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Tick Tock: Measuring Limitation Periods for Personal Injury Cases in Ontario

How long do I have to sue for my personal injury case? How long can I wait? Can I afford to wait much longer? When should I retain a lawyer? When does time start to run after my accident? What happens if I’m under 18 and I’ve been involved in a car accident? What happens if I wait too long to sue?

These are all common questions which we receive at our law firm. It doesn’t matter if the caller is from Toronto, London, Peterborough or elsewhere in Ontario; all of these questions are valid and fair. Most people don’t understand much from the world of personal injury law and insurance law; let alone the complicated laws which have to deal with limtation periods.

In this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog post, I will do my very best to de-mystify some of the most common misconceptions when it comes to limitation periods and deadlines for accident claims in Ontario. After reading this post, if you still have some more questions about limitation periods, then call our office toll free at 1-877-730-1777 or shoot us an email to and we will do our very best to help you.

When should I consult a lawyer?

Right away! As soon as you’ve been in an accident and after you’ve recieved proper medical care, it’s best to consult with a lawyer. Why? Evidence needs to be preserved. Insurance companies will send agents to take statements from you sooner than you think and you don’t want to end up being taken advantage of by some adjuster. Lawyers will be able to provide you and your family with the guidance and the peace of mind that you need during the tough times following a serious accident. From a practical standpoint, the longer you put off consulting with a lawyer, the longer you will go without one and you may never get to it until it’s too late.

Speaking of late, that brings us to our next commonly asked question about limitation periods:

How long do I have to sue following an accident?

That all depends on the nature of your case, along with your age at the time of the accident.

As a general rule of thumb, you will have two years from the DATE OF YOUR ACCIDENT to sue.

Example: You were involved in a car accient at 12:04AM on June 14, 2011. That means that you will have to issue your claim in Court by no later than June 14, 2013 in order to preserve your limitation period.

Sounds simple, right?

Not so simple. Things can get complicated. You need to name all of the proper parties to the claim within the limitation period. This means that you want to name all of the wrongdoers as Defendants to your claim within that two year timeframe. Failure to do so will result in a big headache for you along with your lawyer. Adding a party to your claim is NOT an easy process. Every Defendant I’ve come across when sought to be added beyond the two year limitation period has oppposed their addtion as a party to the claim. The result is that a Judge might refuse to add that party to the claim (which is NOT automatic), or cost sanctions might apply to the Plaintiff for their lack of due dilligence. In addition, even after the Defendant is added, they might bring a motion for summary judgment to have the Plaintiff’s claim dismissed on account of a lapsed limitation period. This would make it really difficult for an accident victim to get the results which they deserved following a serious accident.

Sometimes, courts permit the addition of Defendant to an already issued claim after the expiry of a limitation period. You commonly see this in medical malpractice cases, or in cases where the identity of the Defendant sought to be added could not reasonably been known by a Defendant.

Did you know that the OPP has a draconian practice of redacting their accident reports completely to shelter to identity and any other identifying characteristics of an at-fault driver? Seriously. This makes is difficult, if not impossible for an innocent accident victim to ascertain to indentity of a wrong doer without their lawyer asking for the Court’s permission to release a copy of the complete un-redacted police file. Here is a commentary on this issue from the Advocates’ Society Personal Injury and Insurance Blog. It’s a good read. Thanks to the Ontario Trial Lawyers’s Association, this practice is supposed to be changing, but I have yet to see much of a change.

What happens if I wait too long to sue?news_logo2525.jpg

Evidence doesn’t get perserved. I can get lost. Witnesses fall off the face of the earth or forget things. Medical records get destroyed. Surveillance gets destroyed. And the worst thing of all is that you can wait so long to sue that you miss out on your limitation period and your case is already defeated before it even has a chance to get off the ground. Talk about a bad case. We never like it when people call our office with seemingly strong cases, only to find out that their case will be lost on account of a lapsed limitation period because the client waited too long to reach out to a lawyer. Delivering bad news about expired limitation periods to prospective clients who want to start the process very late is never easy.

Why do limitation periods exist?

I want you, the reader to know that I don’t make the laws, I just follow them. Somebody thought long ago it would be a good idea to have a Statue to Limitations of causes of action so that we don’t live our whole lives in fear of getting sued for something which may or may not have happened years and years and years ago. That makes sense.

The addage: “you snooze you lose” certainly applies to limitation periods.

*It’s important for people to know that different cases have different limitation periods. You have 1 year to sue for a fire loss claim. You have to give a Municipality 10 days written Notice of their negligence when you want to sue them. You have to give the Crown 30 days written notice if you want to sue them. You have to submit an Application for Accident Benefits within 30 days of your car crash. Limitation periods for sexual assault claims are completely different then the standard 2 year limitation period. Limitation periods for minors under the age of 18 only begin to run after the minor has turned 18. So many limitation periods, so little time. As every case, every person and every set of circumstances is unique, so are limitation periods.

It’s best to contact a lawyer right away if you suspect that you’re running up against an expiring limitation period. My best legal advice is NOT to let it sit around. It’s your life, and there’s only so much a lawyer can do to make the best of the facts in your case. Your lawyer won’t be able to turn back time, but they can make the best of your situation should you reach out to them promptly.

Now on to Toronto’s baseball team. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they just cursed? I thought this team was supposed to be a winner. I’m seeing far too many losses from this team and I’m getting impatient. I can no longer cheer for Toronto’s soccer team. Toronto’s baskeball team is a joke aswell. Is there any Toronto team I can cheer for? I don’t think so. I willl just have to continue supporting the London Knights & Peterborough Petes. At least they know what it takes to compete at a high level.

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