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When you've had an accident at work, it's essential to know your rights and the timeframe within which you must act to secure the compensation you deserve. In almost every case where you are eligible to claim compensation, time limits apply. If you do not act quickly enough, you may lose your ability to claim compensation altogether.

In the following guide, Ramsdens’ experts explain the UK’s statute of limitations for workplace injuries and what it means for your ability to make a personal injury claim.

Understanding the time limits for accident at work claims

In the UK, time limits for claiming compensation are governed by the Limitation Act 1980, which sets clear boundaries on the period within which legal action must be initiated. Once the claim has begun, there are no time limits that apply - it may take a few months to conclude, or a few years - but it is vital to begin the process promptly where possible.

The standard time limit is three years from the date of the accident or from the date you became aware that your injury was linked to the accident at work. This time frame is known as the 'limitation period'. However, this rule is not absolute and there are important details that can affect when this three-year period starts.

For example, if the injury or illness develops over time, such as with repetitive strain injuries or industrial disease, the three-year limitation may begin from the moment you recognise that the injury is associated with your workplace conditions. This may happen long after the exposure or activity that causes the injury or illness. This is often referred to as ‘date of knowledge’, and this may represent the start of a limitation period even if more than three years have passed following the initial incident or exposure.

It is also worth noting that for claims involving people under the age of 18, the three-year time limit starts from their 18th birthday, giving them until the age of 21 to make a claim. Before then, a parent or guardian can make a claim on the person’s behalf at any time. In cases where the injured party lacks the mental capacity to make a claim themselves, the three-year time frame may not apply until (or unless) they regain capacity.

If your work-related accident happened abroad but within the scope of UK employment, international laws and conventions could influence the time limit.

Failing to initiate a claim within the required period could mean you lose the right to compensation, so seeking legal advice as soon as possible following a personal injury is vital. Even if you are unsure about whether your situation enables you to claim, speak to our team for a free initial consultation and we can help you understand the next steps that are available.

The importance of acting quickly after a workplace accident

While the legal time limit for filing a claim is three years, you should begin the claims process as soon as possible. There are a number of reasons that this is important:

  • Preservation of evidence: following an accident, evidence can rapidly deteriorate or vanish. CCTV footage might be erased, machinery repaired, and the scene of the accident altered. Acting quickly ensures that such vital pieces of evidence are preserved for long enough to be collected. This can be crucial when it comes to proving liability and the extent of your injuries.
  • Witness recollection: as time passes, the memories of people who witnessed the accident can fade or become less precise. By moving quickly, you can ensure that statements are collected while the incident is still fresh in witnesses’ minds, providing stronger testimonial support for your claim.
  • Medical considerations: your solicitor may help you to arrange an assessment by a doctor or medical expert following an injury. Seeking immediate medical attention serves two purposes: it ensures that you receive the necessary treatment for your injuries, and it also provides a timely and relevant medical record. These records are invaluable as they establish a direct link between the accident and your injuries, which is a critical element of any compensation claim.
  • Psychological impact: the period following an accident can be stressful and uncertain. Starting the claims process early can alleviate some of this stress by providing you with a clear course of action, direct support from an expert and the reassurance that your case is being handled by professionals.
  • Financial stability: initiating a claim early can help you get interim payments to cover urgent costs - such as medical treatment or loss of earnings - before the final settlement is reached.

Getting expert legal guidance from the expert personal injury solicitors at Ramsdens will give you more time to build the strongest case possible.

Steps to take following an accident at work

If you find yourself the victim of a workplace accident, it's important to know the steps you should take immediately. Here’s what you should do directly after your accident:

  1. Seek medical attention: even if your injuries seem minor, any underlying issues may not be immediately apparent and can have serious long term repercussions. A medical professional can assess your condition and provide a medical report, which will serve as an essential piece of evidence in your claim.
  2. Report the accident: notify your employer or supervisor about the accident as soon as possible. Ensure the incident is recorded in the company’s accident book if it has one; this is a legal requirement for most businesses. Recording the accident serves as official documentation of the event.
  3. Document everything: take photographs of the accident scene and any equipment or hazards involved. Note down the names and contact details of any witnesses. Keep a diary detailing the aftermath of the accident in the following days and weeks, including the impact on your daily life and any medical treatments.
  4. Keep track of expenses: maintain a clear record of all expenses related to your injury. This includes medical bills, travel expenses to and from medical appointments, and any other costs you incur due to the accident.
  5. Follow company procedures: ensure that any relevant internal procedures are followed, which might involve completing specific forms or providing a detailed account of the incident to your employer.
  6. Be cautious of early settlement offers: employers or insurance companies may offer a quick settlement. Before accepting any offer, consult with a solicitor to ensure it is fair and reflects the full extent of your injuries and financial losses.
  7. Contact a solicitor: consulting a solicitor specialising in workplace accidents - such as those at Ramsdens - is crucial. We can advise you on your rights, help you understand the strength of your claim, and guide you through the process of securing the compensation you deserve.
  8. Consider mental health support: accidents can have psychological effects. It’s important to consider counselling or therapy if you are experiencing mental distress. Mental health treatment is also something that can be claimed for.

By following these steps, you will lay the groundwork for a strong accident at work claim and give yourself the best chances of recovery. In turn, this can make your return to work as smooth as possible.

How Ramsdens Solicitors Can Help with Your Workplace Accident Claim

Our accidents at work team offers comprehensive support for workplace injury claims. From the initial consultation to the resolution of your case, we provide expert legal advice and representation throughout the entire process of making a claim.

If you've suffered an injury at work, don't hesitate to reach out to Ramsdens for expert legal support to claim the compensation that you deserve. Call our personal injury claims experts today on 01484 821 500, or fill out an online contact form and we'll be in touch at a time suitable for you.