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Compensation claim scuppered by delay

PUBLISHED: 15:33 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:20 07 July 2010

A Norfolk road crash victim had his hopes of winning massive compensation blocked - because a crucial legal document was served just one day too late, judges heard yesterday.

A Norfolk road crash victim had his hopes of winning massive compensation blocked - because a crucial legal document was served just one day too late, judges heard yesterday.

Stephen Cain, 47, of Moatside, Feltwell, suffered dreadful injuries when his motorbike collided head-on with a car that pulled out into his path in August 2004.

Despite reconstructive surgery, Mr Cain remains badly disabled by his injuries and has never been able to return to work, London's Civil Appeal Court heard yesterday.

He looked certain to win six-figure compensation when motor insurers for the other driver involved in the smash admitted full liability, said his barrister, Richard Methuen QC.

But that was before a solicitor's “simple oversight” led to Mr Cain's claim form - the document that launches any compensation case - being served a single day after the expiry of the three-year time limit for personal injury claims.

In November last year, a county court judge refused to waive the “limitation period” and dismissed his damages claim. By that time, Mr Cain had received “interim” damages payments from the insurers, to pay for his rehabilitation and the care he needed.

But Mr Methuen told the court yesterday that, with his claim formally dismissed, the insurer was now seeking repayment of almost £90,000 from Mr Cain.

Refusing to “disapply” the limitation period last year, Judge Armitage said the time limit existed to promote “certainty” in litigation.

However, challenging that decision yesterday, Mr Methuen said there had only been a single day's delay, the other driver had been “wholly responsible” for the accident and it was a “clear case” in which Judge Armitage should have used his discretion to waive the limitation period.

The hearing continues but, given the widespread importance of the case to other similar claims, Sir Andrew Morritt, Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Maurice Kay are expected to reserve their decision until a later date.

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