Reasons for judgment were released on Monday in the case of DeWolfe v. Jones. This case concerned the injury claims of spouses as a result of a car accident. They had been dealing with an adjuster, who had gone on maternity leave. When she went on maternity leave, the adjuster told the plaintiffs that although they were not yet ready to settle their claim, they could call to settle if things improved at any point. There is a time limitation for starting for either settling your ICBC case or starting legal action. That time limitation is two years. If you have not either settled your case by two years after the accident, or have started legal action, your right to any compensation for the injuries suffered in the accident is lost. The plaintiff’s in DeWolfe failed to start litigation within that time limit and when they did start their lawsuit, ICBC applied to have their cases dismissed on the basis that the time limit had expired.
The judge hearing the case agreed with ICBC and dismissed the case. The plaintiff’s evidence was that they did not start litigation in time because “life just got busy” and she did not realize there was a time frame within which she had to do so. The judge also said that there was no requirement on the part of ICBC to raise the limitation issue with the plaintiffs and as a result the plaintiffs assertion that they were unaware of the time limit is not sufficient to defeat the limitations period defense.
This was a tragic result for these plaintiffs. They had a valid claim for damages and from the decision it appears that there was no issue with respect to whether the plaintiffs were at fault in any way. The expiry of a limitation period can often be a complete bar to being able to pursue damages. Ignorance of the limitation period does not eliminate its operation. Insurance companies are under no obligation to advise you of the limitation period or the fact that your claim will be eliminated if you have not settled your case within two years or brought legal action to claim damages. This case confirms that limitation period defenses will operate to eliminate a claim in a motor vehicle accident case.