Those who want to make a claim for personal injury, however it arose, generally need to bring a claim within three years of the accident or tragedy happening. In fact, the requirement is a little more detailed than that and requires that a claim is brought within three years of an individual Claimant’s date of knowledge that any particular Defendant might have been responsible for the injury.
The statutory time limits under the Limitation Act 1980 generally provide for personal injury claims to be issued within three years from the date of the qualifying incident. However, there are times where this is not applicable for a variety of reasons. It may be that pending evidence, relevant to establishing the causes of action, is unavailable to issue within the timeframe. In such cases the proposed defendants can be approached to determine if they will agree to a standstill agreement.
Awaiting further investigation will enable the parties to more accurately assess which party or parties to proceed against and the most relevant causes of action. This may even benefit potential defendants if on receipt of further evidence it becomes apparent that they have no liability.
The necessity of standstill agreements may become more apparent under the current covid-19 lockdown rules delaying legal representatives’ ability to communicate with their clients, especially when representing international clients with language barriers. Personal Injury claims often encompass such bereavement and loss for clients so whilst initially some clients may feel standstill agreements represent delay, in fact they can enable us to draft more accurate claim forms when the evidence is readily available and to narrow the specific issues for the causes of action section of the form.
Standstill agreements also provide parties the opportunity to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution as opposed to court proceedings. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the process by which claims brought by people in relation to wrongs under the civil law are negotiated by the respective parties to avoid the need for a Court hearing. In cases of this kind it is often a very great advantage to at least consider an ADR process where you have a case dealing with the complexity of the litigation, the large number of Claimants involved and the potentially large number of Defendants. It can take different forms and, for instance, most claims for serious personal injury are settled under one form of ADR or another. Litigation can be costly and lengthy and so ADR should never be ruled out.
Where defendants refuse to agree to standstill agreements, this isn’t necessarily the last resort. Claims can be issued, and an application can be made to the courts to stay proceedings where necessary.
By Suezanne King