Time Limits – How long do you have to claim compensation?

Ashley Tully

Chief Commercial Officer

We see it time and time again, people with legitimate compensation cases but they are past their limitation period and therefore unable to make a claim.

 It pays, literally, to know when your time limit starts and stops.

Some claimants may be aware that there are time limits to lodging a claim.

But, if we are frank, it can be difficult to know which applies to your case.  

The legislation can be confusing and different rules apply to each unique circumstance.

Below we have summarised a comprehensive list of different personal injury scenarios.

What are time limits?

Every state has a law, known as the statute of limitation, that restricts the time a person who has suffered injury has to sue.  

How long do you have in Queensland?

For adults claiming personal injury compensation? 

We are going to throw in some legal jargon to help explain this, but bear with us, it will be quick!

According to the Limitations of Action Act 1974, Section 11, a claim for negligence or breach of duty “shall not be brought after the expiration of 3 years from the date on which the cause of action arose”.

Within personal injury claims the 'cause of action’ is the date of your accident or the date you suffered your injuries.

So, the general rule for adults is you have 3 years from the date of the incident to begin court proceedings.

This rule applies for claims for motor vehicle accidents, public and private accidents such as slip and falls, product liability accidents and work cover accidents.

What most articles on time limits don’t tell you is that you have to complete a number of important tasks BEFORE you begin court proceedings.

If you fail to complete these tasks in time you could be left unable to claim.

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What are these tasks?

Different types of claims must abide by different pieces of legislation, but every claim must go through some sort of pre-court proceedings.

So, you need to have completed a number of tasks by the three-year mark for your claim to be valid. 

These tasks include:

  • Lodging your notice of accident form
  • Receiving a response from an insurer (if there is one) that confirms they are responsible for the at-fault party
  • Complete investigations that confirm the at-fault person’s liability and the extent and impact of your injuries
  • Participate in a compulsory conference (a settlement conference between you and the at-fault party or their insurer)
  • Exchange mandatory final offers with the at-fault party (or their insurer)

If you haven’t done all of the above by the third anniversary of the accident, you may be prevented from making a claim.

It’s a long list and if we are honest, it can take a little while to complete.

That’s why you will often hear these lawyers pleading for people to start their claim as early as possible.

There are exceptions to the rule which will cover later.

What about for children?

Rules that govern claims for children are different from those for adults.

The three-year limits still applies but the clock starts from their 18th birthday.

That means for accidents that occur when the person is under the age of 18, they have until their 21st birthday to begin their court proceedings.

What about for seriously injured people?

The government has also set in place a law that allows those with serious injuries to bring a claim at any time following their accident.

That is, those whose injuries prevent them from being able to give adequate legal instructions (such as those with acquired brain injuries), have no limitation period.

Are there any circumstance where time limits can be extended?

Yes, in special circumstances extensions to may be granted. An application will need to be made to the Courts to grant you an extension.

When deciding whether the injured person can receive an extension, the courts will consider the following:

  • The length of the delay in bringing forth a claim
  • The reasons for the delay in bringing forth a claim
  • The nature and extent of the patient’s injury
  • If the injured person obtained or tried to obtain medical, legal or other expert advice

However, it is solely at the court’s discretion as to whether your extension will be granted.

It may also make it difficult to find a lawyer who with take on your case past its time limits. People should not rely upon obtaining an extension, as they are not always easily granted.

There are also time limits on when you can notify the insurer that you will be bringing a claim. 

These limits are much shorter. So it’s really important you are across these dates.

A claim can commence outside this time frame but you must provide a reasonable excuse for the delay to the insurer.

Examples of some frequently used reasons for delay include:

  • The injured party didn’t know they had the right to make a claim
  • Their injuries hindered their ability to begin the notification process
  • The person didn’t realise the extent of their injuries until after the time limit expired
  • The person’s circumstances have made it difficult for them to communicate with their lawyer or take certain steps
  • minus
    Personal reasons delayed the process

And unfortunately, it’s at the full discretion of the insurer to accept your excuse or not.

We all know insurers are great at finding an easy way to avoid paying up.

Don’t give them an opportunity to shirk their responsibilities

Ashley Tulley

Chief Commercial Officer

Getting some legal advice may help you determine what a ‘reasonable excuse’ is.

Below is a list of the different notification periods based on each type of accident.

Accidents involving a motor vehicle

If you have the details of the at-fault driver and their insurer, then a Notice of Accident Claim Form must be lodged either:

  • within 9 months of the accident
  • or within one month from your first consultation with a lawyer

... whichever comes first.

Accidents in a public or private place or product liability claims

These follow the same rules as motor vehicle accidents. You have either:

  • 9 months from the date of the accident
  • or 1 month after your first consult with a lawyer

... to notify the at-fault party or their insurer. 

Hit and run accidents

In cases where the at-fault driver couldn’t be identified or does not have CTP insurance, you need to bring a claim against a body called the Nominal Defendant.

Beyond the Jargon

Click to reveal it's definition

Nominal Defendant

Where the insurer is the Nominal Defendant, notification of a claim must be made within 3 months of the accident.

This time limit is very short, so don’t delay in starting the process.

Workplace accidents

If you are injured at work you must lodge a claim within 6 months of the date of injury with WorkCover.

A claim lodged after 6 months will only be accepted where it can be shown that there was a mistake, you were absent from the State or have another reasonable cause.

Starting a claim doesn't mean you have to finish it. 

Starting the process of notifying the insurer can protect your legal rights to make a claim.

Consider starting a claim for compensation while you decide whether it’s an avenue that you wish to take.  

Written by Ashley Tulley | Chief Commercial Officer