Time Limits and Limitation Periods
If you have missed a time period or the insurance company is telling you you are out of time call Bayda Law Firm 403-670-0070 as soon as possible as sometimes damage control can be done and a claim can still be initiated.
There are time limits and time periods you must follow.
There are time limits within which you must:
- File a proof of loss or formal application for insurance benefits with the insurance company, and initiate a law suit if you intend on appealing your claim. Time for filing a proof of loss. This time period is usually set out in the insurance contract. If you have a group insurance policy through work, you will usually not have a copy of the insurance contract. In this case usually the personnel or payroll department of your work will have the necessary details. If you have missed this time period, in most provinces the courts have the “power to relieve against forfeiture.” This means that a court has the power to extend the time period within which you should have applied for disability insurance. You may have to show some reasonable explanation why you did not file your disability claim earlier in order to have a judge allow the late filing of a claim.
It is in your best interests to advise the insurance company that you will be making a disability claim as soon as you are aware that you may have a valid claim. Any delay in filing may prejudice your claim.
- Time for commencing litigation. There is a time period within which you must file official court documents if you intend to appeal your denial of benefits through the court system. This is called the “limitation period” and is the period of time within which a claim must be officially filed at the Court House. If the claim is not filed within this period of time, then your claim will be “out of time” and you will not be able to have a judge consider whether the insurance company should have paid your disability claim or not. This period varies from province to province and depends on the exact wording of the insurance policy. Usually the policy contract provides that you must commence any court action within 12 months from the time benefits were denied or from the date they were terminated. If you are unsure of the limitation period in your particular case, you should write the insurance company or adjuster who is dealing with your file, and ask them to put in writing what the applicable limitation period is. Some insurance companies will advise you of the limitation period in their denial letter. Some insurance companies don’t. The onus is on you to ask them or if in doubt to hire a lawyer to file a formal claim at the court house against the disability insurance company.
- What if you have missed the limitation period? If you have missed the limitation period there are still some arguments that your lawyer can make on your behalf. If the insurance companies denial of benefits was equivocal or ambiguous that can extend your limitation period. In some provinces an argument can be made that the disability benefits are payable month by month and that late filing of a formal claim only prevents you from claiming benefits for the period prior to the limitation period.
Time Limits Within Which To Dispute The Termination Of Disability Benefits
Limitation of Actions or time limits within which to bring a claim against a disability insurance company
The Alberta Court of Appeal has recently released a decision that upheld a limitation period defence raised by the Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada. On February 10, 2014 the Alberta Court of Appeal released a decision named Halter v. Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada that struck down a claim by Mr. Halter due to missed time limits in commencing his claim.
Standard Life terminated Mr. Halter’s benefits effective December 1, 2001. Mr. Halter did not commence a law suit against Standard Life until March 15, 2006. The Court of Appeal held that the Limitations Act provided that the action was commenced too late and that the action could not proceed. Due to the fact Mr. Halter had not commenced an action within two years of the date he was first advised of his termination of benefits, his claim could not proceed.
At paragraph 18 of the decision, the court stated:
 But ultimately the effect of the limitations law in this case was the same for the insured as for any other claimant. The insured had to decide whether he wanted to have a court overrule the insurer’s decision and he had to take steps to get the court involved. The dispute had now become concrete, and the clock was running. Unfortunately for the appellant, he did not commence his action in time. The appeal is dismissed.
The moral of the case is that if you have been denied disability benefits, do not delay in hiring a lawyer to help you with the claim and to start an action. Often I have seen insurance companies try to lull a claimant into a false sense of security by offering internal appeal processes, which may prevent an action being brought within the required time period. Don’t let that happen to your claim.
The case citation is Halter v Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada, 2014 ABCA 57. More details about the Judge’s comments on time limits and the actual decision can be found on the Canlii.org website at http://www.canlii.com or at http://canlii.ca/t/g30lk
So don’t delay. If you think you may have a claim for disability insurance benefits, remember there are time limits within which you have to start the lawsuit.
Call us at 403-670-0070 for a free consultation to discuss whether you have a claim we can help you with.