LETTER OF THE LAW: A Big Step Forward for Victims
This means that, as of now, there are no time limits for victims to sue for sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse.
In most cases in Ontario a plaintiff must start a lawsuit within two years of when the act occurred. There is a narrow exception for cases where the plaintiff could not have known about the case and in those cases the two-year time limit starts to run from the date the plaintiff knew or should have known about the act or omission.
For many victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse, this two-year time limit was a significant hurdle to obtaining compensation for the devastating harm caused be the perpetrators.
For many reason, victims may not be capable of seeking civil compensation for abuse perpetrated against them for many years – even though they knew of the abuse, they still are not able to take the necessary steps to start a legal action.
Bill 132 eliminates the risk to plaintiffs that valid claims will be dismissed for being out of time.
The one caveat is that where the perpetrator has died the Trustee Act may still impose a two-year limitation period from the date of death to bring an action against the estate of the perpetrator.
If you are the victim of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse and the perpetrator has died, make sure you consult with a lawyer immediately.
These changes are retroactive, meaning that Bill 132 applies whenever the acts occurred and if the limitation period had previously expired, the case can now be revived (unless of course the case has been settled or determined in a court).
Bill 132 also makes an important change to the time limit for victims to bring claims for compensation to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (“CICB”).
Under the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, victims of crime may apply to the CICB for compensation. The board can make a lump sum award of up to $25,000 to a victim of crime. There is no pre-condition of a criminal conviction or even criminal charges filed for the victim to apply for compensation.
There was, however, a two-year limitation period to make the application. Bill 132 eliminates the two-year limitation to apply for compensation.
Bill 132 is a welcome change. It provides more access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society. There will no longer be a need for these victims to justify why they waited to bring a claim for compensation.
Many victims already suffering from self-blame can now feel more confident in coming forward to pursue justice.
Kristian Bonn is a personal injury lawyer and partner at Bonn Law. He grew up in Trenton, works in Belleville and Trenton and lives just over the Bay Bridge in Prince Edward County.
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