Most people are aware of the existence of something called a “statute of limitations”, but few understand the significance of these limitation periods to persons who have suffered injuries due to fault or neglect.
In Ontario, a provincial law called the “Limitations Act, 2002” determines most limitation periods. Generally, an injured person must commence a legal proceeding within two years of the date they knew or ought to have known that an injury, loss or damage has occurred. The question is, of course, when does an injured person gain this knowledge?
Consider some examples: If a victim suffers the immediate loss of her legs as a result of a car accident for which someone else was at fault, it is almost certain that the clock starts ticking on the limitation period immediately. However, many cases are not so clear. For example, what about the victim who thinks he has suffered only a mild bout of whiplash as a result of a car accident for which someone else was at fault – but who then goes on to require spinal surgery 18 months later? Those cases are much less clear-cut and usually require a more detailed analysis of the facts.
In addition, as a general rule, limitation periods do not apply to minors or persons who are not mentally capable of making their own decisions. In those instances, the limitation period will not begin to run until either the child reaches age 18, the incapable person regains capacity, or a special kind of legal guardian is appointed.
In the end, although limitation periods contain numerous exceptions, they can also act as a complete bar to recovery of damages by injured persons. As such, they must be taken very seriously. If you have any concerns about the applicability or possible expiry of a limitation period, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer immediately. At Oatley, Vigmond, we act exclusively for injured persons. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, we may be able to help.