For proper functioning and fairness in the legal system, the Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations in Ontario is a key component.
There’s a reason you should consult your attorney as soon as you think you may have a legal claim. Failure to do so could mean you lose the chance to file a civil case altogether.
When it comes to personal injury claims in Ontario, there are several different time limits that apply. These are largely dependent on the type of claim, the age of the claimant and the entity you are suing.
If you have been the victim of a car accident, medical malpractice, or any other personal injury, the Statute of Limitations Act will apply to your case, and you need to seek legal advice.
Below, we take a look at some of the basics you need to know when it comes to the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Ontario, Canada.
Ontario’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
The Limitations Act is an important part of the law in Ontario. Essentially, it puts a time limit on when a Plaintiff can bring a claim before the court. There are different time limits depending on the claim and who the defendant is. For example, a different time limit applies to a government agency compared to an individual person.
The basic limitation period established by the Limitations Act is a period of two years from the date of the loss. This time period applies to all personal injury claims, whether it be a dog bite, slip and fall, car accident, or medical malpractice.
The basic limitation period kicks in on the day of the loss and runs for 24 consecutive months thereafter. Once this time lapses, if your claim has not been issued in court, you will no longer be able to claim for damages.
So, once you have sustained a personal injury, you need to act fast and start working to build your claim. This means that during this time, you need to gather all your evidence, like medical records, expert reports, and video footage, to compile your claim.
To avoid your claim lapsing, you need only institute the claim. Once you have done so, the time period will stop. The two-year limitation period does not mean your claim has to be finalized within this time limit, only that it be instituted.
Why the Statute of Limitations Exists
The Ontario Limitations Act exists to ensure fairness in the justice system for both the claimant and the defendant.
Applying a limitation period of two years reduces the risk of the claimant losing important evidence. This ultimately ensures that the injured person gets the best possible chance to prove and win their case.
If no limitation period existed, important evidence like video footage or medical records may be destroyed. This would be detrimental to a claimant’s entire case.
Limitation periods in Ontario also ensure fairness for the defendant. This is because the defendant has the reassurance that any personal injury claim against them must be brought within two years from the date of the accident.
Without the Act, the defendant would live in fear, not knowing if, over the course of their life, someone they unintentionally harmed in an accident may decide to institute a personal injury lawsuit against them. As a result, the Ontario Limitations Act provides peace of mind to the defendant.
Personal Injury Claims Have a Time Limit
All personal injury claims have a time limit. It doesn’t matter whether the injury results from an act or omission. While there is usually a two-year deadline, this may differ based on a number of factors. For example, the type of personal injury and the parties involved.
So, it’s best to reach out to your personal injury lawyer as soon as you suffer any harm or loss so that they may explain all the different time periods.
Some personal injury cases have several time limitation periods within the litigation process.
Other Important Time Limits
When it comes to civil cases relating to auto accidents there are additional details applicable over and above the two-year statute period.
The first time period applies to accident benefits. From the date of the accident, the claimant has seven days to inform their accident benefits insurance company of the car accident.
The second time period relates to the claimant’s accident benefits application. It’s important that the claimant files this within thirty days from the date of the accident to ensure payment of compensation.
The third and one of the most important time periods relates to written notice. Compliance with this period is essential in Ontario law, and failure to do so may have a negative impact on your civil lawsuit. From the date of the accident, the injured party must, within 120 days (three months) provide written notice to the at-fault driver of their intention to institute a civil lawsuit.
The next period relates to the damage to the vehicle. In this instance, the claimant has one year to file a lawsuit for vehicle damage. Failure to do so means the claimant will no longer have a right to claim compensation for damages to the vehicle.
The last time period which requires strict compliance is the two-year period to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is the limitation period and requires strict compliance. If the complainant does not file their personal injury claim within two years, Ontario personal injury law states that the claimant will no longer have the chance to do so, and the claim will be said to have lapsed.
Accidents Involving the Government
When it comes to legal action resulting from car accidents or any other accident involving the government, there are important time periods and procedures to follow.
If your injuries are the result of an omission on part of a governmental employee, you will need to file your claim for compensation against the appropriate government agency.
The processes and procedures will differ based on whether the serious injury was caused by a member of the municipal or provincial government.
Over and above the two years set out in the personal injury statutes of limitations in Ontario, there are further time limitation periods to be aware of.
In terms of claims against a Municipal government, the Municipal Act 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 section 44(10) states that the claimant must provide notice to the appropriate municipality within 10 days of the date of the accident. For example, if you slip and fall on a sidewalk, you must give the municipality responsible for maintaining the side walk written notice of the claim within 10 days of the incident.
Your lawyer can assist with compiling the notice, which should include the following:
- Date of the accident
- Location of the accident
- Injuries sustained
- Any other additional information
It’s important to note that filing the notice of your claim does not start your lawsuit. The period of two years from the date of the incident will still apply and a claim must be issued or the limitation will be missed. .
When it comes to medical malpractice claims, the limitation period to file a civil lawsuit remains two years from the date of the incident.
However, the time limit for medical malpractice victims can differ from that of accident victims.
There is some leeway in that the two-year period may apply from the date you become aware of your injuries or from the date a reasonable person would have discovered their injuries and not only from the date of the incident.
Are There Any Exceptions To The Statute Of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims In Ontario
While most limitation periods are set in stone, there are some exceptions. The first exception relates to when the injury victims are minors (under the age of 18) and are not represented by a litigation guardian; the limitation will not start to run until the minor reached the age of 18.
Another instance in which exceptions could be made is when injury victims are mentally unable to file their claim due to a physical or psychological condition, and they are not represented by a litigation guardian.
Other exceptions relate to sexual assault victims and the ultimate limitation period. Over and above the two years, the Limitations Act provides for the ultimate limitation period of 15 years from the date of injury. This applies regardless of whether the victim is aware of their injuries.
How To Avoid Going Over The Statute Of Limitations
The best way to avoid going over the Statute of Limitation period is to hire a lawyer as soon as possible.
Experienced personal injury lawyers know exactly what you need to include to ensure a successful personal injury claim. They will assist you with:
- Use all appropriate means to gather the relevant evidence
- Submitting the necessary notices and applications
Issuing your lawsuit in court in line with all the important time periods, procedures, and processes
What if you missed the Limitation Period for your claim?
While it is always the best practice to bring your claim before the limitation period may have expired, there are times when it can be argued that the limitation period did not start to run on the day of the accident and should only start when you discovered you had a compensable injury from the accident. This is known as the discoverability defense. Even if you think you may have missed a limitation to bring a claim, it is worth consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether there may be a discoverability argument to extend your limitation and allow you to bring you to claim.
Sustaining a personal injury is a traumatic and stressful life event. So, why have the added stress of missing your claim deadline? Contact us today for a free consultation. At Fosters Law, our personal injury lawyers will guide you through the claims process and ensure your rights are protected.