Statute of Limitations in Ireland
The Statute of Limitations relates the length of time a person has in which to make a claim following an incident that gives rise to a claim. The purpose of the Statute of Limitations is twofold: to discourage Plaintiffs from unduly delaying the institution of proceedings; and to protect Defendants from stale claims.
Limitation periods in Irish law are set out in a variety of statutes but primarily the limitations applying to civil actions are set out in the Statute of Limitations, 1957 and the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991 and 2000. These statutes impose a limit on the right of action so that after a prescribed period any action will be time barred.
The statute of limitations in the Republic of Ireland depends on the type of legal case and also who is taking the case (the rules are different for children). The time period usually starts from the date of accrual of the cause of action or (if later) knowledge of the potential cause of action.
Personal Injury Cases
In relation to personal injury cases a person has two years from the date of knowledge of an injury in which to pursue a case. Usually, the date an injury will be the date on which the injury was suffered in an accident. It is therefore important that an injured party talks to a solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity following an accident. In the case of minors (under the age of eighteen) a person has two years from the date of their eighteenth birthday however, it is advisable to take action as soon as is practicable to avoid any unnecessary delay.
If a person does not act within the limitation periods the case is deemed to be statute barred and therefore it is not possible to claim compensation in relation to a particular incident.
There are exceptions to this however governed by the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act 1991. This occurs in circumstances where there the date of the wrong/injury takes place differs from the date that the wrong/injury is discovered. This means that in situations where an injury may not be obvious at first the time limit does not start to run until the injured party is aware of the injury. This type of situation can occur in relation to medical negligence cases where a person who receives a negligent medical procedure may not have knowledge of the injury at first until the injury cause problems or they become aware that such problems arose as a consequence of a particular procedure.
Cases involving Asbestos and Acquired Injury
Another exception to the normal principle that the date of injury and the date of knowledge are the same is asbestos-related injury cases and other industrial diseases that have been acquired over a period of time. Given the nature of asbestos-related injuries, those affected may have no knowledge that they have contracted an asbestos-related injury for many years after exposure. In these circumstances, the two year time limit starts from when the injured party becomes aware that they had contracted an asbestos-related injury such as mesothelioma.
Although other industrial diseases may not necessarily be as serious as mesothelioma – such as a repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome – the Statute of Limitations for personal injury compensation claims in Ireland starts from the day on which the plaintiff is diagnosed with an injury which is attributable to the negligence of a party who owed them a duty of care.
Section 50 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 deals with the operation of the Statute of Limitations. All personal injury cases must be lodged with the Injuries Board for consideration. The Injuries Board will acknowledge safe receipt of the application and once this has happened the two year limitation period is suspended for the purposes of the Statute of Limitations.
If the Injuries Board are unable to deal with a particular case they will issue an Authorisation which allows a person to pursue their case through the Court system. It is important to note that the Statute of Limitations will begin to run again 6 months after the Authorisation is issued from the Injuries Board.
No claim for personal injuries may be brought unless the injured party has applied for and obtained Authorisation in respect of an injury from the Injuries Board.
What are the time limits for different areas of law?
• Assault including sexual assault– 6 years
• Unfair dismissal – 6 months
• Breach of Contract – 6 years.
• Estate – 6 years or 12 years depending on circumstances
• Land – Adverse possession – 12 years, or 30 years if the State are taking an action
Understanding the Statute of Limitations and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, is vital, insofar as they affect the limitation period in which personal injuries proceedings must be brought. If a person is outside the limitation period it is not possible to pursue a case unless it falls under one of the exceptions detailed above.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.