When you make any civil claim there are rules which limit how long you have to bring your claim. These rules are laid out in The Limitation Act 1980 and the time limit you have to make a claim is called the limitation period.
Each type of claim has a different a limitation period. To maintain a valid claim for compensation, you must file certain key legal documents with the court before the expiry of the limitation period. This step is called issuing proceedings.
Primary Limitation Period In professional negligence claims you usually have 6 years to make a claim. This is called the primary limitation period and it starts as soon as you suffer financial loss because of a negligent professional.
Secondary Limitation Period In some circumstances it is not apparent that you’ve suffered financial loss at the hands of a negligent professional within the primary limitation period or just as the 6 years are about to expire. If this is the case a secondary limitation period will apply which gives additional time to claimants who discovered their loss late.
The secondary limitation period gives an additional three years from the date you first became aware of a potential claim against the negligent professional. This is called the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge is subjective though and is often open to argument.
The secondary limitation period has an absolute long stop of 15 years. The 15 year period starts on the date the professional was first considered to be negligent.
Professional Negligence Limitation Period Example
Here are two examples of how the limitation period works in practice.
Two neighbours unfortunately have a disused mineshaft underneath their properties. When they purchased their properties, they used different law firms to do the conveyancing, but neither was told by their solicitors that the mineshaft was there.
They both decide to put their properties on the market at about the same time.
Mr. Jones’ Property
- Mr. Jones purchased his property in June 2001
- He put the property on the market in 2017
- He finds a buyer and the buyer instructs a conveyancing solicitor
- The buyer is told about the unused mineshaft and withdraws from the purchase. He tells Mr. Jones why he’s withdrawn
- Mr. Jones contacted a professional negligence solicitor in June 2017 about making a claim against his original conveyancing solicitors
Mr. Jones is told by the professional negligence solicitor:
- The primary limitation period for his claim against his conveyancing solicitors expired in June 2007
- The secondary limitation for the same claim period expired in June 2016
- Mr. Jones is out of time and cannot bring a claim against his former solicitors
Mr. Smith’s Property
- Mr. Smith bought his property in June 2002
- Mr. Smith also decides to sell property in 2017
- Mr. Smith’s buyer discovers the mineshaft in the same way and raises this with Mr Smith
- Mr. Smith sees a professional negligence solicitor about a claim against his original conveyancing solicitorsMr. Smith is told by the professional negligence solicitor:
- The primary limitation for Mr. Smith’s claim expired in June 2008
- Mr. Smith can use the secondary limitation period as he only just became aware of his potential claim against his conveyancing solicitors. The 15 year long stop period does not expire until June 2017.
- Mr. Smith’s professional negligence solicitor issues proceedings before June 2017, arguing that his former solicitors should have advised him about the mineshaft
- Mr. Smith settles his claim against his former solicitors and gets compensation paid by their insurers
Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have nearly identical claims against their conveyancing solicitors but because Mr. Jones did not issue proceedings within the primary or secondary limitation period, he has no claim because he is out of time.
What Can You Do To Make Sure Your Claim Is In Time?
Understanding the limitation period and the date of knowledge can be confusing but the consequences of leaving it too late are severe. Experienced professional negligence solicitor’s deals with limitation issues regularly and can give you advice on these issues.
Don’t delay getting advice from a professional negligence solicitor.
We can offer you a free initial discussion to help you to understand if you have a professional negligence claim in the first place and whether you still have time to make a claim.
Call our expert team of professional negligence solicitors now on 0117 926 4121 or make a Free Online Enquiry.