If you suffer a personal injury, any right to claim compensation you may have will automatically be extinguished three years from the date of the accident you were involved in unless court proceedings have been raised prior to this date. This time period is known as the ‘triennium’. If a claim is made outwith this period, it is said to be time-barred.
In recent years, much discussion has surrounded whether the three year time limit was appropriate for cases involving childhood abuse. In Scotland, child survivors of abuse previously had three years from their sixteenth birthday to make a claim.
The issue is that female survivors typically will not speak about their abuse until they turn 18 years. The average male survivor won’t speak about the abuse until they turn 25 years old. As a result, survivors of childhood abuse were quite often unable to make a civil claim due to the time limits in place.
Therefore the triennium was an impediment for survivors of childhood abuse from seeking civil redress.
On 4 October 2017 the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act came into force. The act removes the three year time period for survivors of childhood abuse. The act means that survivors can bring civil claims in Scotland without fear of their claims being time-barred. The one exception is that this does not extend to any cases where the period of abuse took place before 1964. The removal of the triennium was supported unanimously in the Scottish parliament, 113 to zero.
The Act defines “abuse” as sexual, physical and emotional abuse. While a finer definition on ‘emotional abuse’ is expected to follow from the Scottish Government, its previous publications have defined it as “persistent emotional neglect or ill treatment that has severe and persistent adverse effect on a child’s emotional development.”
It should be noted that cases cannot be re-raised where survivors have previously received a financial benefit from a litigated action. If there has been no financial benefit, searches can be done on the Land Register and enquiries can be made on an alleged abuser’s assets to ensure that litigation has value. While reviewing this information, the survivor can also consider whether to sue the organisation the alleged abuser was employed by, associated or affiliated to during the period of abuse. These organisations can be held to be vicariously liable and at fault for the actions of their employees or officials, which may be a firmer guarantee for survivors seeking financial redress via civil litigation.
For survivors of childhood abuse, civil litigation will not be the entire answer, and is part of a holistic solution and redress. At Jackson Boyd, our motto is More Than Just, because we understand that civil litigation is about more than just the figure sought.
If you have an enquiry regarding childhood abuse claims and wish to discuss this, please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855. As always, your enquiry will be dealt with with expertise and sensitivity.