Injured in a Car Accident — How Quickly do You Need to File Suit?

Car Accident Injury Statute Limitations

Posted In

Vehicle Accidents

If you’ve been hurt in an automobile accident, your injuries can be severe, even life-altering. This sudden onset of pain and suffering becomes the main focus of your life, and all you can think about is making it stop.

Focus and determination can be just what you need to make the most of your therapy and rehabilitation. But it can also distract you from the bigger picture at times. For instance, it could keep you from realizing that your injuries might be permanent. And as a result, the cost involved could be overwhelming.

So, while your primary concern should be your medical treatment, you also need to think about whether you can afford what could turn into a lifetime of out-of-pocket medical bills. You need to consider if you should pursue legal action against an at-fault party, which could be another driver or perhaps the government agency responsible for the upkeep of the road you were on.

However you decide to proceed, the important thing to remember is that justice has a schedule. If you intend to sue an at-fault party, or even to claim certain benefits from your insurer, certain steps need to be taken by very specific dates.

The statute of limitations

When judges and lawyers speak of a statute of limitations, they’re referring to a law that sets a “maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.” These statutes can vary in length, often due to the severity of the crime involved. In Canada, major crimes usually have no statute of limitations, meaning that murderers can be brought to justice no matter how long it takes the police to crack the case.

But car accidents and traffic safety usually fall under provincial jurisdiction. In Ontario, the time limits determining how quickly you need to begin legal proceedings are all spelled out in the Limitations Act, 2002.

Statutes listed in the Act apply to all provincial matters — from personal injury to breach of contract to libel. But today, we’re just going to look at how they apply to auto accidents.

Limitations as they pertain to personal injury from a car accident

When you have been injured in an auto accident, there are several cut-off dates you need to keep in mind. They are all important, as you only get one shot. Unlike teachers, judges aren’t likely to grant extensions in such matters, unless there are extenuating circumstances — see below.

Important deadlines in filing claims for personal injury in an automobile accident include:

Seven days

Within a week of the accident, you need to inform your auto insurance company about it. Since we’re talking about accidents that result in severe injuries, chances are a proper police report has been filed already that notified your insurer. But just in case, give them a call to make sure everyone is on the same page.

This is because initial payments for your health care expenses will come from the portion of your insurance policy called accident benefits. This is the no-fault coverage you go to first before you can sue a third party for liability.

Even if you don’t think you’ll need to claim for accident benefits, let alone third-party liability, it’s always best to be on the safe side. You could have a soft tissue injury, like whiplash, that can have a devastating impact even though it might take a while before you realize how serious it is.

30 days

Within a month, you’ll have to submit your claim for accident benefits to your insurer. If you’ve sought out adequate medical care, you should have a good idea of how much this will cost by this point.

120 days

This cut-off is the time by which you need to notify the other driver of your intent to sue. And if your accident benefits coverage won’t be enough to pay for your ongoing medical treatment, this is the next logical step.

Notification of intent to sue is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit, a distinction we’ll clarify below.

Two years

This is the big one. You have two years from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit for personal injury.

Why such a big gap?

Above, you can see there’s a fair bit of time between notifying the defendant of your intent to sue — 120 days — and the cut-off for actually filing suit — two years.

This gap, which could be as long as 20 months, benefits all parties involved, be they claimant (you) or defendant. It allows everyone ample opportunity to gather and verify facts. It gives everyone a chance to properly assess the situation and review the options available to them. And it affords both parties the time necessary to consult with lawyers and file all necessary documents.

The gap gets capped, though, to make sure the lawsuit is filed within a reasonable time period. Every delay in legal proceedings works against the ultimate goal of discovering the truth of the matter. Given enough time, memories fade, evidence gets mislaid, and witnesses move on or even die.

Extenuating circumstances

In order for the courts to consider granting an extension to the two-year statute of limitations, you have to prove that extraordinary conditions — known legally as extenuating circumstances — set this case apart.

For example, a judge may grant an extension if your injury took a while to manifest, as is sometimes the case. This could also apply in cases where the severity of the injury isn’t immediately apparent, and it takes some time before you realize how catastrophic it really is.

Exceptions are likely also to be granted if the injured party is a minor, in which case the two-year clock only starts ticking on their 18th birthday. Extensions are also common when the claimant lacks the mental capacity to initiate their claim on time.

When government agencies are involved

If you feel that a government agency might be responsible, even partially, for the injuries you sustained in the accident, you should contact a lawyer immediately. The timing involved in bringing a suit against the government is tighter than most would suspect.

For instance, while you have 120 days to notify a private citizen of your intent to sue, that drops to only 10 days if you intend to file suit against the provincial government. If you feel that improper maintenance of a 400-series highway led to your injuries, you’ll need to get the ball rolling quickly.

The deadline is even tighter if you think a town or city is responsible for your injury. The statute of limitations spelled out in the Municipal Act, 2001 give you only 10 days to file your lawsuit. This is not a simple notification of intent. Filing the necessary paperwork in such a short period of time means you can’t afford even the slightest delay in this situation.

Don’t let a statute of limitations keep you from re-taking control of your life

Catastrophic injuries sustained in auto collisions can change your life forever. And if you’re not at fault for the accident, you deserve to be compensated.

It’s important that you consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on your chance to sue for damages simply by missing a deadline. Experienced personal injury lawyers know all the cut-off dates and will help guide your case through the legal system in a timely manner.

Contact Mackesy Smye for justice delivered right on schedule

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle collision, use the link below to contact the personal injury lawyers at Mackesy Smye today. Our experienced team will make sure all your paperwork is filed on time, so your case gets the consideration it deserves.

Get Started Today with a Free Consult

If you’ve been injured due an auto accident and are considering filing a personal injury law suit, book your no-obligation consultation today and learn how the team at Mackesy Smye can help with your car accident case.

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