When Is It Too Late To Sue? Limitation Periods in Ontario
In Canada, it is never too late to report a crime. In Ontario civil cases, however, the law is quite different, and varies slightly across the country. If you have suffered a loss or injury and are considering legal action, it is important to consult with a lawyer to gain a detailed understanding of how the limitation rules apply to your unique situation. That being said, all private citizens can benefit from understanding the general rules for their province.
The 2-Year Limitation Period
Here in Ontario, the Limitations Act has established a basic limitation period of two years. You have exactly two years, starting from the day you suffered the loss, injury, or damage, or the day you became aware the injury or loss occurred to file a claim.
In many cases, such as a claim involving an accident causing personal injury, this date is easy to identify. In cases involving unpaid personal debts or damages that may take years to appear, such as a leak that can ultimately be traced back to a shoddy renovation, the beginning of the limitation period can be more difficult to establish and may ultimately be decided in court once the case is underway.
For example, if the courts determine that in the case of an unpaid debt, it should have taken less time for it to become clear to you that you would not be receiving any payment, the beginning of the limitation period could be moved back to an earlier date, possibly invalidating your case entirely.
The 15-Year Limitation Period
The Ontario Limitations Act also provides an ultimate limitation period of 15 years in civil cases. If your loss, damage, or injury was sustained over 15 years ago, it is simply not possible to file a claim, even if the case otherwise has merit.
Important Exceptions to these Limitation Periods
The statute of limitations is generally suspended in personal injury cases when the claimant is under the age of majority (18) on the date that the accident took place.
Another lesser-known exception to the rule involves claims filed against an Ontario municipality or the provincial government. If, for example, you are injured due to a slip and fall outside a city building, or your car is damaged due to a damaged highway, you are required to give notice of your potential claim within ten days before filing a claim within the basic two-year limitation period.
While it may be too late to sue, it is never too early to seek professional legal advice, nor is it necessary to suffer through a difficult situation alone. Please do not hesitate to book a consultation if you are considering a civil claim.