This period runs from when it is first realised that a person has suffered a significant injury that may be attributable to the negligence of a third party (or from 10 years after the application of a product that is found to be defective (see Consumer Protection (Northern Ireland) Order 1987).
For a child or young person, the limitation period runs from the time he/she attains the age of 18 years and may be extended where material facts are not known.
A person of ‘unsound mind’, as long as he remains under the disability in question, can bring an action without limit of time through his ‘next friend’.
After the person’s death, the period of limitation will run against his personal representative(s).
Discharge from hospital does not imply that the person has fully recovered from the disability.
For the purposes of the Limitation Order, a person of ‘unsound mind’ is a person who, because of mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, is incapable of managing and administering his property and affairs.
The limitation period of three years from the date of personal injury or death, or date of knowledge of a claim applies only to actions that include a claim for damages in respect of personal injuries.
In the case of other claims different limitation periods apply, for example a claim by a mentally disordered patient that he has been falsely imprisoned, the appropriate limitation period prescribed by Article 6(1) of the Limitation (NI) Order 1989 is six years from the date when the patient ceases to be under a disability or dies.
Records management considerations
A claimant generally has three years to begin legal action after the injury; however, the lapse between the ‘injury’ and ‘knowledge’ of it is without limit of time.
Therefore, it is important that accurate records are retained in accordance with Part 2 of GMGR and local policies.
As with other statutory provisions, organisations must be able to locate and supply the information if requested and ensure that closed records are stored in accordance with, the Northern Ireland Records Management Standards (NIRMS) and British Standards.