June 17, 2013

Paul Bosco

On June 1st, 2013, the new Limitation Act came into force in BC. This Act sets out the time limits a person has to make a civil claim, most commonly performed by suing another person or company for money to compensate for a loss.

The most significant change in the new Limitation Act is the establishment of a two-year “basic limitation period” for all civil claims. There are exceptions to this, such as certain claims for ownership of property, sexual assault, enforcement of previous judgments, as well as certain situations where the person making a claim is a minor or affected by a disability. However, the majority of situations involving a person looking to sue another party now fall within this limitation period.

The “clock starts ticking” on this two-year limitation upon the discovery of a legal claim. Four things must occur in order for this to happen. The person wishing to make a claim must know (or reasonably ought to know) that:

  1. Injury, loss, or damage has occurred,
  2. The injury, loss, or damage was caused by (or contributed to by) an act or omission,
  3. The act or omission was performed (or not performed) by the person against whom the claim is being made, and
  4. That a court proceeding would be the best way to remedy the specific injury, loss, or damage.

In essence, this means that as soon as you become aware (or should have been aware) that an incident occurred which resulted in injury, loss, or damage as a result of someone else’s fault, you have two years from that point to bring a claim against that other party.

Another major change in the new Limitation Act is a reduction of the “ultimate limitation period” from 30 to 15 years. The “ultimate limitation period” provides the maximum time period allowed for claims which may not be immediately discoverable, such as undetected medical complications. Unlike the two-year basic limitation period, the “clock starts ticking” on the 15 year ultimate limitation period when the incident actually occurs.

The rationale for these and the other changes in the new Act is to help simplify the limitation periods for civil claims in BC, and to bring the BC limitation system more in line with the limitation systems in other provinces.

The new Limitation Act is not retroactive. This means if an incident occurred and was discovered before June 1, 2013, then the old rules still apply. However, if an incident occurred before June 1, 2013, but was discovered after June 1, 2013, the new rules apply. The new rules apply to all incidents that occur after June 1, 2013.

So what does this mean for you? It is important to remember that as soon as you become aware that a potential legal claim exists, the two-year basic limitation period begins. If the limitation period expires before you start a claim, your avenues for a legal solution to your problem become very limited. The more time your lawyer has to prepare your case, the higher likelihood your claim will be to succeed; so the sooner you bring it to their attention, the better. If you have questions as to whether your best option is to sue, or whether this option is available to you at all, you should always talk to a lawyer.

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