Personal Injury Limitations Act in Alberta

Limitations for personal injury claims are a BIG deal.

If you miss a limitation, you miss your chance to sue for your injuries and receive compensation.

Limitations can also be very complicated, and different scenarios mean different limitations.

This article will set out some significant limitations to be aware of when it comes to general personal injury scenarios, however, there are many exceptions to every general rule.  Because the consequences for missing a limitation are severe – so be sure to talk to a lawyer right away!

The Limitations Act

This is the major piece of legislation governing limitations. Typically, you have TWO YEARS from the date of the car accident, slip-and-fall, medical malpractice, etc. to bring a claim. This is based on section 3 of the Act:

3(1)  Subject to subsections (1.1) and (1.2) and sections 3.1 and 11, if a claimant does not seek a remedial order within

                           (a)    2 years after the date on which the claimant first knew, or in the circumstances ought to have known,

(i)    that the injury for which the claimant seeks a remedial order had occurred,

(ii)    that the injury was attributable to conduct of the defendant, and

(iii)    that the injury, assuming liability on the part of the defendant, warrants bringing a proceeding,


                           (b)    10 years after the claim arose,

whichever period expires first, the defendant, on pleading this Act as a defence, is entitled to immunity from liability in respect of the claim.”

In the vast majority of cases, you must bring claim within two years after the date of your injury.  

What does “knew” or “ought to have known” mean? In Gayton v Lacasse, 2010 ABCA 123, the Alberta Court of Appeal affirmed that all three criteria in section 3(1)(a) must be examined, the claimant’s personal circumstances must be considered, and it really does hinge on discovering the injury – not necessarily the wrongful act itself. However, situations that extend the two-year limitation (due to a person being unaware of their injury) are very rare, so it is best to treat the two-year limitation as FIRM.

Despite this and in any event, once 10 years pass after the wrongful act, the limitation under section 3(b) will be triggered, regardless of whether or not the claimant discovered their injury.  This is often referred to as the “10 Year Drop Dead Rule”.

Exceptions to the Rule

That said, there are a few exceptions to the two-year/ten-year rule under the Limitations Act:

  1. Fraudulent concealment – if a wrongdoer fraudulently conceals the fact that there was an injury, then the limitation period is suspended.
  2. If an adult is under a disability, the limitation period is suspended for the time of the disability. A disability can mean several things, such as when a claimant is a “represented adult” under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, under a “certificate of incapacity” under the Public Trustee Act, or when they simply cannot make “reasonable judgments in respect to matters relating to their claim.” This will include periods of time when a person is in a coma, in ICU or sometimes, just in the hospital.  This can be confusing and there are many legal arguments to make in many cases so be sure to speak with a lawyer.
  3. Minors’ limitation periods are also suspended while the claimant is a minor, unless a potential defendant serves a “Notice to Proceed” on the minor’s guardian and the Public Trustee.

Limitations that Differ from the General 2 Year Limitations in The Limitations Act

  1. Unknown driver in a hit-and-run – if you are hurt in a hit-and-run collision and the person who hit you cannot be identified, you may claim compensation through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. However, under the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, you must notify the Fund within 90 days, or you may be barred from bringing a claim.
  2. Injuries on municipal property – if you slip and fall due to snow or ice on public property (like a city sidewalk), the Municipal Government Act states that you must notify the city in writing within 21 days, or your claim may be barred. If you are injured due to some other deficiency with public property (not involving snow or ice) you must notify the municipality within 30 days. These are very tight deadlines, so you have to act fast. However, if these injuries on public property cause death, the 21-day and 30-day notification periods do not apply.

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Alberta

This is just a brief outline of SOME of our applicable limitation periods. Experts write entire books on the subject and every scenario is different. Once you miss your limitation period, you cannot make a claim. As such, we strongly recommend that you book a free consultation with the personal injury lawyers at Robinson LLP as soon as possible after your injury. What do you have to lose? Get legal advice before you miss your limitation!

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