Race Against Time: When Should I Claim for Personal Injury?
If you have suffered an injury in an accident, it is of vital importance that you don’t lose track of time. Granted, you may have just suffered a serious injury, and you’ll likely need plenty of rest to fully recover. However, the law requires that if you’re going to pursue legal action — if you intend to sue for damages — that you do so within certain time limits.
Keeping track of all these deadlines can be confusing. To help you out, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to personal injury lawsuit time limits — or limitation periods. It’s important to be familiar with all the limitations that apply to your case. These time frames can be very strict, and if you miss one you could lose out on your chance to be compensated for your injury. Some limitations are soft and can be worked around while others are hard deadlines and can missing one is fatal to your claim.
Most limitation periods are based on discoverability. An action is discoverable when a plaintiff could reasonably determine that there is a potential for a law suit.
Limitations can vary depending on the kind of accident you’ve had — automobile collision, slip and fall accident, etc. — as well as several other parameters that we’ll discuss below. If you’re thinking about pursuing legal action because of an injury you or a loved one have sustained, review these limitations first to make sure it’s not too late to get the justice you deserve.
Common statutes of limitations in Ontario personal injury law
The general guideline is two years. According to the Ontario Limitations Act , you have two years from the date of the original accident to file a personal injury suit. But this doesn’t mean that you have two years to make up your mind as to whether or not you will sue. There are also other deadlines to consider depending on the details of your case.
First, let’s look at what you need to know about limitations if you were injured in a car accident.
Limitations in auto accidents
If your injury is because of a car accident, there are several time limits to keep in mind, from as little as seven days to a maximum of two years.
Notifying your auto insurance company — seven days
Before you even consider filing a personal injury lawsuit because of a car accident, you have to first tell your insurance company there has been an accident. Any medical expenses related to your accident that are not covered by OHIP will be claimed under your automobile policy’s accident benefits coverage, but only if you make the effort to notify them within a week of the accident.
Applying for accident benefits — 30 days
Once you’ve notified your insurer, you have 30 days from the date of the accident to submit your claim for accident benefits. If your injuries are severe and you think you will require more than this to help with your recovery, it’s probably a good idea to have a lawyer at least review your case before you submit this claim.
Notifying at-fault driver of intent to sue — 120 days
After a couple months of treatment, you should have a clear idea as to the severity of your injury. By this point, you should know whether you have legitimate cause to sue the other driver. For this reason, you have 120 days to give the at-fault party written notice of your intent to sue. This limitation gives you plenty of time to properly evaluate the extent of your injuries while still giving the other driver enough time to mount a defense.
Suing for personal injury —two years
If you intend to sue for personal injury because of the accident, you have the standard two-year limitation from the date of the accident before you must file suit.
Limitations in other personal injury cases
Of course, people get injured doing a variety of activities that have nothing to do with car accidents. Or they get involved in car accidents with extenuating circumstances that also need to be addressed. And each one of these cases will have its own unique set of limitations to take into consideration, as well.
Limitations in cases where the government is involved
If your injury is the result of negligence on behalf of a government agency —whether local, provincial, or federal — or a government employee, your lawsuit may also involve the appropriate agency. And if that is the case, there are several other deadlines to consider.
Municipal claims — 10 days
If your injury was sustained on municipal property (a building or land belonging to your town or city), you only have 10 days to file suit against the government agency responsible for that property pursuant to the Municipal Act , c. 25 Section 44(10). Keep in mind, this is not a simple notice of intent, so you have to get the wheels in motion on this kind of case as soon as possible.
Provincial claims — 10 days
If you believe the Province of Ontario is responsible for your injury in any way, you have 10 days to submit written notice of your intent to file suit. The province is responsible for the upkeep of Ontario’s major highways, including the 400 series, and could be a major player in any case where the injury was sustained on a highway.
When you submit notice, include details about time, date, and place of the accident, including any additional details you deem relevant. In this case, notification of intent does not include the actual filing of the lawsuit. You still have the standard two years from the date of the accident to take care of that.
Common personal injury claims against government agencies
The most common injury claims against governments usually involve:
- Poor maintenance of property, including roads and sidewalks
- Government-operated vehicles (streetcars, trains, etc.)
- Icy surfaces
Limitations when the accident is fatal
If you intend to sue an at-fault third party for the wrongful death of a loved one, the standard two-year limitation applies. However, the time limit is defined as two years from the date of death, regardless of how long after the original accident it is.
Limitations if the injured party is under the age of 18
Certain exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations have to do with underage minors. These include matters where the injured party is under 18 and does not have a litigation guardian — a legal guardian or lawyer acting under a power of attorney who looks out for the minor’s best legal interests.
Cases involving injured minors can be further compounded when the victim has difficulty filing their claim due to their physical, mental, or psychological condition. The Limitations Act has provisions built in to accommodate for the nuances of such cases, but it is advisable that you consult a lawyer as early as possible to make sure the minor’s best interests are well represented.
Know your limitation periods
While time management is an important life-skill to have in most situations, it can be absolutely crucial in making sure you get the compensation you deserve if you’re injured in an accident. While the two-year statute of limitations applies to many aspects of personal injury law, it can by no means be looked upon as a simple rule of thumb. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, some deadlines can come up much sooner than others — sometimes in as little as seven to 10 days. And if you miss one of these deadlines, it could possibly interfere with your entire case.
That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can if you feel you deserve to be compensated by a third party for any injuries you’ve received in an accident.
Contact Mackesy Smye today if you or a loved one has been injured
Personal injury law is all about making sure you get the compensation you deserve if another party has wrongfully injured you. But the legal process — including the statutes of limitations by which you have to submit written notice of intent to file suit or actually file your lawsuit — can sometimes be complicated. That’s why you need a dedicated team of knowledgeable professionals in your corner backing you up.
Click the link below today for a free, zero-obligation consultation with Mackesy Smye regarding your case.