Personal injury lawsuits in Ontario are subject to time limitations under the province’s Limitations Act, 2002, which dictates that civil action, in most cases, must be filed within two years of the date of loss or injury. Why does this rule exist? Are there exceptions? And what advice do personal injury lawyers provide regarding the statute of limitations for personal injury claims?
The reason for a statute of limitations
The two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims exists primarily to protect defendants. Although personal injury lawyers and other legal experts may dispute the appropriateness of the two-year period, they generally agree that a significantly longer time limitation would put defendants at risk. A 10 or 20 years limitation would increase the likelihood of witnesses passing away, becoming inaccessible, or misremembering their testimony, and of evidence being lost.
The two-year limitation set out on the Limitations Act is presumed to give both plaintiffs and defendants ample time to contact lawyers, perform research, gather evidence, and file all necessary paperwork.
Exceptions to the two-year period
The two-year limitation period for filing personal injury claims is by no means set in stone. For instance, an individual may not realize the extent of their injuries until six months or a year after their accident. In this scenario, the two-year clock may start at the time that the plaintiff becomes aware of their injury, or aware that their injury was serious enough to pursue a claim.
Individuals who are mentally incapable of initiating a claim in the two years following their accident are exempt from the statute of limitations, as are minors, for whom the two-year period starts when they turn 18.
Personal injury lawyers advise initiating claims as soon as possible
Two years may sound like plenty of time to get your claim started, but personal injury cases can be complex, time-consuming affairs, and it is important to initiate your personal injury claim as soon as possible following your accident.
There are a variety of reasons why you should act quickly after being injured. First, your personal injury lawyers will want to preserve as much evidence as possible to support your claim, a task best performed in the immediate aftermath of your accident. Second, your lawyer will need time to collect information about your accident, conduct interviews with witnesses, and file all the necessary documents to the court. If you wait too long after you are injured to initiate legal action, your lawyer is likely to be constrained by the period of limitations, and may be forced into a rushed job.