What does legal disability mean for time limits in medical negligence?

Another relaxation of the harshness of the Statute of Limitations is that time will be deemed not to run against a patient during any period in which they are deemed to be under a legal ‘disability.’

One important example of such a legal disability is where someone is under the age of eighteen. The effect of the rule is that a child will have two years from the date of their eighteenth birthday within which to commence proceedings for any medical negligence which they have been the victims of at any time during the first eighteen years of their lives.

Another disability which is recognised by the Statute of Limitations is when one is found to be legally of ‘unsound mind’ which might be rephrased as meaning lacking the fundamental cognitive abilities of your typical adult. Accordingly, any period during which an adult person is in an impaired mental state will not be included when calculating the two-year period.

For example, if an adult of otherwise normal mental ability was caused by the negligent actions of a medical practitioner to fall into a coma for several years, the two-year period would only start to run from the date when the patient came out of the coma and regained their normal faculties sufficiently to enable them to assemble and appreciate all of the information required to satisfy the date-of-knowledge test described above.

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

John McCarthy specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high-value compensation cases. John qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and holds a diploma in civil litigation. This specialist qualification in the area of personal injury and medical negligence litigation, is awarded by the Law Society of Ireland.