People often ask me about how long do they have to sue. So, today I’m going to tell you about how long you have to sue for a personal injury in Ontario so you have the information you need to protect your rights.
It’s not common knowledge. Your friend of family member has been seriously hurt in an accident. A law suit is the last thing you are thinking about. You are more concerned about your injured friend or family member. You sit in the hospital and you wait for the next update from the doctors or nurses. It is such an emotional time.The law and suing or contacting a personal injury lawyer never crosses your mind.
I don’t blame you.
At the same time, people may be recommending that you contact a personal injury lawyer. Social workers or discharge planners or even doctors may be telling you that you should call a personal injury lawyer. You have to be careful if they are recommending a particular personal injury law firm as opposed to interviewing more than one.
But contacting a personal injury lawyer is one of the few things that you can do early on that can help an injured friend or loved on. This is because you only have a limited time to sue in Ontario and a host of other reasons.
Let me explain how the system works and why it is so important.
The Basic Limitation Period – How Long to Sue
The basic limitation period in Ontario for sue following a personal injury is 2 years. This means that you have two years from the date of the incident to file Court papers suing the at fault parties
The limitation period is longer for children and young people under 18 years old if they are not represented by a litigation guardian.
Likewise, the limitation period can be longer for people who don’t have physical, mental or psychological capacity to make a claim.
Why You Should Call A Personal Injury Lawyer Early?
I’ll tell you a quick story before you begin to think that you have lots of time to sue. A personal injury lawyer colleague of mine had a person show up at his office on the two year anniversary of their accident. You see the person had learned about the two year limitation period and figured that they could show up on the limitation period and everything would be okay.
Please don’t do this.
Let me explain why.
It Takes Time To Research The Case and Prepare the Documents
Lawyers need the police records and hospital records to prepare the documents they need to file with the Court before the two year mark. So showing up on two years to the day to your accident is a mistake.
There are three additional reasons to call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
Short Notice Periods
First, there are Notice periods as short as 10 days following an accident that you have to follow when suing municipalities or the government. You may not even know that a municipality may be responsible for your injuries. If you wait to call a lawyer, you may be prejudicing your rights.
While not the same as limitation periods missing notice periods can affect your rights.
Investigations Should Be Done Early
Second, because personal injury lawyers will want to do their own investigations in many cases . Police have other considerations in mind when they are investigating an incident. So often times personal injury lawyers will want to perform their own investigations. This includes:
- Interviewing witnesses while their memories are fresh;
- Photograph the scene of the incident;
- Photograph any vehicles involved before they are destroyed;
- Download any data from the Event Data Recorder or so called “black boxes” in vehicles that show the speeds that vehicles were travelling before the crash.
If you wait too long following a crash, much of this evidence may not be available.
Delay in Resolving Your Claims
The third reason for contacting a lawyer long before the limitation period, is because personal injury law suits can take a long time to resolve through settlement or trial. A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision has caused Courts to shift their resources to prosecuting criminal cases.
This means it is now taking longer to resolve personal injury cases because the resources of the Court are shifted over to criminal cases.
The Court delays translate it taking longer to recover compensation that can replace your wages or pay for rehabilitation.
So there you have it. The basic limitation period to sue for personal injuries in Ontario is two years with special rules for people 18 or younger and people without legal capacity. I know it sounds self-serving but the best advice is to contact a good personal injury lawyer sooner rather than later.
Author: Bill Teggart
Bill Teggart is a leading Ontario personal injury lawyer and has been included in Best Lawyers in Canada for five consecutive years. He represents people who have suffered severe injuries or lost a loved one in car accidents, snowmobile accidents and boating accidents.