Auto insurance limitation periods have been threatened by tribunal decision

Published: January 31, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The Insurance Act is not the only legislation to consider in cases of two-year limitation period in statutory accident benefits disputes. That’s according to the Ontario Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT).

Speaking at the Ontario Insurance Adjusters Association’s (OIAA) 2018 Claims Conference on Tuesday, Phillippa Samworth of Dutton Brock LLP described the finding as “frightening”.

“The [Ontario] Court of Appeal tells us time and again that the purpose of the limitation period is finality; to know your claim has come to an end, you don’t have to keep it open. Apparently not in the LAT, we are going to keep it open forever.”

Samworth was speaking specifically about the case of A.F. v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company, released on Dec. 13, 2017. The case looked into Section 7 of the Licence Appeal Tribunal Act to decide whether it could be used to overrule the provisions of Section 280(2) of the Insurance Act. This provision says an insured person or insurer can appeal to LAT for dispute resolution. The case also discussed Section 56 of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), which states proceedings must start within two years after an insurance company refuses a claim.

In A.F. v. North Blenheim Mutual Insurance Company, LAT executive chair Linda Lamoureux ruled four criteria are assessed to decide if Section 7 can be used to override the Insurance Act limitation period:

  • the existence of a bona fide intention to appeal within the appeal period;
  • the length of the delay;
  • prejudice to the other party; and,
  • the merits of the appeal.

Under this interpretation, there is basically an agreement that the two-year limit had expired. However, Samworth points out “it doesn’t matter because we think we should extend the time for giving notice,” Samworth said during the seminar, titled Accident Benefits: The Top Ten LAT Cases of 2017. “That means there is an argument available in any limitation case… to seek an extension under Section 7.”

“Lamoureux said that the four factors are not strict elements that must be met in each case. It’s a guide, a guide, to assist in determining the justice in the case.”