TIME MATTERS: LIMITATION PERIODS FOR PERSONAL INJURY CASES
At our office, it is not uncommon to have prospective clients reach out to us and tell us they have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, only to find out that it happened many years ago. Had it been within the limitations period, they would have a strong claim. Unfortunately, while limitation periods fluctuate and are subject to many exceptions, sometimes there is just too much risk to pursue a statute-barred expired claim.
MY CLAIM IS A DECADE OLD: IS THIS A BAD THING?
When an injured victim with an older claim walks into our office, when questioned why they did not find a personal injury lawyer sooner, they often explain they had never heard of a limitation period or did not know they could sue at the time. They often simply did not think the passage of time made a difference. Unfortunately, it may mean all the difference. As a caveat, we don’t blame these people for not knowing; many people do not know this piece of the law.
No matter how dedicated and experienced a law firm may be, it cannot re-write the law when it comes to limitation periods. We may be able to use different principles to help, but we may not. The most prudent approach: speak to a lawyer immediately and discover whether or not you have a claim.
WHEN DOES A LIMITATION PERIOD START?
A limitation period typically begins at the time of loss, or in other words, on the date you have been injured. There are exceptions however, one notable exception being the discoverability principle.
WHAT IS THE DISCOVERABILITY PRINCIPLE?
It is not uncommon for a Plaintiff to rely upon what is known as the discoverability principle, particularly in motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). While the standard limitation period is two (2) years provided under section 4 of the Limitations Act, 2002, with few exceptions, courts have effectively held that the two year period did not begin to run until the Plaintiff had obtained an expert report which diagnosed a permanent condition which could surpass the threshold of a permanent serious impairment of which MVA claims are subject to (this is specific to MVAs). The principle of discoverability as outlined in section 5 of the Limitations Act, 2002, in some situations may delay the commencement of the two-year limitation period, its applicability has no guarantees and defense counsel will certainly hone in on this as a significant triable issue, and rightfully so, given the status of our law.
CONTACT A LAWYER AT THE OUTSET OF YOUR CLAIM
One of the first steps our law firm takes when retained by a client is to note the date of the accident in our limitation reminder system. There are other exceptions and we invite you to read the aforesaid Limitations Act, 2002, but we caution you to rely on any exceptions as the law seems to command claims to be issued in a timely fashion.
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