There are time limits on taking legal action in many areas of the law, which reflects the fact that justice is better served if a dispute is resolved sooner rather than later.
Everything from the quality of evidence to the recollections of witnesses naturally deteriorates over time, making it more difficult to bring and prove your case.
Personal injury compensation is one area where time limits on bringing the action are particularly important. Legislation in NSW provides statutory time limits for bringing a claim for compensation in common actions such as workers’ compensation, motor vehicle accidents, public liability and other areas of personal injury.
Failure to bring the claim within the stated limit may mean a person is ‘statute-barred’ thereafter – they are unable to commence legal action to be compensated for their injury again. It’s important, therefore, to act promptly after injury which may be compensable.
Let’s look at some of the limitation periods for some of the most common compensation claims.
In NSW, workers’ compensation claims should be made within six months of the injury occurring, though you can make a claim up to three years after the injury occurs if you can show reasonable cause for the delay in commencing your action.
A claim can also potentially be made after the three-year time limit in cases where it can be shown you suffered an injury that resulted in permanent impairment, or you are making a claim as a relative of someone who was killed at work.
The time limit may also be extended if the injured worker is not aware of the injury until a long time after the incident occurred, such as in cases of hearing loss, certain cancers and other ailments that may have been caused by the work environment. Dust-related conditions are treated distinctly so consult a compensation professional.
Despite the time limits, a work-related injury should:
- be reported to an employer as soon as possible;
- be recognised with a certificate of capacity from a medical practitioner;
- result in the employer receiving the certificate of capacity, receipts for medical bills and a declaration by the injured worker.
Motor vehicle accident claims
The introduction of the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 in NSW created a number of new time limits for claims related to injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
A claim for statutory benefits under the Compulsory Third Party (‘CTP’) scheme must be made by filling out an application for Personal Injury Benefits within three months from the date of the accident. To be eligible for weekly payments to compensate for income loss, a report of the accident must be made to the police within 28 days from the date of the accident.
A common law claim for damages for economic loss (such as loss of earning capacity) and for non-economic loss (such as pain and suffering) for an injury that is not ‘minor’ cannot be made before 20 months of the date of the accident, and cannot be settled within two years of the date of accident unless a person’s permanent impairment from the injury is greater than 10%.
All common law damages claims must be made within three years of the date of the accident. If a loved one died in the accident, a ‘Compensation to Relatives claim’ must be made within three years of the date of death.
Public liability claims
Slip and fall injuries, dog attacks, food poisoning, accidents at train stations or the foyers of public buildings – these are some common examples of injuries that might be the subject of a public liability claim.
This type of claim must be made within three years of the injury occurring unless the injured person is not aware of the injury until a later time.
Changes to the Limitation Act 1969 (NSW) (‘the Act’)made in 2002 allow a person to make a claim for compensation, including in public liability claims, three years from the date of ‘discoverability’ – that is, when they became aware of the injury.
The Act provides for a ‘long-stop’ limitation period of 12 years in which a cause of action for personal injury can be commenced. This period can be extended by the court after assessing:
- the length of and reasons for the delay;
- whether the delay has caused prejudice to the defendant due to evidence no longer being available;
- the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injury or loss;
- any conduct of the defendant that induced the plaintiff to delay bringing the action;
- the steps (if any) taken by the plaintiff to obtain medical, legal or other expert advice, and the nature of any such advice the plaintiff may have received;
- the time when the cause of action was discoverable by the plaintiff.
Different limitation periods apply to minors or persons with a disability.
Consult with leading Law By Dan
One of the key reasons it’s wise to entrust your compensation claim to specialist compensation professionals such as Law By Dan is because it’s our job to be aware of the importance of time limits and how they can vary depending on the type of claim.