personal injury lawsuit timeline

Personal Injury Lawsuits – Timing Is Everything

You know the old saying ‘time is money’? Well, in personal injury law, it’s more than just a saying.

Regardless of how you are hurt — a slip and fall on the sidewalk, a car accident, or an injury at someone else’s home, to name a few — there is a time limit within which you can sue under tort law for your personal injury.

After that limit, barring specific circumstances, you are out of luck. That time limit, according to the Ontario Statutes is two years.

“…a proceeding shall not be commenced in respect of a claim after the second anniversary of the day on which the claim was discovered.  2002, c. 24, Sched. B, s. 4.”

Why Is It Important That I Contact A Lawyer Right Away, Since I Have Two Years?

There are more factors to consider than the statute of limitations.

  1. Having a lawyer involved from the beginning ensures that you are getting the maximum benefits you are entitled to under the Statutory Accident Benefits legislation (for a car accident).
  2. Your potential claim is being properly followed and documented from the beginning (this one is critical.)
  3. Preparing a file for a lawsuit is a time consuming effort and is not something you want carelessly thrown together as the calendar ticks towards the two-year mark. Haste makes waste, increasing the chances of there being a costly error in your file, something that is overlooked in the race to get all the paperwork filed on time.
  4. This comes back to point 2, above, but it bears repeating: contacting a lawyer close to the deadline instead of right after the accident calls your credibility into question. Are you really that injured if you could live your life for two years without talking to anyone about it? Have you been having documented therapy? Have you been unable to work? Is there sufficient medical documentation to substantiate your claim?

What Are The Exceptions To The Two Year Statute Of Limitations?

They are few and far between but basically, they come down to these:

  1. If you were a minor at the time of the accident, the two-year limitation doesn’t begin to apply until you turn eighteen.
  2. If you didn’t know your injury met the threshold required (car accident claims). I’ll discuss this more, below…
  3. If you were mentally incapable of initiating the claim.

What Is A Threshold Injury?

First off, it’s important to note that an injury needing to meet a threshold test before litigation is possible is only a factor in car accident claims, in Ontario.

Whether or not you have a car or car insurance, if you are in a motor vehicle accident — for example, if you were a pedestrian with no car insurance of your own and you are hit by a car — you would be covered for certain expenses, income replacement benefits, treatment expenses (physio / rehabilitation). The question of whether you are able to also sue for other expenses, pain, and suffering comes down to whether your injury meets a threshold as defined by the Insurance Act.

Basically, the threshold is as follows:

  • You need to demonstrate that you have permanent injuries as a result of your accident;
  • You need to demonstrate that those injuries are serious.

Obviously, the definition of seriousness and how the injuries affect your life are up for debate, but ultimately, if you cannot continue your life as you did before the accident and your injuries are permanent, you might meet the threshold.

Example? A threshold injury might be someone who is in a wheelchair after the accident, for the rest of their lives. A person who sustains whiplash and returns to their normal activities after two months, would not meet the threshold.

The whole situation is slightly more complicated if the vehicle involved is not registered in Ontario and, in these cases, it’s very important to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately, to ensure that you have access to all the benefits you are entitled to.

Suing The City? You Need To Be Quick!

The City of Hamilton (and Toronto for that matter) has a requirement that a Notice of Claim (which is your intent to sue) must be filed within ten (10) days of an incident taking place on their property.

So if you slip and fall on city property, you have to file your claim IMMEDIATELY. This is definitely a situation where you need to contact a personal injury lawyer and get the ball rolling right away.

There are always exceptions to these types of legislation in every city, but nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of the overall law.

There are documented cases where people lost their cases all due to waiting past the deadline to file because they didn’t contact a lawyer and weren’t aware of the time limit. Other jurisdictions have similar limits and, at this point, the judgments are not favouring those who miss the deadlines.

My recommendation is that, if you are at all uncertain, check with a personal injury lawyer and do it quickly. Knowledge is power and, when you’ve been injured in an accident, time is of the essence. You won’t have to pay a lot of upfront fees as we work on a contingency basis (ie: we get paid when you do) but you could save yourself a lot of problems in the future.


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