If you have suffered injuries through no fault of your own, you have the right to seek compensation for those injuries from the party responsible.
In many cases you cannot sue after a certain period of time has passed. This is known as the “limitation period”. In Alberta, the Limitations Act governs the time limits for filing civil lawsuits, including those for serious personal injury claims. The time limit generally depends upon the reason for suing.
Legal claims have different time limitations, therefore it is extremely important to discuss your personal situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you believe you have a claim. This early discussion will help you understand any potential complications regarding limiting timeframes.
WHAT ARE LIMITATION PERIODS?
Limitation periods are timeframes that confine when legal proceedings may commence. The primary purpose of limitation periods is to strike a balance between opposing interests of plaintiffs to pursue legitimate claims and defendants to be granted the peace of mind knowing that the risk of a lawsuit no longer exists and any right of action has run out.
Once a limitation period has expired, the right of action is “statute barred”. If an action is started outside of this period, it will likely be struck down by the court. Therefore, a claimant may lose his/her opportunity to access justice.
LIMITATION PERIODS IN ALBERTA
There are two limitation periods outlined in Alberta’s Limitations Act.
Often described as the “discovery rule”, section 3(1)(a) specifies that claimants must file their claims within 2 years from the date they had or ought to have had the following knowledge:
- Discovery of the injury;
- Discovery that the injury was in some way attributable to the conduct of the defendant;
- Discovery that the nature of the injury was such that it justified bringing a proceeding.
Thus, the two-year clock begins running not necessarily when the claim arises, but when the claimant discovers it.
Section 3(1)(b) is a longer limitation period and is often referred to as the “drop dead” clause. This clause specifies that a claim must be started no later than 10 years from the event which forms the basis of the claim. This limitation period establishes an absolute limit on a claimant’s ability to begin legal proceedings. The purpose of this clause is to diminish problems associated with lost evidence, fading memories and to try to keep claims up to date.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE LIMITATION RULES
There are a few exceptions to the rules we have previously described. For example, the timer does not begin to run until the conduct stops, or until the last act or omission takes place, in the case of claims based on a “continuous course of conduct or series of related acts or omissions”.
In the case of persons under disability (an adult who is unable to make reasonable judgments relating to the claim or who has a certificate of incapacity), limitations periods provided under the Limitations Act are suspended during any period of time that the claimant is under disability.
In the case of claims involving minors, the Limitations Act specifically states that the rules do not apply until the minor reaches 18 years or age, or until the minor can be represented by a litigation guardian or the Public Trustee.
In Alberta, the Limitations Act has recently been amended to eradicate the time limit on filing a lawsuit in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence. This will apply to sexual assault and battery, sexual misconduct, as well as assault on children, dependents and partners. Sexual misconduct includes stalking or sending inappropriate text messages or photos. The purpose of this amendment is to empower survivors of sexual and domestic abuse to come forward on their own terms and allows them the necessary time to recover and heal from the effects of the trauma. Furthermore, the removal of the limitation period applies retroactively.
Limitation periods are a complicated and technical area of the law. Therefore, receiving advice from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is of the utmost importance.
If you have been seriously injured, it is critical that you speak with a lawyer regarding your situation as soon as possible so as not to jeopardize any opportunity to seek compensation. The award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers can help. Please contact us online or at 403-571-0555. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Call our office for a free consultation to determine how we can help you.