Extending Limitation Periods

Extension of Limitation Period

For many, limitation periods tend to attract very little attention until the limitation period is about to, or has expired. Limitation periods are different for different causes of action and vary depending on whether Commonwealth law or state law is applicable to the cause of action.

What is a limitation period?

A limitation period is a time limit placed upon civil proceedings, in which the action must commence before the allowed time is reached . It is not necessary that the claim actually be heard in court within the prescribed time limits; this simply reinforces that the necessary proceedings only need to have commenced. 

Examples of limitation periods

  • personal injury: 3 years from the date on which the cause of action
  • tort or contract without personal injury: 6 years from the date on which the cause of action arose
  • rent recovery: 6 years from the date on which the arrears became due
  • land recovery: 12 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued
  • defamation: 1 year from the date of the publication of the matter complained of
  • unfair dismissal: 21 days from termination of employment
  • discrimination: 1 year from date of the alleged discriminating act 

Can you extend a limitation period?

If legal proceedings are not commenced within the specified limitation period, then they are deemed to be ‘out of time’. In some very limited and exceptional circumstances, you may be able to apply for an extension. Though it is important to highlight this is an exception, not an entitlement.

When applying for an extension, the plaintiff must demonstrate they did not have knowledge (or reasonable means of knowledge) of some critical aspect of their case (referred to as a material fact of decisive character) until after the expiry of the limitation period. There also needs to be sufficient evidence to establish a cause of action.

These provisions cannot be used to overcome a failure to obtain legal advice to understand the impact of a material fact or to follow up on legal advice.

There are also some special provisions for limitation periods for people who were under the age of 18 years or individual that were of unsound mind on the date the cause of action arose.

Next steps

Due to the strict time limits, it is important that you obtain prompt legal advice as soon as you have suffered injury, have had property damage, or are considering bringing a cause of action against someone. If you delay, you could miss out on the opportunity to take action.

For more information, please speak with one of our qualified lawyers.

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