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Undergoing cosmetic surgery that goes wrong can be an extremely harrowing experience for the person affected, resulting in physical, emotional and financial hardship in many cases.

Not only do victims of this type of medical negligence have to deal with the disappointment of a procedure that was supposed to enhance their appearance and self-image having the opposite result, but many will also need to deal with painful, disfiguring or even health-threatening side effects.

In the midst of this trauma, it can be difficult to muster the energy and presence of mind to get organised enough to investigate legal redress options straight away. This is understandable, but it is worth remembering that time limits do apply on legal claims for cosmetic surgery negligence, making it important for those affected to act sooner rather than later.

What is the time limit for making a medical negligence claim?

The most important condition to remember when considering a medical negligence case for cosmetic surgery is that the statutory limit for making a claim for damages is three years. This will either be taken from the date of the surgery itself, or - in cases where the negative effects of the surgery were not immediately obvious - from the point at which any health concerns ought to have been linked back to the operation.

This means that court proceedings must be commenced by issuing a claim form within the three-year time limit, otherwise it may not be possible to obtain compensation.

It is also worth noting that the three-year statutory limit applies specifically to cases in the UK - if you received the surgery overseas, different limitations and legal timescales may apply.

What rules apply for those under the age of 18?

For individuals under the age of 18, or who have only recently turned 18, the rules are somewhat different. If the patient in question was under the age of 18 at the time of the procedure, the three-year time limit on filing a claim begins from the day they turn 18, meaning their 21st birthday can effectively be treated as a cutoff point.

In these cases, the young person in question will require a parent or close relative to bring a claim on their behalf. Clinical negligence lawsuits filed on behalf of patients under 18 are relatively uncommon, but for those in this situation, it is worth making yourself aware of the different rules in place.

What other exceptions exist?

Although the three-year limit is generally applied consistently across all fields of medical negligence, there are a few other exceptional circumstances that can affect the date on which this time limit begins.

For example, in cases where the injured party is deemed to lack mental capacity to understand or bring a claim prior to or on the date they were injured, the three-year time limit will not begin until they regain capacity. If they never regain full mental capacity, then the time limit is waived, and a relative can bring a claim at any time.

Meanwhile, in the extreme cases where the negligence victim dies as a result of clinical negligence, the three-year limit commences on the date of the person’s death, or the date at which it was determined that the fatality was caused by the surgery - whichever is later.

What happens if I miss the time limit?

If you allow the three-year time limit to elapse without lodging a medical negligence claim against the cosmetic practitioner in question, you run a real risk of missing out on compensation entirely.

Although there is no rule in place preventing you from bringing a claim anyway, the court may not allow it, or the defendant may apply to have the claim dismissed due to the expiry of the limitation period. There may be cases in which the courts accept your case even when the time limit has been passed, but this is at the court’s discretion - underlining why it is so important to get your claim in on time.

If you’ve been affected by medical negligence that caused your cosmetic surgery to go wrong, don’t delay getting in touch with the team at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors to see if you have a case for compensation. Call us on 0808 252 7177, or request a call back by completing our contact form.

Alternatively, if you’ve not yet undergone surgery and want to know more about how to do so with confidence, check out our expert guide on how to find a safe cosmetic surgeon in the UK.

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Mike Saul


Michael Saul is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, where he brings his extensive specialist legal expertise and passion for helping people to the forefront of his work. With a proven track record of success in cosmetic surgery negligence cases, Michael has dedicated his career to providing clients with the highest level of representation and achieving favourable outcomes.

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