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Starting a lawsuit

Starting a lawsuit sets in motion a process that can take anywhere from months to years.

Generally, you can start a lawsuit when someone, several people or a company has caused you to suffer injuries, financial loss, broken an agreement between you etc. The lawsuit would typically be a civil suit where you would go in front of the court to make your case that the other party has caused you a loss or injury.

You would start a lawsuit in your provincial court, as federal courts only deal with a limited amount of matters, such as immigration, intellectual property disputes, and aboriginal law matters. Unless your case falls into one of the categories of cases that the federal court has the jurisdiction to hear, you will file your claim either with the provincial court or the small claims court.

What issues can I bring before the court?

There are a few types of lawsuits which are commonplace:

  1. Personal injury lawsuits – this type of lawsuit is common to all of Canada, because there are quite a number of accidents per year in which people get injured and suffer loss. However, personal injury lawsuits don’t just result from automobile accidents. There are also slip and fall accidents, malpractice lawsuits, lawsuits due to defective products that caused injury, etc.;
  2. Breach of contract lawsuits – if two people, or companies have contracted and one or both didn’t keep the terms of the agreement it can lead to these types of lawsuits;

There are other issues for which you can sue as well, such as defamation, but the above two are some of the most common.

You must make sure that you have enough evidence in your case to start a lawsuit, as most of the responsibility will be on you to prove that you have been injured or suffered a loss due to something the other party or parties did. In other words, you have to prove your case.

There are three main steps to a civil trial:

  1. Pleadings – this is the first step in a civil suit where you would file a pleading with the court setting out your complaint against the defendant and what remedy you are seeking. The defendant then files a statement of defence.
  2. Discovery – This is the stage at which the parties have an opportunity to scrutinize the evidence each side has against the other side.
  3. Trial – At the trial it is up to you to present facts that support your claim against the other party. You have to prove that it is probable that the defendant is legally responsible for your injury or loss. Usually, people in civil lawsuits have a lawyer who represents them who presents their case to the court on their behalf, as these cases often contain complex legal issues and filings.

Before you start a lawsuit you should sit down with a lawyer and determine what your chances are of succeeding with your claim. Legal cases can take a lot of time and are often costly and you want to make sure your case has merit before you file a statement of claim.

Read more:

Civil and Criminal Cases

Civil Actions - The Process If You Sue or if You Are Being Sued in Ontario