Every year in Ontario, tens of thousands of Ontarians suffer personal injuries as the result of motor-vehicle collisions, medical negligence, dangerous premises, defective products, and other causes. Unfortunately, not every injured Ontarian understands his or her legal rights in the context of a personal injury for which another person is at fault.
Two of the most important rights that injured Ontarians enjoy are the rights to sue and have their legal claim adjudicated in court, and the right to recover damages from the person who caused their injuries, whether through a lawsuit or not. This post considers those two rights and some of the limitations that Ontario law places on them.
Familiarity with these rights can help to protect Ontarians against unscrupulous insurance companies, hospitals, or others, who often attempt to deprive injured individuals of the compensation the law entitles them to.
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The Right to Sue for Personal-Injury Claims in Ontario
Ontario courts recognize several different types of personal-injury causes of action. A cause of action is a specific kind of legal claim with its own set of facts that, if proven, entitle the plaintiff to recovery in court. Some common causes of action include:
- Automobile accidents caused by a driver’s negligence
- Premises-liability claims (which include slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall claims)
- Wrongful death
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites
- Defective products
- Long-term disability claims
When a person has a cause of action, he or she can pursue that cause of action in court, or can settle it through negotiations with the others involved in the events that gave rise to the cause of action.
However, the right to sue for a cause of action is not unlimited. It is subject to time limits and other restrictions, as described below.
Time Limits on Ontario Personal-Injury Lawsuits
In Ontario, the law limits the time in which a person can file a lawsuit over a personal-injury claim. If a person who has been injured fails to file suit within the time limit specified by law, then he or she will be unable to do so at all.
In general, the Limitations Act requires that any lawsuit be filed within two years after a person discovers that he or she has a claim. A person discovers that he or she has a claim on the earlier of the following two dates:
- The date he or she first knew of the injury, that the injury was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission of the person against whom the claim is made, and that a proceeding would be an appropriate means to remedy it; and
- The date on which a reasonable person first ought to have known those things.
The law presumes that a person discovers his or her claim on the date of injury, but this presumption can be rebutted. For example, many surgical injuries occur while the patient is unconscious and cannot be discovered until long after the fact.
Additionally, the Limitations Act includes important exceptions from the general two-year time limit. For instance, the time limit for a person who is a minor at the time of injury begins to run only when that person turns 18.
Other Limits on Personal-Injury Lawsuits
In addition to the time limits defined in the Limitations Act, Ontario law sometimes imposes other limits on a person’s right to sue for compensation. For example, a person injured in a motor-vehicle accident in Ontario can only file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver if the person’s injuries are a serious and permanent:
- Disfigurement; or
- Impairment of an important physical, mental, or psychological function.
The Right to Recover Damages
In an Ontario personal-injury claim, “damages” are the amounts awarded to a successful plaintiff.
Generally, damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for all aspects of his or her injury and to return the plaintiff to the “original position” — the position he or she would have been in had the injury not occurred. Accordingly, there are many kinds of damages, to account for the many different facets of an injury — physical, emotional, and psychological — including:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Family members’ claims under the Family Law Act
Limits on Damages
However, tort damage awards in Ontario are not unlimited, and they are not automatic. Rather, Ontario and Canada law limit what damages can be recovered in several different ways. Among those ways are:
- The requirement of evidence. A plaintiff can’t win an award of damages merely by proving that he or she has been injured by another’s wrongful act. Instead, the plaintiff must also be able to prove the amount of damages to which he or she is entitled. This requires gathering, organizing, and presenting evidence of those damages.
- Non-pecuniary damages are capped. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that non-pecuniary damages were subject to a cap of $100,000. Non-pecuniary damages compensate for things like pain and suffering, which do not involve an actual expenditure. Thanks to inflation, that cap today is approaching $400,000.
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Protect Your Rights: Hire an Ontario Personal-Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured by another’s wrongful act, you or your loved one may have the right to compensation, and the right to pursue that claim in court. Unfortunately, merely having the right does not guarantee that you will benefit from it. Insurance companies are repeat players in personal-injury litigation. They know the ins and outs of the process, and regularly try to use that advantage to deprive injured Ontarians of the full recovery to which they are entitled.
That’s why it’s critical for injured Ontarians to contact a knowledgeable and experienced personal-injury lawyer at Preszler Law Firm to help protect their rights. We offer a free consultation, and you don’t pay unless we win.