My Uncle had a triple heart bypass four years ago and, as a result of what we believe was negligence by the hospital, his brain was starved of oxygen and he has gone on to develop severe dementia.
Can he bring a claim against the hospital despite the fact that the operation was longer than three years ago?
Your question relates to what we call the Limitation Period. There are various limitation periods and the limitation period for bringing a claim for personal injury is usually three years from either:
- The date on which the cause of action occurred (in your case, this is the date on
which the negligent act happened)
- The date of knowledge (if later) of the person injured (see below)
There are, however, exceptions to this rule. The exception that could apply to your Uncle is the rule for “protected patients”. Patients are treated as “protected”, i.e. having a disability, when they are of “unsound mind”. This is where they are incapable of managing and administering their property and affairs. This would obviously be the case for your Uncle as he is suffering from severe dementia. If your Uncle became of “unsound mind” immediately following and as a direct result of the negligent act on the part of the hospital and he will continue to be of “unsound mind”, then the limitation period will never run and it will be worthwhile to investigate his claim.
However, if your Uncle did not become of “unsound mind” until a later time following the negligence, or if he was of “sound” mind for a period following the negligence, the limitation period will run from the date of the negligence in the usual way.
In any event, it is a good idea to go to see a Solicitor as there are certain circumstance when the Courts will exercise their discretion and allow a person to bring a claim outside of the time limit.