What does “date of knowledge” mean in personal injury claims?

The ‘date of knowledge’ test provides that the two-year period within which you have to bring your personal injury claim will not begin to run against you until the date upon which you become aware of all of the following pieces of information:

  • You have been injured.
  • The injury which you have suffered is significant.
  • The injury was caused by the fault of someone else.
  • The identity of the person who caused you the injury.
  • If the fault for the injury lies with someone other than the person who is liable to compensate you, the identity of the person who actually caused the injury and the legal basis as to why the person you are claiming against is liable.

The date-of-knowledge test can prevent injustice from occurring in many scenarios. Take, for example, a situation where a doctor prescribes a patient with inappropriate medication over a period of time which has the effect of causing them serious organ damage. While the injury may be very serious in nature, it might well not manifest itself for several years. If the patient does not begin to experience serious symptoms until three years after the medication has been taken, an absolute application of the two-year rule would mean that any claim against the doctor would be barred by the Statute of Limitations, notwithstanding the fact that the patient couldn’t possibly have known that they were the victim of medical negligence at any time in that period.

However, the application of the date-of-knowledge test in such a case would mean that the two-year period would only start to run from the date that the patient found out that they had suffered a serious injury (organ damage) and that this injury was caused by someone’s negligence (the doctor’s prescription of inappropriate medication).