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Statute of Limitations in Ireland

Learn about the Statute of Limitations in Ireland, which sets the time limits for bringing legal claims. Understand key deadlines and their implications.

What is Statute of Limitations?

The Statute of Limitations relates to 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.

Table of Contents

    What are the time limits for different areas of law?

    • Personal Injury Claim – 2 years
    • Medical Negligence Claim – 2 years
    • Sexual Abuse – 6 years
    • Assault including sexual assault – 6 years
    • Professional Negligence – 6 years
    • Breach of Contract – 6 years.

    Statute of Limitations for personal injury

    The period in which a person can bring a claim for personal injury is two years less than one day. The clock starts running from the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge is the date on which the injured person became aware they were injured; it was a significant injury, and it was caused by the negligence of the party at fault. Often this date will be the day of the actual accident, however, in some cases, an injury does not manifest itself immediately after the relevant incident.

    1.1 Exceptions

    There are some circumstances in which the applicable time limit may be altered, such as:

    • Where the injured party has suffered a mental impairment as a result of their injury
    • Where the relevant injury is so serious that it prevents the injured party from bringing a claim. In these circumstances, the clock starts running from the date the injured party becomes capable of bringing a claim.
    • Where the injured party has been misdiagnosed with an illness. In these circumstances, the clock starts running from the date they are diagnosed correctly.
    • 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.

    1.2 Time limit for children

    If the injured party is under the age of 18 the statute of limitations operates differently as minors cannot take a personal injury claim themselves. Therefore, the two-year limit starts from the date of the child’s 18th birthday. However, a minor may make a claim before their 18th birthday if their parent or guardian will bring it on their behalf.

    Statute of Limitations for Medical Negligence Claim

    Where an injury is suffered as a result of medical negligence, the statute of limitations is two years less a day from the date of knowledge. This refers to the date the claimant became aware of their injury. The claimant’s awareness of four different factors is relevant to determining the date of knowledge:

    • The existence of an illness/injury/misdiagnosis
    • The significance of said illness/injury/misdiagnosis
    • The injury was directly caused by the action/inaction of another
    • The identity of the wrongdoer

    This means that the date of knowledge may be many years after the event which caused the injury as, often with medical negligence, the injured has no way of knowing of the negligence until much later.

    2.1 Date of knowledge

    This refers to the date the claimant became aware of their injury. The claimant’s awareness of four different factors is relevant to determining the date of knowledge:

    • The existence of an illness/injury/misdiagnosis
    • The significance of said illness/injury/misdiagnosis
    • The injury was directly caused by the action/inaction of another
    • The identity of the wrongdoer

    This means that the date of knowledge may be many years after the event which caused the injury as, often with medical negligence, the injured has no way of knowing of the negligence until much later.

    2.2 Exceptions

    If someone is deemed to be under a disability, the clock will not start running until they are no longer under such disability. A person under a disability is defined as:

    • A minor, under the age of 18.
    • A person of unsound mind who lacks the mental capacity to act on their own behalf
    • Unsound mind may also extend to an impaired state of mind, for example, where someone has been in a coma.

    2.3 Time limit for children

    If the injured party is under the age of 18 the statute of limitations operates differently as minors cannot take a personal injury claim themselves. Therefore, the two-year limit starts from the date of the child’s 18th birthday or the date of knowledge, whichever is later. However, a minor may make a claim before their 18th birthday if their parent or guardian will bring it on their behalf.

    Statute of Limitation for Sexual Abuse

    If the victim of an assault is bringing a case directly against the perpetrator of the assault, they have six years from the date of said assault to initiate proceedings. However, if the victim intends to bring proceedings against a school, institution, employer, or association for allowing the abuse to occur through their negligence, the time limit is reduced to two years from the date of the assault.

    3.1 Exceptions

    The statute of limitations in the context of sexual abuse may be relaxed if it can be shown that the victim was unable to bring proceedings within the prescribed time frame due to the psychological effects of the abuse. Whether such an extension may be appropriate is a matter of psychiatric opinion. However, the courts retain the discretion to dismiss a case on the grounds of an unavoidable delay if the delay prejudices the rights of the perpetrator.

    3.2 Time Limit for children

    Minors are considered incapable of bringing a claim independently so the time limit will not start running until they reach the age of 18. Alternatively, a parent or guardian may bring a claim on their behalf. The exception for those who are deemed incapable to bring a claim due to the psychological effects of the assault also extends to those who were assaulted as minors.

    Statute of Limitation for Professional Negligence

    The statute of limitations for a professional negligence claim is generally 6 years from the date of the negligence. However, this limit may vary depending on the nature of the complaint. It is advisable to discuss your specific circumstances with a solicitor in order to ascertain the time limit which applies to you.

    Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)

    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.

    Our team

    If you have been involved in an accident or suffered an injury at the hands of another person, we would advise all persons to contact our personal injury claim solicitors at the earliest available opportunity. We represent clients in a variety of personal injury claims; road traffic accidents, workplace injury, serious injury, medical negligence, and public liability claims. Please take some time to browse our website to learn more about the services we offer as a personal injury solicitors practice in Dublin.

    If you want to take legal action over a personal injury, you should consult our injury solicitors, who are members of the Law Society’s injury accreditation scheme and clinical negligence accreditation scheme. Contacted us at:

    Coleman Legal LLP

    Solicitors
    84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
    D01 YX60

    Contact Details

    Free Phone: 1800-844-104
    Fax: (01) 5312727
    Email: [email protected]
    Web: www.colemanlegalpartners.ie
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    Clodagh Magennis

    Clodagh Magennis

    Head of Client Services

    P: 1800-844-104
    E: [email protected]

    ”At Coleman Legal, excellence in customer care is paramount. We aim to meet both prospective and existing client’s needs in a professional, engaging, and friendly manner with a clear objective to give quality legal advice and reach a positive outcome.”

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