Giving notice means letting the party responsible for your injury know that you suffered an injury and that you hold them responsible. Giving notice is not the same thing as starting a lawsuit. In certain circumstances, you must give notice once you have suffered an injury to allow the opposite party an opportunity to immediately investigate your claims.
Notice periods are usually very short. Under the Municipal Act, 2001, before suing a municipality you must give notice within 10 days of your injury. A claim against the Provincial Crown, also requires a notice period of 10 days from the date of the injury.
Notice to a municipality or to the Provincial Crown, must be done in writing and given to the clerk of the municipality or the Province, as the case may be. The information that must be included in the notice must meet certain legal requirements. It is best to seek the assistance of a lawyer in preparing the notice.
Exceptions under the Municipal Act
There are two circumstances under which the injured person is not required to give notice within the 10-day period. Under the Municipal Act, notice within ten days is not a bar to an action against a municipality: (1) if the person dies as a result of the injuries suffered, or (2) if a judge finds that there is a reasonable excuse for the "want or the insufficiency of the notice and that the municipality is not prejudiced in its defence." The courts have determined that a reasonable excuse for failing to give notice of an injury within the ten-day period can include such things as not being physically or mentally fit to do so.
Limitation periods for starting a lawsuit
In addition to giving notice of an injury, there are limitation periods for starting a lawsuit. The limitation period can vary depending on things such as who caused the injury and how it was sustained.
In Ontario, for most matters, the claimant has two years to begin the lawsuit, either from the date the injury occurred or from the date notice was given (whichever is applicable). For example, if you are suing a municipality, the Provincial Crown, a physician, surgeon, architect, engineer or dentist, the limitation period is normally two years from the date you knew or ought to have known about the injury. In the case of the Provincial Crown, however, the claimant must also wait at least at least 60 days after giving notice before starting the lawsuit.
If you are suing for compensation as a result of an injury or loss caused by a criminal act, the limitation period is also two years, although it may be extended with a judge's permission. If you begin your lawsuit after the limitation period has expired, you may be prevented from suing and from obtaining compensation for your injury or loss.
The law governing notice and limitation periods is complex and can vary depending on individual facts. Therefore, if you have suffered an injury or loss and are considering bringing a lawsuit, consult a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines.