Am I out of time? Beware of Limitation Periods in Professional Negligence Claims

In a professional negligence claim, it is crucial to think about limitation periods and to be aware that there is an ultimate deadline by which you can bring a claim before it is time-barred.

Do you have a claim against a professional? If you want expert legal advice, do not delay in instructing us so we can assess the legal merit of your case. We can often take on such claims on a no win no fee basis (such as a Conditional Fee Arrangement) once we have discussed the claim with you and then assessed and advised you on the merits of the proposed professional negligence action.

Our expert legal team of leading Professional Negligence Solicitors & Barristers can provide urgent help, advice or representation to you. Just call our Professional Negligence Lawyers on 02071830529 or email us now.

What is a limitation period?

The law sets out deadlines for bringing legal claims, which are referred to as limitation periods. The purpose of limitation periods is to prevent legal claims from being brought too long after the cause of action accrued. The length of the limitation period varies with different types of legal claim.

Why is a limitation period important?

Limitation is not something that should be ignored. Where a party has a strong case, but the limitation period has expired, the claim will be likely to fail. Even in unusual circumstances, where a party is prevented from issuing its claim in time for reasons beyond its control, the court has no discretion to extend the limitation period in this type of claim. It is, therefore, crucial that limitation issues are considered at the outset of any potential claims.

When does time start running on a professional negligence claim?

Once the cause of action has accrued, the time for bringing a legal claim will start to run and the limitation period will begin. In order to stop time running before the expiration of the limitation period in relation to a particular cause of action, you would need to either issue a claim form at Court or enter into a standstill agreement with your opponent.

What happens after the limitation period expires?

If the limitation period expires before you have issued a claim form or entered into a standstill agreement, then your claim will be time-barred. This means that if you begin your legal claim after the limitation period has expired, the defendant will be able to raise limitation as a complete defence to your claim (regardless of how strong a claim it may otherwise be).

What is a standstill agreement?

This is a method by which time can be extended by agreement between the parties before the limitation period expires. You can protect your position by entering into a standstill agreement with all the parties to the relevant claim. In practical terms, the action will “stand still” and no party to the agreement can complain to the court about the other party’s inactivity in the claim.

Should I enter into a standstill agreement?

The standstill agreement stops time running for the purposes of limitation, and therefore prevents the limitation period from expiring (usually only temporarily). It may also give you time to pursue settlement negotiations with your opponent, without needing to issue proceedings to protect the limitation position. It thereby avoids the time and costs associated with issuing a claim, but potentially alerts the other parties that you may actually issue legal proceedings. In any case, proceedings should only be issued if you can properly particularise the claim.

Can a limitation period be extended?

In certain circumstances, a limitation period can be extended in the following ways.

Date of knowledge

Section 14 of the Limitation Act 1980 provides for two alternative start dates for negligence claims:

(1) 6 years from the date the cause of action accrues i.e. when the damage occurs; or

(2) 3 years from the “earliest date on which the Claimant had both the knowledge required for bringing an claim for damages in respect of the relevant damage and a right to bring such a claim.

For the reasons above, it is vital to seek legal advice as soon as you become aware of a potential claim you have against a Defendant.

Deliberate concealment

Section 32 of the Limitation Act 1980 states that “any fact relevant to the plaintiff’s right of action has been deliberately concealed from him by the Defendant” the 6 year period for bringing a claim does not start until the Claimant has discovered the concealment, or could have done so with reasonable diligence.

The term “deliberate” means that the fact has been concealed by a positive act of concealment or omission or withholding of relevant information.

This means the Defendant must have known that he acted in breach of duty before he can be accused of deliberate concealment. This is a difficult hurdle to overcome and it is important you seek specialist legal advice on the same.

Our team of carefully selected solicitors and barristers, specialising in financial services litigation and professional negligence have advised many clients in deliberate concealment cases against well known financial institutions in relation to mis-selling of complex financial products.

Fraud

Section 32(1)(c) provides for the limitation period to be extended where the action being brought “is based upon the fraud of the defendant”.

The period of limitation shall not begin to run until the Claimant has discovered the fraud or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it

Mistake

Section 32(1)(c) provides for the limitation period to be extended where the action being brought “is for relief from the consequences of a mistake“.

the period of limitation shall not begin to run until the Claimant has discovered the mistake (as the case may be) or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it

What is the professional negligence limitation date?

If based on contract, 6 years from the date of the breach of contract (section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980)

If based on the common law tort of negligence, 6 years from the date the Claimant suffered a financial loss as a result of a negligent professional (section 2 of the Limitation Act 1980)

Book an Initial Consultation with our Professional Negligence Lawyers

Do you have a claim against a professional? If you want expert legal advice, do not delay in instructing us so we can assess the legal merit of your case.

We can often take on such claims on a no win no fee basis (such as a Conditional Fee Arrangement) once we have discussed the claim with you and then assessed and advised you on the merits of the proposed professional negligence action.

Our expert legal team of leading Professional Negligence Solicitors & Barristers can provide urgent help, advice or representation to you. Just call our Professional Negligence Lawyers on 02071830529 or email us now.

Instruct Specialist Professional Negligence Solicitors

We are a specialist City of London law firm made up of Solicitors & Barristers operating from the only law firm based in the Middle Temple Inn of Court adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice. Our team have expertise in advising on claims for compensation against professionals that have fallen below the standard expected, which causes clients financial or personal loss. We are experienced in bringing successful claims against negligent solicitors, barristers, financial advisers, insurance brokers, surveyors, valuers, architects, tax advisers and IFAs.

Want legal advice on the merits of your case?

Our simple enquiry form goes immediately to our litigation team in Middle Temple, London. Call us on +442071830529 from 9am-6pm.

LIMITATION ACT 1980 – WARNING

The Limitation Act 1980 sets out strict statutory deadlines within which you must bring litigation claims. Your legal rights will become irreversibly time-barred if you fail to take legal action (or defend a claim on time). Therefore, you should seek specific legal advice about your legal dispute at the very first opportunity so that you understand the time you have left. Failure to take advice or delay in taking action can be fatal to your prospects of success.

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