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Time Limits and Deadlines in Motor Vehicle Claims: What You Need to Know

Motor vehicle claims are subject to a complicated web of notice requirements and deadlines that vary based on factors including the type of claim, the age of the injured person, and who is being sued. There can be very serious consequences if notice periods or time limits are missed. In the worst case, an accident victim may lose the right to make a claim for personal injury compensation.    

How do you know the deadlines that apply to your claim?  

If you or a family member has been hurt in a car accident, the best course of action is to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on the notice requirements and limitation periods that apply and ensure that your rights to claim compensation are preserved.  

motor vehicle claim deadlines

Read on for an overview of the time limits and deadlines associated with filing motor vehicle claims in Ontario, and the consequences of missing these deadlines. 

Basic limitation period for Ontario motor vehicle claims 

The basic limitation period that applies to Ontario motor vehicle claims comes from the Limitations Act, which states that a personal injury lawsuit can’t be filed after the second anniversary of the date of loss. The two-year basic limitation period is strictly applied.  

Generally speaking, that means an accident victim has 24 months from the date of the accident to file a claim in court against a negligent driver. If the limitation period is missed, the claim is “statute barred” and the accident victim no longer has the right to sue the at-fault driver for compensation.  

In Ontario, a personal injury lawsuit is started by filing a “Statement of Claim” in court and serving it on the defendant. The Statement of Claim sets out what the accident victim is requesting of the defendant, such as to accept liability and pay for damages caused by the accident.  

While the general rule is that a lawsuit must be filed within two years, we do not recommend waiting until the deadline to hire a lawyer or file your claim. It takes time to properly investigate a claim, gather supporting evidence, and prepare the necessary paperwork. Starting a lawsuit in advance of the deadline means your legal rights are protected; it doesn’t mean you must have a trial. The vast majority of lawsuits are resolved by out-of-court settlement after the pleadings have been filed and served.  

Exceptions to the basic limitation period 

There are factors that impact how long an accident victim has to start a personal injury lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident. Here are the main exemptions:  

  1. If the accident victim is under the age of 18, the two-year limitation period to file a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t begin to run until their 18th birthday. Note that a litigation guardian can start the lawsuit sooner on behalf of the minor child. Family members are encouraged to reach out to a personal injury lawyer to discuss legal options in that regard.  

  1. The accident victim is unable to file a personal injury lawsuit because they are incapable due to their physical, mental of psychological condition (e.g., due to the catastrophic nature of the injuries caused by the accident). The clock does not begin to run on the applicable limitation period while the accident victim is incapable, but the burden will be on the accident victim to prove they were not capable of starting the lawsuit within the usual limitation period. Again, a litigation guardian can be appointed to start the claim on behalf of an incapable person.  

  1. “Discoverability.” It may be possible to argue that the applicable limitation period did not start to run from the date of the car accident, but instead from the date that the accident victim first knew they had a cause of action (for example, the date they were diagnosed with a previously unknown injury or chronic pain as a result of the accident). 

  1. Personal injury claims against the government. Municipalities are responsible for maintenance of highways and bridges. A negligence claim can be brought against a municipality if its failure to maintain or repair roads caused or contributed to the motor vehicle accident in question. An accident victim who intends to bring a lawsuit against the municipal government must provide the responsible municipality with written notice of the claim within 10 days of the accident. That notice—which is required by s. 44(10) of the Municipal Act—does not start the lawsuit; the accident victim must still file a Statement of Claim in court to commence their personal injury case.   

Other notable deadlines and time limits that apply to motor vehicle claims 

If that wasn’t already confusing enough, there are additional deadlines and notice requirements that apply to other aspects of Ontario motor vehicle claims. These are some of the key ones to be aware of:  

  1. You have 7 days from the date of the accident to notify your insurance company of the accident. Failing to report may result in your claim not being honoured. 

  1. You must file your accident benefits claim application within 30 days of being provided with the accident benefits application package from your insurance company. Statutory Accident Benefits (a.k.a. “SABs” or “no-fault benefits) cover wage losses, medical and rehabilitation expenses, etc. and are available to you regardless of fault for the accident.  

  1. While the general rule is that you have two years to start a personal injury lawsuit, you must provide written Notice of Intention to File a Lawsuit to the defendant (typically the at-fault driver’s insurance company) within 120 days of the accident. Failure to do so may mean you lose the right to claim pre-judgment interest. 

There are other deadlines and notice requirements beyond the ones just discussed that may apply depending on your circumstances (e.g., reporting requirements with respect to claims following hit and run accidents; deadlines for appealing a denial of statutory accident benefits), but it’s outside the scope of this article to review them all.  

If you are unsure of the applicable limitation period or think you might have missed important deadlines, reach out to one of our motor vehicle claims lawyers right away. We can pinpoint the limitation period that applies to your claim and determine whether there are options for arguing that the claim should proceed despite missed notice requirements or deadlines (e.g., discoverability; lack of notice did not prejudice the municipality in its ability to investigate and defend against the lawsuit; your injuries were so severe that you were not physically able to meet claim requirements).  

Don’t lose your right to full personal injury compensation 

You are already dealing with enough after being hurt in a motor vehicle accident. You don’t have to take on the extra stress of figuring out limitation periods and filing deadlines on your own. We welcome you to contact us at Littlejohn Barristers for a free consultation about your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer at Littlejohn Barristers can advise you of the applicable time limits and if you choose to work with us, we will take all necessary steps to protect and preserve your legal rights.  


Call A Personal Injury Lawyer in Barrie 

The team at Littlejohn Barristers provides extensive knowledge and representation on every case—no matter how small or large. With years of experience behind us, we are your number one choice for a dependable personal injury lawyer in Barrie,

Ontario and the surrounding area. Let us review your claim, discuss your goals for the case and help you decide what the next step should be.


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