Quick response times are important after an accident. You need to get medical assistance fast to decrease the chances of long term damage and to allow the healing process to begin. You must promptly notify your insurance company and make sure your employer is aware (in case of missed work). And finally, you must make sure you lodge your personal injury claim in a timely manner to make sure that you get the compensation you need to survive after a motor vehicle accident.
There are very important time limits to lodge personal injury claims after a motor vehicle accident. If these are not met, you could lose all your legal rights to make or continue your claim.
Most Important – 3 year time limit to commence Court proceedings
A personal injury claim for a motor vehicle accident must be commenced in Court within 3 years of the date of injury. There are some limited exceptions if the injured person is a child or lacks legal capacity. If the claim is not commenced in Court within 3 years, you could lose all your legal rights to start the claim. However, before you can commence Court proceedings you must follow a number of pre-Court steps which also have some time limits discussed below.
The court can decide to allow proceedings to commence after the 3 year period has passed, but it is not be required to and it is up to a Judge’s discretion.
In the case of Jonathan v. Mangera & Anor, a motor vehicle accident left the applicant (Jonathan) injured. The necessary notices were served to the insurer and liability was admitted so there was no argument to counter the claim.
It should have been a straightforward case, however the applicant did not contact his solicitors to take action and finish the process. Despite attempts, they were not able to find him. His solicitors told him about the time limitations, which he ignored. He cut contact with his solicitors after traveling overseas. He also did not appear for an independent medical exam as required.
Had Jonathan attempted to comply with the court’s requirements, then the 3 year limit may have been extended. Instead, the court reviewed the case and determined that he chose to ignore all their requests despite being informed about the time limit and need for action. The presiding judge ruled that Jonathan was found to be free of symptoms since it likely would have been impossible to obtain evidence beyond the applicant’s statements about the incident. The case was dismissed and Jonathan received no compensation and was ordered to pay the insurer for the cost of going to court.
Other Important Time Limits
As mentioned, before Court proceedings are started, you must follow a number of pre-Court steps. The first step is to serve a Notice of Accident Claim form on the insurer of the vehicle at fault.
If the vehicle, its registration number or insurer is known, then you must do this within either 9 months of the date of the accident or 1 month of first consulting a lawyer, whichever comes first. If you do not serve the Notice in this time period, you can still start the claim, but then must provide a reasonable excuse for the delay.
If the vehicle is unknown (e.g. hit and run) or uninsured, then you must serve the Notice on the Nominal Defendant within 3 months of the date of the accident. You can still serve the Notice after 3 months, but you must provide a reasonable excuse for the delay. However, it is extremely important to know that if you do not serve the Nominal Defendant within 9 months of the date of the accident, you will lose your right to commence the claim against the Nominal Defendant. In that case, the only way you could commence your personal injury claim after the motor vehicle accident is if you can find the other vehicle or its insurer.
Be an Active Participant in Your Claim
The best approach to a personal injury claim is to be an active participant in the process. That means making sure that you respond promptly to your lawyer’s requests and return to your lawyer any documents that need to be signed. Doing so will help ensure that you do not exceed the time limits and, if you do, the court will be more inclined to provide an extension.