The Civil Lawsuit Process in Ontario
When two parties – ‘parties’ meaning people, groups of people, businesses, or other organizations – find themselves in a legal disagreement in Ontario, those parties have the right to launch civil lawsuits against each other. Civil lawsuits can be used to resolve a variety of issues, including contractual disputes, personal injury claims, disagreements around property damages, and disagreements around damages to a party’s reputation.
At Will Davidson LLP, our plaintiff-side team handles personal injury claims and some forms of contractual disputes and property claims. We also have an insurance defence team – you can learn more about insurance defence here and here.
If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, a personal injury lawyer from Will Davidson LLP may be able to help you file a civil claim against an at-fault party. But what does filing a claim look like? What are the steps involved? Below, we will walk you through a simplified version of the civil claims process. For more information, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. This information is also available on the Government of Ontario’s website.
Step 1: Starting Your Claim
Before you launch your personal injury claim, it is important to retain the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will be your representative throughout the legal process, fighting to ensure that your rights are protected and your interests are advanced.
One of the first things you and your personal injury lawyer will talk about are the alternatives to formal legal action. You may be able to resolve your dispute through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Taking this path can save you money and ensure that your disagreements are resolved in a timely manner.
Before agreeing to represent you, your lawyer will also want to know when your accident occurred. Most personal injury claims must be filed within two years of accident, and in some cases, such as slip and falls, much more quickly.
Once you have decided to pursue formal legal action against the at-fault party, your lawyer will help you craft a Statement of Claim. This statement should be a brief a summary of the key facts supporting your case. The full Statement of Claim process takes several steps:
- Submit your Statement of Claim to the courts online, in person, or by mail
- Pay applicable fees
- Once fees are paid, your Statement of Claim will be issued – stamped with the date – by the court
- You know have six months to deliver the Statement of Claim to each defendant. This is called ‘serving your claim.’
- Once you have served your claim, you must complete and file with the court an ‘Affidavit of Service’ for each defendant
At this point, the named parties in your claim will begin to prepare their defences.
Step 2: Mediation
In some jurisdictions, including Toronto, Windsor, and Ottawa, parties involved in some forms of civil claims must attend mandatory mediation before moving on to the next steps of the legal process.
Step 3: Discovery
The discovery phase is where the two sides of the dispute exchange information about evidence. The first step in the discovery process is for lawyers on both sides to agree on a discovery plan. The discovery plan establishes what types of documents will be exchanged; on which dates the Affidavit of Documents will be delivered; when and how documents will be produced; who will be examined; and various other details.
Once the plan has been confirmed, the discovery takes place in two stages: discovery of documents and examination for discovery. Central to the discovery of documents is the delivery of the Affidavit of Documents, which lists all relevant documents that will be disclosed. During the examination for discovery, the parties are given the chance to interview each other in person, via telephone conference, or by video conference.
Step 4: Set Action for Trial
Once the discovery is complete and the defences are filed, your personal injury lawyer or the lawyers for the other parties can request a trial date. This step is referred to as ‘setting the action down for trial.’
To set the action down for trial, you will need to file a ‘trial record.’ This document contains jury notices, if necessary, copies of all pleadings, a certificate signed by the lawyer setting the action down for trial, and more.
The next phase of this step will depend on whether your action is being defended or not. If it is, the defendants will be served trial notices. You must then file proofs of service with the court and pay applicable fees. If the action is undefended, it will only proceed to trial if other ways of getting a default judgement are unsuccessful.
Step 5: Pre-Trial Conference
Before advancing to trial, all parties involved in your action must attend a pre-trial conference. This meeting is essentially one final attempt to avoid going to trial. You will be asked to discuss potential settlements and opportunities for simplifying matters.
Step 6: Trial
If no resolution is arrived at during the pre-trial conference, your action may proceed to trial. In Ontario, trials may be either by judge and jury or by judge alone. This is where you and your personal injury lawyer will present evidence in your interest by calling witnesses and entering objects and documents as exhibits. The defence will do the same. When the trial is complete, the judge will make his or her decision and the matter will be resolved, pending appeal.
Contact a Will Davidson LLP Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Will Davidson LLP to discuss your options. Our team will review your case and advise you on your next steps.