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What You Need to Know About Statutes of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

Being injured in a car accident is an extremely traumatic experience. Immediately after the accident, you are coping with pain and stressed about missed work and lost wages. The last thing on your mind is personal injury limitation periods.

Nevertheless, the time limits on car accident claims are very important. You must bring a lawsuit against a negligent driver within a set period of time. There are also different deadlines that apply to your claim for accident benefits. If you wait too long and miss any of these deadlines, it can be fatal to your right to receive compensation for your injuries.

Here is what you need to know about the limitation periods and deadlines that apply to personal injury claims. If you want to know more or want to discuss the unique circumstances of your case, get in touch with an experienced car accident lawyer at our firm today.

personal injury law in ontario

Basic Limitation Period In Personal Injury Cases

Each province has its own law that sets out time limits for bringing personal injury lawsuits. If you are injured in an accident in Ontario, the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 24, Sched. B applies.

Section 4 of the Limitations Act states that the usual limitation period for most accidents is two (2) years from the date of the accident. That means you must bring your lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries within two years. If you don’t, the right to sue to recover compensation may be lost.

Exceptions To The Basic Two-Year Limitation Period

The two-year limitation period is strictly enforced, and missing it is usually fatal to your right to sue an at-fault party. That being said, there are a few specific situations where the two-year limitation period does not apply:

  • If the injured person is a child, the two-year limitation period does not start to run until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in Ontario. A litigation guardian can start a lawsuit on the child’s behalf while the child is still a minor.

  • The deadline is much shorter when the lawsuit is against a city or town (e.g., for negligent maintenance of a sidewalk). Written notice of the personal injury claim must be given to the municipality within 10 days of the accident.

  • The “discoverability rule” may apply to postpone the start of the limitation period. The essence of the discoverability rule is that the limitation period does not start to run until the injured person knows or ought to have known that they sustained a permanent serious impairment. So, for example, if you undergo an MRI years after a car accident and only then find out you will have a lifelong problem caused by the accident, you can bring a lawsuit within two years of learning the test results or receiving the diagnosis from the doctor.

Other Deadlines To Be Aware Of

Even though the basic rule is that you have two years from the date of the accident to start a lawsuit, you are required to provide written notice to the at-fault driver of your intention to pursue a lawsuit within 120 days (three months) of the accident. It can negatively impact your civil lawsuit if you fail to give written notice to the at-fault driver within that time period.

There are other time limits that apply to a claim under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits. In Ontario, you are entitled to accident benefits through your automobile insurance policy, regardless of fault for the accident. Accident benefits cover out-of-pocket expenses, including ambulance fees, housekeeping, childcare, medication, and treatment/rehab of injuries. Here are the deadlines to be aware of:

  • You have seven (7) days from the date of the accident to notify the Accident Benefits insurer of the car accident. This opens your accident benefits claim.

  • You then must submit an Accident Benefits Application Package to the insurer within thirty (30) days of the date of the accident to ensure payment of compensation.

A Note Time Limits for Statutory Accident Benefits Claims Under Bill 164

Given the discussion so far of the relatively tight deadlines for making claims, it may surprise you to learn that Ontario insurers are still handling Statutory Accident Benefits (“SABS”) claims from the 1990s. For example, if you were injured in a car accident that occurred between January 1, 1994, and October 31, 1996, Bill 164 applies to your SABS claim. Medical and rehabilitation benefits are not time-limited under Bill 164 as they are under the current SABS legislation. That means benefits under Bill 164 can be claimed indefinitely.

Open Bill 164 claims that have not yet been settled may be worth a substantial amount today, especially if you or your loved one was catastrophically injured. It may be in your best interests to cash out available automobile accident benefits (i.e., agree to accept a lump sum payment from the insurer in full and final settlement of your statutory benefits claim arising from the accident).

Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sault Ste. Marie

We very strongly recommend that an injured person contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. There are so many limitation periods and deadlines that apply. Delay can greatly jeopardize—and sometimes completely eliminate—the right to bring a claim for compensation.

The legal team at Feifel Gualazzi can assist you if you or a loved one has been injured. We specialize in personal injury claims and provide personalized support so that you receive the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us immediately at our Sault Ste. Marie office for a free consultation to see whether you have a case and ensure deadlines are met. We provide our services to residents in the entire surrounding district of Algoma.


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