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May 3, 2013

The Importance of Talking to Government

by Moira Gracey

It is important to be aware that, if you are hurt as a result of negligence by a government actor – a municipality, the police, the federal and provincial governments – you have much more onerous requirements to meet in order to seek compensation.  The reason is simple and has nothing to do with principle: governments make the laws, so they take care to protect themselves and the taxpayers from whom your compensation will come.  One of the ways they do this is by imposing fairly tight notice requirements.

The Ontario Court of Appeal just upheld tossing the claim of a woman who was injured due to poor road conditions.  The law requires that a person must provide a municipality with notice that it might be sued within 10 days of being injured, unless they have a reasonable excuse and can demonstrate that the failure to provide notice did not affect the municipality’s ability to defend itself.  In Argue v. Township of Tay, the key factors that got her case thrown out even before trial were that the woman’s injuries were moderate (she was able to return to work within two or three weeks of the accident), the township had made repairs to the road by the time (two years later) they were aware of the potential for a lawsuit.  As is clear from the decision, the less serious your injuries are, the less likely you will be able to convince the court you have a reasonable excuse for not providing notice on time, and no court is going to accept the fact that you were not aware of the notice requirement as an excuse.
So be aware that if you are injured due to governments’ negligence, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible to identify the deadlines you may have to meet and hoops you will have to jump through.  Do this even if you think you are going to be fine - putting a defendant on notice never means that you have to sue, but failing to give notice may mean that your right to sue is lost.


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