Reading time: 3 minutes

If you are considering commencing proceedings for a cause of action that occurred in the past, you should check that you are still within the limitation period. Limitation periods prevent parties from bringing an action later than a given period. The length varies between different causes of action. This article sets out the key points to take into account when dealing with limitation periods.

Why Do Limitation Periods Exist?

Limitation periods exist to protect defendants. They operate under the principle that the longer it takes for an action to come before the courts, the less efficient the administration of justice becomes. If the event occurred too long ago, the defendant might have lost the evidence necessary to defend themselves.

Further, key witnesses might not be available and documents might be lost or destroyed. It also incentivises parties to pursue potential claims diligently and in time.

Examples of Limitation Periods

Limitation periods operate across various areas and jurisdictions. Before commencing legal proceedings, it is essential you check the relevant legislation to see if any limitation periods apply. Below are some examples of common limitation periods.

Cause of Action Limitation
General contractual claims Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
Contractual claims concerning a deed 12 years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
Negligence Six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues.
Defamation One year from the date of publication.

 

For example, if you have a supplier contract and the supplier breaches that contract by failing to deliver the right products to you, you cannot wait 10 years to bring a claim against them. You have to do this within six years of the date of the breach.

Similarly, if a newspaper publishes an article about you that is defamatory, you have to begin proceedings within one year of the publication date.

The Court’s Discretion

A court has the discretion to hear a case even if the limitation period has expired. In this case, it is up to the person asking for the extension to prove that the limitation period should be extended. The court will need to decide whether it is necessary to extend the limitation period, having regard to the person’s circumstances. Specifically, it will consider:

  • whether it is possible to have a fair trial given the length of the delay;
  • the reason for the delay;
  • the length of the delay; and
  • the disadvantages to the defendant.

The court will not grant an extension just because the person asking for one would have succeeded had they filed the claim within the limitation period. Instead, the court needs to examine why a party did not file the claim earlier and whether a fair trial is still possible.

Key Takeaways

Limitation periods exist to protect defendants from being sued for events that happened a long time ago. Limitation periods operate in a range of areas and jurisdictions. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of them before commencing legal proceedings.

If you have a question about limitation periods, get in touch with LegalVision’s litigation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Webinars

How Franchisors Can Avoid Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

Wednesday 18 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Ensure your franchise is not accused of misleading and deceptive conduct. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

New Kid on the Blockchain: Understanding the Proposed Laws for Crypto, NFT and Blockchain Projects

Wednesday 25 May | 10:00 - 10:45am

Online
If you operate in the crypto space, ensure you understand the Federal Government’s proposed licensing and regulation changes. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

How to Expand Your Business Into a Franchise

Thursday 26 May | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Drive rapid growth in your business by turning it into a franchise. To learn how, join our free webinar. Register today.
Register Now

Day in Court: What Happens When Your Business Goes to Court

Thursday 2 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
If your business is going to court, then you need to understand the process. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Manage a Construction Dispute

Thursday 9 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Protect your construction firm from disputes. To understand how, join our free webinar.
Register Now

Startup Financing: Venture Debt 101

Thursday 23 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how venture debt can help take your startup to the next level. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer