Time Limits in Personal Injury Law

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.

For more information about accident benefits representation, click here.

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.

Can social media affect the outcome of my personal injury case?

For better or for worse, social media has become a fulcrum of modern society, a daily reality that influences relationships, politics, and even personal injury lawsuits. Ontario’s court system has gradually come to acknowledge the critical role social media plays in Canadian life and is slowly moving toward a standard test for social media production, according to a November article by Michael McKiernan for Law Times.

McKiernan’s article examines a recent decision by Ontario Superior Court Master Donald Short in Isacov v. Schwartzberg, in which ex-professional ballroom dancer Maya Isacov sought $1-million in general damages and $2-million in special damages after the defendant’s vehicle ran over her foot. The accident prevented her from re-launching her career, prevented her from running, and prevented her from wearing high heels, she states. A psychologist added that the plaintiff had lost interest in going out with friends.

In the days leading up to the trial, a private investigator hired by the defendant unearthed social media posts showing Isacov socializing and standing in heels. The plaintiff’s lawyers asserted that the evidence should not be produced at such a late date, but Short disagreed.

“I am satisfied that in the present technological environment there is a need to include Facebook and similar on line data relevant to matters in issue in personal injury litigation in the appropriate schedules of each party’s Affidavit of Documents,” he wrote, later adding that the defendant’s failure to seek the documentation “added expenses to both sides that could have been avoided if appropriate questions were asked at the discovery of the plaintiff or prior to the mediation.”

In other words, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is compelled to submit all relevant social media content during discovery, and defendants are responsible to seek it. Questions on what qualifies as ‘relevant’ content remain to be resolved.

“The courts are moving toward articulating some kind of test for social media production, but there still isn’t a great deal of consistency in the factors considered or how they are weighted,” Maia Bent, former President of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA), told McKiernan.

The plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit must be aware that defence-side lawyers will seek any evidence to discount their claims for compensation, and so should exercise the utmost caution when posting content to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media platform.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how we can help. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will provide guidance and advice throughout the personal injury lawsuit process, including regarding social media activity.

Liability waivers and the personal injury lawsuit

Liability waivers are often a point of dispute in legal circles. In some cases, businesses may use waivers to shield themselves from the consequences of neglecting their duty of care. For instance, this blog recently looked at Woodhouse v. Snow Valley Resorts, a personal injury lawsuit in which Elizabeth Woodhouse sought compensation for injuries sustained at the resort, despite having signed a waiver. Ontario Superior Court Justice J.R. McCarthy decided in the plaintiff’s favour, thus ensuring that injured individuals are able to pursue compensation against negligent suppliers.

Today, we’ll look at a similar case with a different result in British Columbia, where a personal injury lawsuit deriving from a mountain biking accident has been resolved in favour of the waiver issuer.

In 2009, Blake Jamieson was injured while attempting to jump down a rock face on Whistler Mountain Resort’s A-Line trail. His rear wheel clipped the edge of the rock, and Jamieson was propelled over the front of the handlebars. He landed on the trail below and was paralyzed from his waist down.

Jamieson’s personal injury lawsuit argued that Whistler Mountain Resort did not adequately warn him of the dangers of mountain biking when he signed a waiver for a season pass. In particular, he stated that he was unaware that he could suffer a spinal injury by falling over the front bars of his bike.

The resort responded that ‘Jamieson had worked as both a volunteer trail builder and patroller at the bike park for three seasons and had already completed two years training to be a medical doctor at UBC prior to the accident,’ reports the CBC. ‘The resort’s legal team produced accident reports signed by Jamieson showing he had provided first aid at six accidents in the park involving either head or spinal cord injuries.’

Jamieson stated that his time working at the park had in no way informed him of its potential dangers. The presiding judge, Madame Justice Neena Sharma, found his statement unreliable.

“I find any reasonable person who can read English, faced with the [waiver], would understand that the risks of using the park are very serious,” Sharma said in her decision. “In my view, the release is comprehensive, clear and blunt.”

Justice Sharma also pointed out that staff and signage around the park provided clear and consistent reminders of the dangers that riders faced.

Blake Jamieson’s lawyers have since stated that the use of legal waivers “removes the legal incentive [for companies] to protect their customers,” according to the CBC. This is a valid concern: individuals should not be stripped of their fundamental rights simply for signing a waiver. However, responsible organizations should be protected from undue legal action when they provide appropriate protection to their clients.

If you have suffered an injury after signing a legal waiver, you may still be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Contact the team at Will Davidson LLP today to find out how our experienced personal injury lawyers can help you access compensation for your injuries.

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