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What are the time limits for making a medical negligence claim?

Are you wondering what the time limits are for making a medical negligence claim? Our healthcare system normally does a fantastic job but sometimes things do go wrong. Whether it’s GP negligence or hospital negligence  if something has gone wrong you may be able to make a medical negligence claim,  but you’ve only got a limited time to do so.

The standard time limit to issue court proceedings in a clinical negligence claim is 3 years from the date of the negligent event.  Due to considerations such as  your age and incapacity, the time allowed to put forward your claim may be longer than the standard time limit.

We can offer guidance based on our in-depth knowledge of the claims process. We’ll be with you every step of the way if you decide to claim and will strive to reach a settlement as quickly as possible. For more information on how to make a medical negligence claim,  get in touch using our online form or speak to us directly .

In this section of our medical negligence guide, the experts here at Hugh James discuss:

Is there a time limit on medical negligence claims?

In the UK, the Limitation Act 1980 sets out specific time limits for making different types of legal claims. Th limitation period is usually three years from the date the negligence occurred or three years from the date you became aware of it. There may be some mitigating factors that extend the limitation period, but it is crucial to get in touch with a solicitor as soon as possible to avoid this three year period expiring.

Why is there a time limit on medical negligence claims?

Medical negligence claims are often complex and require a lot of information to be assessed properly by both sides, so there are valid reasons why the three-year limit is a legal requirement. These include:

  • Witness memory may degrade over time and become less reliable. Detailed and accurate witness evidence is key to the success of a medical negligence claim so it is important to gather it as close to the events in questions as possible.
  • Medical records can be lost or destroyed. Hospitals in England and Wales are only required to hold onto medical notes and records for eight years after treatment is concluded (). If you start your medical negligence claim early, it’s easier to access all the documentation that supports your case.

Can I claim for medical negligence more than three years after the treatment?

Not normally, no. The time limitation for medical negligence claims is three years, so any claims brought after this period may be statute barred. That’s why it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as you can.

However, there are instances where you may be able to pursue your claim after three years. For example, if the claim is on behalf of a child under 18, if you lack capacity or if you only found out that you may have received negligent treatment after the 3 year period has elapsed.


If the claimant is a child under 18, the three-year time limit does not start to run until the child’s 18th birthday. This means children have until their 21st birthday to issue a claim in court.

Children under the age of 18 cannot make the claim themselves but parents or adults can do so on their behalf. If the claim is successful, any compensation will be transferred to a secure bank account and can be accessed by the claimant once they turn 18.

However, if an individual who suffered injury or harm as a result of medical treatment as a child is deemed to lack the mental capacity to make a claim as an adult, the limitation period does not apply.


If a relative has died as a result of medical negligence, you have three years from the date of death to bring a claim on behalf of the estate or any dependents.

Mental disability

There are special rules in place for claimants who are “protected parties”. If a claimant lacks mental capacity, then the three-year limit does not apply at all.

Can I make a claim medical negligence?

Even though it’s been longer than three years since the negligent incident, you may still be able to make a claim. This is likely if you meet any of the exceptions listed above

In some exceptional circumstances, the court can extend the time limit for issuing a claim, but this needs to be done promptly. If you think you have a claim which is more than three years old, get in touch with our team of award-winning clinical negligence lawyers and we can discuss your options.

When should I make my medical negligence claim?

You should consult a solicitor and start your claim as close to the date of negligence or your date of knowledge of the negligence as soon as possible.

By your side every step of the way

We hope that our guide to how far back you can claim for medical negligence has given you a better understanding of the time limits attached to claims and the various legal exceptions.

We are a full-service firm that is SRA-regulated with over 60 years providing expert legal advice to a range of clients. We believe that receiving compensation for medical negligence doesn’t need to be complicated or something you need to face alone. Our solicitors have been top-ranked by both the Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 and they will be with you every step of the way.

Whether you believe you’ve got a claim, or you’re concerned the time limits may have passed, please get in touch with us. Our initial consultation is free of charge so there’s no pressure or obligation to pursue your claim with us. Our knowledge and expertise can put your mind at rest about what’s involved and move you on the right track to receiving compensation.

Key contact

Ruth Powell


Ruth is a Partner and Head of our Clinical Negligence Department. She has exclusively practised in clinical negligence since qualifying in 1995 and has a wealth of experience in complex and high value clinical negligence claims.

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