Bringing or Defending a Civil Case
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7. Is there any deadline for starting a civil action?

There is always a deadline for starting a civil action against another. The deadline to start a civil action is prescribed in the Limitation Ordinance. For example, a civil action for breach of a commercial contract must be instituted within 6 years from the date on which the breach of contract happened ( section 4(1)(a) of the Limitation Ordinance, Cap. 347 of the Laws of Hong Kong). In respect of a claim which causes personal injuries, the time limit is 3 years ( section 27(4) of the Limitation Ordinance). Action for employees' compensation/work-related injuries must be brought within 2 years from the date of the accident that causes the injury ( section 14(1) of the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, Cap. 282).

The time limits set out in the Limitation Ordinance can only be extended in exceptional circumstances, such as where the plaintiff was mentally incapacitated for a certain period or the action is based upon the fraud of the defendant (the time limit only begins to run after the plaintiff has recovered from the mental illness or has recognised the fraud).

Despite the time limits set out in the Limitation Ordinance, you should always start your claim as early as possible and should not wait until the last minute. If you are not sure about the time limit for your case, you should consult a lawyer.

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