Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 537
What are the time limits for starting a small claims lawsuit?Region: Ontario Answer # 537
If someone has violated your legal rights and caused you to suffer a loss, you may be able to start a lawsuit against them. However, you must start your lawsuit within a certain period. The type of claim you are bringing will determine the time period which applies. Before you spend the time and money to start a lawsuit you will need to know what the time limit is for your type of claim. Time limits on how long you can wait before making most claims can be found in the Ontario Limitations Act.
How to calculate time limits
Time limits for starting a lawsuit are usually calculated from the day that the problem took place or the day that you realized or found out about the problem.
Limitation periods for starting a lawsuit
In Ontario, for most matters, the claimant has two years to begin the lawsuit, either from the date the injury occurred or from the date notice was given (whichever is applicable). For example, if you are suing a municipality, the Provincial Crown, a physician, surgeon, architect, engineer or dentist, the limitation period is normally two years from the date you knew or ought to have known about the injury. In the case of the Provincial Crown, however, the claimant must also wait at least 60 days after giving notice before starting the lawsuit.
If you are suing for compensation as a result of an injury or loss caused by a criminal act, the limitation period is also two years, although it may be extended with a judge’s permission. If you begin your lawsuit after the limitation period has expired, you may be prevented from suing and from obtaining compensation for your injury or loss.
Shorter time limits
Certain types of legal actions have short time limits. For example, if you are bringing a lawsuit against an insurance company for refusing to pay your claim, you must start the legal action generally within one year of making your claim. If you want to take legal action against a municipality or a government agency, you may have to give them notice of your claim, for example if you fell on an icy sidewalk, or if you were injured due to a badly maintained road. These time periods can be as short as ten days, and they will affect your right to bring a lawsuit, so you should check on this aspect of your case as soon as possible.
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