Out of Time - the dangers of time limits in professional negligence claims

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The general rule for negligence claims under English law is that they must be brought within 6 years of the date when the damage in question was suffered. This might sound like an easy rule to apply, but that is not always the case.

When the damage in question is physical damage to property, it is often very easy to identify when the damage was caused. However, when the damage in question is a purely economic loss, or even the loss of an opportunity, it can be far more difficult to define precisely when that loss was “suffered”. Because of these problems, claimants often find that the 6 year time limit for bringing a claim has already expired by the time they issue proceedings, because the loss was deemed to have been suffered at an earlier date than they had calculated.

To complicate matters further, in certain circumstances where the claimant was not even aware of the relevant facts at the time the damage was suffered, it is possible to extend the deadline by a further 3 years from the date when the claimant knew (or ought reasonably to have known) about the relevant facts.

In this article, Michael Axe of our Commercial Disputes Team looks at some recent cases which have highlighted the difficulties that arise when trying to assess when the time limit for bringing a Professional Negligence claim will expire under English law, and which have thankfully provided some guidance to help parties navigate through this technical minefield.

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