How Long After a Slip and Fall Can You Sue?
The insurance industry would like you to believe that you have to wait for some sort of arbitrary event before you can pursue your slip and fall case. For example, many insurance companies like to perpetuate the myth that you have to reach maximum medical improvement before you can contact a lawyer. In reality you can contact a lawyer immediately after your accident, and should do so almost as soon as you’re medically capable of making the call.
The faster you move the better off you’re likely to be. In addition, you don’t have forever to make a decision. If you wait too long, you might not be able to file a claim at all. Here’s what you need to know about the Alberta Limitations Act.
The normal statute of limitations for a slip and fall case is two years in most cases.
According to the Alberta Limitations Act you have two years after the date when the claimant first knew, or should have known, that the injury occurred and the conditions on the property caused the injury.
In most cases this will be two years from the date of the accident itself, but not always. For example if you were in a coma for two weeks after your accident then it might reasonably be said that you didn’t know you were injured or why until you woke up. In that case the clock might start running on the day you woke up and remembered what happened, rather than on the day the accident happened.
In fact, the Limitation Act specifically addresses these cases, stating:
“The operation of the limitation periods provided by this Act is suspended during any period of time that the claimant is a person under disability. The claimant has the burden of proving that the operation of the limitation periods provided by this Act was suspended under this section.”
Thus if you were in a coma for three years you’ll have to show both that you were in that coma for three years, that you moved to file your claim within the Limitations period, and in some cases that there was nobody who could have filed the claim for you, such as a spouse.
In some cases the statute is “ten years after the claim arose,” but these are usually construction cases in which it takes some time for a defect and the consequences of that defect to be discovered, not in slip and fall cases where cause, act, and consequence all occur fairly close to one another.
The effective statute of limitations changes if the city is involved.
Almost every municipality in Alberta has imposed a rapid notification period for reporting a slip and fall accident.
For example, Calgary gives you just 21 days to report the accident and to inform them that you’ll be pursuing a claim if the accident was a result of ice and snow. If the accident was for any other kind of claim you get 30 days. Some cities give you as many as 30 days for snow and ice too, but you’d need to check your municipality to find out for sure.
No city gives you very long.
If you aren’t in touch with a lawyer almost right away, you might miss your opportunity to file a claim entirely. There are processes that must be observed precisely if you don’t want to give the city any grounds to throw out your claim.
There are some exceptions to the rule.
It’s the law. There are always some exceptions to the rule!
For example, fraudulent concealment of the injury or the condition contributing to the injury could extend the statute.
There’s also a suspension of the limitation period when the injured is a minor, unless the defendant takes very specific steps to protect themselves. The defendant in this case would have to send a Notice to Proceed to the minor’s guardian forcing them to file the claim. They also have to send a notice to the Public Trustee, and pay the Public Trustee fees to push the case.
The Public Trustee must then make inquiries regarding the ability and intention of the claimant’s guardian to act in the best interests of the child regarding the claim. The Public Trustee must then decide whether to intervene, to act as a litigation representative for the minor, or apply to a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench to handle the matter.
If the defendant doesn’t file a Notice to Proceed, the minor can file a claim on their own behalf when they reach adulthood regardless of the date that the accident took place. Many property owners won’t do that in the hopes that the minor defendant will forget all about the claim when they grow up.
There are also some case types for which the limitation period does not apply at all, but those aren’t slip and fall cases. There is no limitation on claims arising from sexual assaults or batteries, for example.
Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to assume that you more or less have two years to get moving, and to get moving as quickly as you possibly can. It’s usually not advantageous to get into arguments about whether you had enough time to file your claim.
There are no benefits to waiting.
The longer you wait, the weaker your case gets. It’s usually not advantageous to wait the full two years, or even to wait one year before filing the personal injury claim.
There’s a reason why insurance companies try to run down the clock, and it’s not just because they’re hoping you’ll miss the statute date. It’s also because they know waiting favors them.
Witnesses to the slip and fall event tend to disappear as time goes on. They move or change phone numbers. Or they remain easy to contact but become less useful over time because they can’t remember as much about the slip and fall as the event passes.
In addition it can take 18 to 24 months from the date of filing to get a settlement payout to begin with. Why would you add even more time by waiting on your case? While you do need to reach maximum medical improvement before a settlement conference can reasonably begin, you can select and start working with a lawyer from day one.
It’s risk free since you don’t have to pay a retainer or an hourly rate. Personal injury lawyers work on contingency. They don’t get paid until your slip and fall case is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
Why work with us?
Each of our lawyers has over two decades of experience handling premises liability cases in Calgary, Alberta. Our team is known for our courtroom litigation skills as well as our sharp negotiation skills. We know personal injury cases inside and out, and we know how to handle insurance companies while protecting your rights.
We’re responsive, empathetic, and willing to meet you right where you are, or via Zoom.
We keep you in the loop, answer all of your questions and concerns, and do everything we can to make the process run as smoothly as possible. Don’t try to handle your slip and fall case alone. Your call is risk-free. Call (403) 225-7777 to set up a consultation today.