Every jurisdiction in Canada has a limitation period regarding how long a person has to sue after an injury. In Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut there is a general 2-year limitation period for personal injury actions. This means that if you do not file a lawsuit with the Court within two years from the date you discovered that someone has caused you to be injured, then you will not be able to make a claim.
Limitation Period of a Personal Injury
For car accidents or slip and falls, you have two years from the date of the accident to commence a lawsuit. For other types of injuries, the two-year period may not start for some time after the incident if you were unable to tell that someone had hurt you at the time of the incident. For example, if you undergo a medical procedure but don’t realize for several months or years that the physician committed malpractice against you, the two-year limitation period wouldn’t start until the day you knew or ought to have known about the physician’s mistake.
There is also a 10-year ultimate limitation period in Alberta (and 30 years in the NWT) that states regardless of when you became aware that someone else had injured you, you cannot file a lawsuit if more than ten years (or 30 years in the NWT) has passed.
Sexual Abuse Limitation Period
In cases of sexual abuse, a recent change to the law in Alberta has made the 2- and 10-year limitation periods inapplicable altogether. Victims of sexual abuse can now sue their assailant at any time, even more than ten years after the abuse occurred.
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Limitation Period Exceptions and Suspensions
Limitation periods can be suspended and do not begin to start immediately in certain situations. For example, limitation periods do not start to run while a person is under a disability or is a child. This means that if a child is injured by the fault of another person, their two-year limitation period to sue does not start until the injured child turns 18 in Alberta (or 19 in the NWT). Similarly, the limitation period for a person suffering from a disability would not begin to start until that person is no longer suffering from a disability. Limitation periods can also be suspended if the person who injured you concealed what they had done to you, and prevented you from knowing that they had caused your injury.
It also important to note that while the standard 2- and 10-year limitation periods may apply to your claim, there are other situations that also require an injured person to provide notice of their injury in a much shorter time frame.
Some examples of these shorter time limits to provide notice include:
- the Municipal Government Act of Alberta requires a person to give notice of an injury to a municipality within 21 days of the incident, if the injured person is claiming that the municipality is grossly negligent for ice or snow on a road or sidewalk.
- the Cities, Towns and Villages Act of the NWT and Nunavut require a person to give notice of an injury to a municipality within 30 days of the incident, if the injured person is claiming that the municipality is grossly negligent for ice or snow on a road or sidewalk.
- if you are injured by an unknown motorist, you must provide the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund with notice of your claim within 90 days.
Understanding which limitation period applies to your injury can require a complicated legal analysis. Ahlstrom Wright’s personal injury lawyers are willing to discuss your situation to help you determine the appropriate limitation period for your situation. Please contact our offices for a free consultation.