you keep any evidence safe so that you could provide it to your solicitor for inclusion within your claim.

Can I Sue The NHS After 3 Years?

Whilst it’s important to know how to sue the NHS or other healthcare providers, it’s also important to know the rules surrounding time limits. Whilst the general rule is that you have 3 years to start your claim from the date you were injured, this time limit does have exceptions.

For example, you may not have been aware you were injured as a result of negligence until a date further down the line. This date is known as the date of knowledge. You could use this as the start date of your 3-year time window.

Additionally, claims involving children and those with a reduced mental capacity can also have their time limit suspended or frozen. For the time they are not able to claim for themselves, a litigation friend can be appointed to do so on their behalf.

So, the answer is yes – in some circumstances you may be able to claim after three years. If you have evidence that you have been injured due to NHS negligence, the claims time limit will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

If you have any questions regarding how to sue the NHS for negligence, or even a private healthcare provider, get in touch with our advisors today. If you require legal assistance, then an advisor could connect you with one of our solicitors to help you through every step of your claim provided it’s valid and has a chance of success.

No Win No Fee Claims When Suing The NHS

No Win, No Fee claims are something you may have seen advertised on several websites about medical negligence and personal injury claims. They could give you the financial confidence to pursue legal action against a liable party without fear that you would end up out of pocket if your claim was unsuccessful. They do not require you to pay any funds upfront to begin your claim, and you would not be required to pay your clinical negligence or personal injury solicitor until your compensation was paid out.

How these claims work is under a Conditional Fee Agreement; often referred to as a CFA. This is a document that your medical negligence lawyer or personal injury lawyer would ask you to sign before they began working on your claim. The CFA effectively promises the lawyer a small, legally capped success fee if they can secure you a compensation payout. If they are not successful in getting you any compensation, you would not be required to settle the success fee, nor would you be expected to pay the lawyer’s costs in pursuing your claim.

If you’re wondering where to find a lawyer that could work on your case on this basis, we’d be happy to help. We could provide you with an experienced medical negligence lawyer, working on a No Win, No Fee basis, that could fight for the maximum compensation achievable for your case.

Start Your Claim Against The NHS

If you want to begin a claim but are not sure how to get started, or you have questions about your eligibility or the time limit for suing the NHS that applies to your claim, we are here to help. You can reach our expert advisors on 0800 073 8804, by emailing info@legalexpert.co.uk, using the Live Chat feature, or completing the contact form, which you can find here. Our friendly, knowledgeable advisors are waiting to help, support and advise you, so why not get in touch today to find out if you could be eligible for compensation?

Essential References

Complain About The NHS – Here, you can find out how to complain about NHS services.

NHS Resolution Statistics – These statistics relate to medical negligence claims against the NHS in 2017/18.

Historical Negligence Claims – Here you can find information relating to an indemnity scheme for historical claims.

Hospital Negligence Claims – On this page, you can find guidance relating to claiming for hospital negligence.

Birth Injury Claims – This guide covers birth injury claims, and explains the eligibility criteria for claiming.

Misdiagnosis – If you are considering making a claim for misdiagnosis, this guide could offer some useful information.

Other claims guides

Written by Jeffries

Edited by Billing

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