A Statute of Limitations is a law that sets a time limit on how long a plaintiff, for example a sexual abuse survivor, has to file a civil claim for compensation with the court. It is the maximum period of time that a plaintiff can wait before filing a lawsuit. For example, in Nova Scotia, the time limit for filing a claim for injuries from a car accident is now two years from the date of the accident.

Most claims for sexual abuse are based on a claim for compensation for assault. In Nova Scotia, the time limit for filing a claim for compensation for injuries suffered in an assault is one year from the date of the assault.

Special Rules for Sexual Abuse Survivors

In many cases, victims of sexual assault are simply not capable of bringing a claim within a year of the assault, especially if they were a child at the time or if they suffered significant psychological harm as a result of the assault. Strictly applying the one year time limit to survivors of sexual assaults could result in legitimate claimants being unfairly prevented from being able to file their claims.

The 1992 the landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, M (K) v M (H), removed a major barrier to lawsuits by ruling that provincial limitation periods do not begin to run until the abuse survivor is reasonably capable of discovering the wrongful nature of the defendant’s acts and the nexus between those acts and the survivor’s injuries.

Statute of Limitations in Nova Scotia – Limitation of Actions Act

Nova Scotia was the first province to change its Statute of Limitations so that the limitation period for sexual abuse cases does not start to run until the victim is aware of the full extent of the abuse and the injury suffered.

In 1994, British Columbia changed its Limitation Act to eliminate all limitations for causes of action ‘based on misconduct of a sexual nature’ or ‘based on sexual assault’. The rest of the provinces enacted similar legislation shortly thereafter.

In 2015 Nova Scotia changed the Limitation of Actions Act to make it easier for survivors of historical sexual abuse to sue for compensation.

The new Limitation of Actions Act now says that any claims in relation to an assault, battery or trespass to the person based on “misconduct of a sexual nature” are not subject to any limitation periods.

Even though there may be no limitation period for sexual abuse claims in Nova Scotia, it is still very important that you get advice immediately from an experienced sexual abuse claims lawyer in order to preserve and collect the evidence you will need to prove your claim.

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