When you are injured, your immediate focus should be on your health and recovery. However, when you have sustained an injury due to someone else's negligence or wrongdoing in Ontario, there is often a requirement to provide notice of your injury to the negligent party within a certain period of time. How much time you have after the incident to provide this notice can depend on the nature of the incident that caused your injury.
What is a notice period?
In the context of personal injury claims, a notice period refers to the period within which you must notify the party responsible for your injury that you intend to commence a lawsuit against them. The notice is typically provided in the form of a letter, and usually outlines the details of the incident, the injuries sustained, and your intention to seek compensation for your losses.
In Ontario, the specific notice period requirements can vary depending on the nature of the incident and the responsible party. Notice periods for some of the most common scenarios are:
- Motor vehicle accidents: When you
intend to sue another party as a result of a motor vehicle accident
in Ontario, there is generally no specific notice period
requirement. You have two years from the
date of the accident to commence legal proceedings, but you are not
required to provide notice prior to then (except when a
municipality is at fault – see below). However, pre-judgment
interest cannot be claimed prior to the date of the notice letter
so it is advantageous to provide notice as soon as possible.
As an aside, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario, you generally have seven days from the date of the accident to notify your own insurance company of the accident. This notice is required regardless of who was at fault for the accident but is not a notice of intention to sue.
- Municipal claims: If your injury is related to a municipal property or roadway (e.g., a slip and fall on a city sidewalk), you typically have ten days to notify the municipality in writing about your intention to commence a lawsuit. For these claims, it is critical you speak to legal counsel as soon as possible.
- Slip and fall on ice or snow: If your injury is a result of a slip and fall on ice or snow, you must provide notice to the occupiers of the area within 60 days of the incident.
- Other personal injury claims: In cases involving personal injuries not covered by the above scenarios, you generally have two years from the date of the incident to commence legal proceedings against the responsible party (this applies to the above scenarios, as well) but there is typically no prescribed notice period.
If the injured party is a minor, notice period requirements do not start to run until the day the minor turns 18 years old or the day they retain counsel, whichever date is earlier. For example, in the case of a potential claim against a municipality, the injured minor is not required to provide the municipality with notice until ten days after they retain counsel or ten days after they turn 18, if they have not yet retained counsel by that point.
The importance of providing notice
Failing to adhere to the notice period requirements can jeopardize your ability to pursue a claim. Courts may dismiss a case if the notice period is not met. However, providing timely notice is critical even when it is not required, as it ensures that evidence related to the incident can be gathered and preserved while it is still available. Doing so can also be advantageous in the sense that it affords the injured party the opportunity to engage in early negotiations and settlement conversations. Early notice can reduce the likelihood of going to court.
While compliance with notice periods is often mandatory, in rare occasions there can be exceptions based on the circumstances of your case. For instance, if you were physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to provide notice within the prescribed time frame, you may be afforded an extension. If you believe you have missed a notice period, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether the circumstances of your case support an argument to extend the notice period.
Providing proper notification to the negligent party when a personal injury occurs is critical in preserving the injured party's legal rights and in ensuring the most expedient and just resolution of a claim.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.