Legislation in Queensland and other states sets out certain period of times within which proceedings must be started for various causes of action, being relevantly in Qld, the Limitations of Actions Act (Qld). If actions are not started before the period has expired, and later a court action is started, the defendant can use the provisions of that act to provide a complete defence to such a later claim. As such, if you have a cause of action, you need to consider such a period of time and get legal assistance without delay to make sure you don’t lose any rights you might have.
For general causes of action based on a breach of contract or negligence, then the action needs to be started within 6 years of the time within which the cause of action arose. There are different periods however for different types of action such as there being only 3 years to start an action based on a personal injury. There are many different limitation periods that can range from 1 year or less or up to 12 years however and other provisions that may impact on an ability to make a claim as well, such as procedures under other legislation for advancing a personal injuries case.
The reasoning behind having such limitation periods is that at some period of time, a person must know that they don’t have these issues hanging over their heads for the rest of their life.
In some very limited cases, the limitation period may be extended including for example where the person was under a disability during the relevant period. In other cases, a court will consider an extension if in the case of an injury, a material fact of a decisive character relating to the right of action was not within the means of knowledge of the applicant until a date after the commencement of the year last preceding the expiration of the period of limitation for the action and that there is evidence to establish the right of action apart from a defence founded on the expiration of a period of limitation.
Such a case was considered In Cox v Strategic Property Group Pty Ltd & Anor  QSC. The court in that case rejected the contention that the facts were a new material fact and found it was plain from the material that the applicant had always regarded his back problems as long-term and as having their origin in an earlier accident.
The applicant also put forth the argument that he did not realise he had a right to pursue a common law claim for damages, however this lack of knowledge does not amount to a material fact or justifies an extension.
What is important is not to delay obtaining advice including about when any relevant limitation period may stop you bringing a court action. If you delay, you could lose the rights you have. It is very important, due to the very limited circumstances in which extensions can be obtained, not to think that you may be entitled to an extension.
Aitken Whyte Lawyers
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