In a recent case, Sanei v. Devarros, 2024 ONCA 104, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a decision dismissing a personal injury case because it commenced after the two-year limitation period had ended. 

Below, we’ll summarize this case and explain what it means for personal injury claimants. 

Background on Personal Injury Limitation Law 

Not every personal injury claimant knows whether they will bring a personal injury action immediately after an accident. At the same time, allowing claimants to commence a personal injury accident at any time in the future could create uncertainty for the parties involved. The law of limitation periods thus creates time limits for filing legal proceedings. 

The limitation period can vary depending on the type of case. However, for personal injury actions, you’ll typically need to initiate a claim within two years of the date the accident occurred under Ontario’s Limitations Act, 2002, SO 2002, c 24, Sch B or two years of the day on which you knew that injury, loss or damage had occurred as a result of the accident.

Remember that there are exceptions to the two-year personal injury limitation period. For example, the two-year limitation period does not apply if the claimant is a minor or is physically, mentally, or psychologically unable to initiate a claim. There could be other exceptions, too, depending on your unique circumstances. 

The Plaintiff Claimed They Did Not Immediately “Discover” Their Injuries

In Sanei v. Devarros, 2024 ONCA 104, the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident on February 2, 2013, but did not commence their personal injury action until March 2, 2016 (over three years after the accident). In his statement of claim, the plaintiff alleged that he had not discovered “until recently” that his injuries were serious enough to warrant bringing a personal injury claim. 

The Defendant Argued That the Plaintiff’s Action Was Statute-Barred

In response, the defendant brought a motion for summary judgment (a procedure used to determine cases without requiring a trial), dismissing the plaintiff’s claim because the plaintiff 

brought it after the personal injury limitation deadline had passed. The motion judge agreed with the defendant, dismissing the plaintiff’s claim on the grounds that their injuries had been discoverable within the two-year limitation period. 

The Plaintiff Appealed, Arguing the Motion Judge Erred

The plaintiff appealed the motion judge’s decision, arguing that the motion judge had failed to specifically find when the plaintiff discovered, or reasonably ought to have discovered his injuries. As a result, he did not make a finding on when the limitation period should have started to run. He further argued that no evidence indicated that he had discovered his injuries before the relevant date and that the motion judge had applied the wrong threshold test and mischaracterized the plaintiff’s injuries. 

The Court Considered Personal Injury Limitation Law

The Court began by reviewing the applicable rules relating to personal injury limitation dates – namely, that the limitation period begins running when the plaintiff knew or ought to have known that they had suffered permanent and serious impairment due to the accident. For example, a personal injury limitation date could begin running a day after the accident in circumstances where new medical imaging or a diagnosis indicates that the plaintiff’s condition is worse than they originally thought. 

Court Determined That the Motion Judge Had Not Erred in Their Analysis

The Court agreed that the motion judge had not made a finding on when the limitation period should have started to run. Nevertheless, the Court did not believe this error amounted to an error in the motion court’s judgment. 

As noted by the Court, the plaintiff knew or ought to have known that he had a serious and permanent impairment before the personal injury limitation deadline. The evidence available to the plaintiff at the time – including medical assessments – demonstrated that he was aware of the serious nature of his injuries at that time. As a result, he could not rely on the discoverability of his injuries as a reason for failing to file his statement of claim by the applicable limitation date. The court also disagreed that the motion judge had mischaracterized the plaintiff’s injuries, noting that the motion judge used the language the plaintiff had included in his statement of claim. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal and ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s partial indemnity costs. 

What This Case Means For Personal Injury Claimants

This case is a great example of why personal injury claimants must act quickly following an accident. While accident-related injuries do not always reveal themselves immediately after an accident, consulting with a skilled personal injury lawyer is critical to ensure you’re aware of potential personal injury limitation dates and preserve your right to a claim. Speaking with a lawyer early in the process does not mean that you have to bring a claim later; it helps ensure that you remember specific timing requirements if you choose to bring a personal injury claim later. 

As a final note, keep in mind that your personal injury claim may have additional personal injury limitation obligations beyond the standard two-year limitation period. For example, if you are injured due to the negligence of a municipality, you will generally need to provide written notice to the municipality within 10 business days of the accident under the Municipal Act, 2001, SO 2001, c 25. And, if you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident caused by snow or ice, you must notify at least one of the occupiers of the associated premises within 60 days of the accident under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c O.2

As a result, personal injury claimants must speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an accident. They will be in the best position to advise you on your rights and any relevant personal injury limitation or notice periods that may affect your claim. 

Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyers Helping You Navigate Your Personal Injury Claim

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we uniquely manage personal injury claims. Unlike other firms, which may pressure clients to settle quickly, our team focuses on our clients’ long-term needs. Personal injury claims are a marathon and not a sprint, and it can take years to understand the fallout from an accident fully. 

We recognize that no two accidents or accident injuries are alike, so we give each client personalized attention to provide them with the best possible outcome. To speak with a member of our personal injury team, call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online


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