Lawsuits must be started within a set time limit, known as a limitation period. If the limitation period expires, you lose the right to bring a lawsuit. If you are uncertain about when the clock starts running for your civil law claim, read on for more information. Or better yet, contact an experienced litigation lawyer for advice as soon as possible.
Litigation lawyers recommend acting without delay
Time limits for civil litigation are complicated and can vary depending on factors including the nature of your claim, the jurisdiction where your claim will be brought, whether you are under a legal disability (see discussion below for more information), and who your claim is against. Litigation lawyers caution against a wait and see approach. Missing the limitation period means your claim is “statute-barred” and you will be left without remedy.
Basic limitation period
The Limitation Act sets out the limitation periods for starting BC lawsuits. The basic limitation period is two years from the date on which the injury, loss or damage occurred. For example, in a breach of contract case, the general rule is that your lawsuit must be started within two years from the date of the breach.
Discoverability may postpone the limitation period
The Limitation Act also sets out the “discoverability rule” which can postpone the running of the limitation period in certain cases. A claim is “discovered” when a person knew or reasonably ought to have known that injury, loss, or damage was caused to them, and that a lawsuit would be an appropriate means to remedy it. Once a person discovers that he or she has a legal claim, the two-year limitation period runs from that date. Note, however, that the Limitation Act imposes an “ultimate limitation period” which expires after 15 years, even if the claim has not been discovered.
Special rules for certain claimants
There are special discoverability rules for claims by minors (children under the age of majority) and persons under disability (adults who are incapable of or substantially impeded in managing their affairs).For minors,the general rule is that the limitation period does not begin to run until the child’s 19th birthday. For persons under a disability, the general rule is that the claim is discovered on the later of the day on which the person ceases to be under a disability; or the day that the claim is discovered according to the other rules set out in the Act.
Different limitation periods for some types of claims
The Limitation Act sets out the default. If another provincial statute contains a limitation period, the Limitation Act does not apply, except as provided for in that other statute. For example, there are significantly shorter deadlines for filing and suing to enforce a claim under BC Builders’ Lien Act, and for commencing litigation over a will or estate.
Timelines for suing a municipality or government
If you need to sue a municipality or government, be aware that there are usually strict—and significantly shorter—timelines both for giving notice of your claim and starting your lawsuit.
Protect your legal rights
It can be complicated to determine which limitation period applies and when the time period begins to run. Contact our team of litigation lawyers today for advice.