Doctor Negligence Statute of Limitations

Is it true that there is a doctor negligence Statute of Limitations which is different from the regular time limits for making personal injury claims?

There is no specific “doctor negligence Statute of Limitations” which applies to errors made by members of the medical profession, but there are occasions when differences exist between “regular” claims for compensation and when you are making personal injury claims for medical negligence.

The Statute of Limitations in its usual application is a two-year time limit on making personal injury claims from the date on which you sustain an injury in an accident which was not your fault – for example a car crash, a fall at work or a slip in a supermarket. In all these scenarios, you will be aware that an injury has been sustained on the day the accident happened.

In many medical injury claims, an injury is not always apparent on the same day as a medical practitioner has made an error of judgement – for example, a delayed or incorrect diagnosis, a medical item left inside a patient during surgery or a medication error which causes an allergic reaction over a period of time – and therefore, the “doctor negligence Statute of Limitations” does not begin until the “Date of Knowledge” that an injury has been sustained due to medical knowledge.

There is also other legislation which could conflict with the “doctor negligence Statute of Limitations” and further affect how much time you have in which to make personal injury claims for medical negligence.

The most commonly quoted example of a conflict with any limitation legislation is the rule surrounding children´s claims for compensation. A child is not allowed by law to instruct a solicitor or initiate legal proceedings until they reach adulthood (18 years of age). Therefore, if a child was twelve years old when suffering an injury in an accident, they would have eight years (two years from their eighteenth birthday) to make a claim for personal injury compensation.

A person who is considered to lack cognitive ability is also allowed to delay personal injury claims for medical negligence until such time as it is considered that they are capable of representing themselves. This would affect potential plaintiffs born with brain damage or those who fall into a coma because of the negligence treatment they have received from a medical practitioner. As with children´s claims for compensation, it is not always in the plaintiff´s best interests to delay a claim for medical negligence compensation, and it is often recommended that they are represented by a “next friend” to make a claim on their behalf while evidence of negligence is still recent.

A less well-known conflict with the “doctor negligence Statute of Limitations” is when an injury has been sustained due to a faulty medical device. It is not possible to make personal injury claims for medical negligence against the manufacturer of the faulty medical device once the product has been on the market for ten years. Therefore, if you were to be diagnosed with an injury due to a faulty medical device which has been available in Ireland for nine years, you would only have one year available to you in which to make a claim for a personal injury.

The correct advice to provide you with is always speak with a solicitor when you believe you have sustained a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence. The solicitor will advise you how the “doctor negligence Statute of Limitations” would apply in each specific case.



This is an Information site only – if you feel you have a potential claim, you should discuss your situation with a solicitor registered with the Law Society of Ireland.