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The Statute of Limitations in a Fatal Car Accident

There are plenty of scenarios that can occur when two or more people get into a car accident. It is important that each person understand the consequences of these scenarios and what kinds of statutes of limitations apply. Some of the potential results of an accident are:

  • Slight vehicle damage to one or both vehicles but no injuries
  • Slight vehicle damage to one or both vehicles with minor injuries
  • Slight vehicle damage to one or both vehicles with major injuries
  • Major vehicle damage to one or both vehicles with minor injuries
  • Major vehicle damage to one or both vehicles with major injuries

Of course, the scenario that no one likes to talk about or consider is the potential for fatalities. There does not need to be major vehicle damage in an automobile accident to result in fatalities. If a passenger is not wearing his or her seatbelt, then an accident can turn into a passenger fatality if the car is hit in just the right way.

In the province of Ontario, the Insurance Act stipulates that there is a one-year statute of limitations that goes with settling an auto accident property damage claim. But this can become a problem if you try to dispute the settlement proposal given to you by the insurance company. Insurance companies are very good at dragging out the settlement process and making it almost impossible for accident victims to settle a disputed property claim within the one-year time period. That is why it is critical that you get a lawyer involved if you do not feel as though the settlement you have been offered is fair.

But what if the accident resulted in a fatality? The Trustee Act in Ontario states that all damage claims made by an estate have a two year statute of limitations. Up until the case of Whorpole Estate versus Echelon General Insurance Company in 2011, it had never been decided which statute of limitations takes precedence.

When someone passes away in an auto accident in the province of Ontario, the government considers that person's affairs to be handled by the deceased's estate. Whether it is by law or by the legal will of the deceased, an estate is set up and an estate trustee is chosen. That trustee has the authority to pursue any claims on behalf of the estate, and that includes auto accident claims.

What the Ontario provincial court decided in this case was that the Trustee Act should be given priority over the Insurance Act in the case of an auto accident fatality. In this case, the plaintiff's estate had tried to dispute a settlement that the insurance company had offered for the deceased's totaled vehicle after an accident. But the insurance company never responded, so the case went to court.

The insurance company tried to invoke the Insurance Act statute of limitations of one year and said that the disputed claim was void. But the courts ruled that the Trustee Act took precedence because the accident resulted in a fatality and the trustee was successful.

If you are the trustee of an estate that resulted from a car accident fatality, then do not give up on getting the settlement that the estate deserves. Contact a lawyer immediately to get your case heard in court.


For assistance with a personal injury and/or insurance claim, please email David Himelfarb at or call 1-855-446-7765, for a free case evaluation.

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