One of the first pieces of advice that a personal injury lawyer offers potential clients is to act quickly. This isn’t done to pressure clients into legal action – it’s done because personal injury lawsuits in Ontario are subject to time limits, sometimes referred to as statutes of limitations, under the province’s Limitations Act. In the following article, we’ll explain how time limits affect personal injury claims, why they are in place, and their variations and exceptions.
Time Limits in Personal Injury Law
Ontario’s Limitations Act states that ‘Unless this Act provides otherwise, a proceeding shall not be commenced in respect of a claim after the second anniversary of the day on which the claim was discovered.’
In other words, people who have been injured by the error or negligence of another person generally have two years from the time of the accident to file a claim against an insurer or the at-fault party. This rule applies to anyone that suffers immediate serious injuries, such as spinal injuries, brain injuries, paralysis, etc.
In cases where the injury is discovered later than the date of the accident, the two-year limitation period starts from the moment of discovery. When the injury initially appears to be minor but deteriorates to the point where a lawsuit is warranted, the limitation period starts at the moment it becomes clear that legal action is necessary.
Why Are Time Limits in Place?
Ontario’s two-year limitation period is predominantly in place to protect defendants. Almost every personal injury lawyer agrees that limitation periods are necessary – claims filed decades after an accident would be plagued by insufficient evidence, unreliable testimony, and other challenges.
Some lawyers believe two years is insufficient, however. The number was chosen because it was presumed to give plaintiffs and defendants enough time to hire representation, and provide lawyers with leeway to perform research, gather evidence, file paperwork, and generally build a case. However, personal injury lawsuits can be extremely complex and time-consuming. Two years sounds like a long time, but it isn’t always enough.
Variations and Exceptions
The standard two-year limitation for filing a claim isn’t the only time limit affecting Ontario injury victims. For example, victims in motor vehicle accidents must notify their accident benefits insurer within seven days that an accident as occurred; they then have just 30 days to submit an accident benefits application.
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Motor vehicle accident victims also have just 120 days (three months) to notify the at-fault party or insurance provider that they intend to file a lawsuit. Doing so does not require you to pursue a claim.
Unique time limits also exist for claims against local and municipal governments. Claims against government agencies include those involving poorly maintained streets and sidewalks, icy or snowy surfaces on city property, injuries involving public transit or city maintenance vehicles, etc. In these cases, plaintiffs are required to provide written notice within 10 days of the accident. The notice must include the date, time and location of the accident, and other details.
Regarding the standard two-year limitation period, two important groups are largely exempted: minors, whose two-year limitation period begins when they turn 18, and individuals who are mentally incapable of initiating a claim.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
For more information about limitation periods in personal injury law, filing a personal injury claim, filing a claim for accident benefits, or any subject related to personal injury law, contact Will Davidson LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Will Davidson LLP’s personal injury team has represented seriously injured accident victims in Ontario for over 90 years. Our expertise ranges from motor vehicle accidents to medical malpractice claims to slip and fall injuries.
Will Davidson LLP is proud to offer legal representation on a contingency basis, meaning you will not be charged hourly fees for our services. Instead, our team will accept a pre-approved percentage of your settlement at the time that it is delivered. This arrangement is beneficial for two reasons: first, it ties our payment to the success of your case; we don’t get paid unless you receive compensation. Second, it allows financial flexibility during your recovery. Serious personal injuries can have lifechanging consequences. You may no longer be able to work and may need long-term medical care, rehabilitation, and home care. You may even need to explore home renovations or long-term care options. By foregoing upfront payment, we hope to reduce financial pressure and make it possible to access the resources you and your family need.
Call today to discuss your legal options and review the viability of your claim. Our team will provide the compassionate, committed support you need during this difficult period of your life.