The province of Ontario defines a civil case as “a lawsuit between individuals and/or corporations. It can address disputes about terms of contracts or claims for injury to a person, their property or reputation.” Most civil cases deal with issues arising out of contract disputes or torts, which are negligent or wrongful acts that result in injury or harm. Whatever side of the legal battle you are on, it can be daunting to go through the process — especially if you are experiencing it for the first time and are unaware of the different stages in the process, and the length of time that will be required to reach a decision.
It is difficult to even estimate the average time that cases involve, as there are simply so many variables that can impact the timetable involved. Nevertheless, having an informed overview of the process is invaluable, as it provides you with an understanding of the benchmarks involved, and allows you to have an idea as to where you are in the process. Many people, unfamiliar with the process, think solely in terms of the time that a trial will require. In reality, there are many stages before the actual trial begins in the court – in fact, it is likely that your case will be settled before it reaches the court. The following is a brief summary of the steps leading up to a trial.
- The process begins right from the moment you contact a lawyer. You would probably meet with the lawyer a few times in order to allow him/her to gain an understanding of the facts of your case. In most personal injury cases, the insurance company is likely to make a settlement offer in order to resolve the matter, without proceeding to trial. Your personal injury lawyer will ensure that the settlement offer is appropriate compensation for the damages you have suffered, and will also seek a sum that will address the long-term expenses you are likely to incur.
- If a settlement agreement is not achieved, your lawyer will file the case by submitting a “Statement of Claim,” and the opposing party will respond with a “Statement of Defence.” When these “pleadings” have been completed, the parties will begin the “discovery” stage – the parties provide what they regard as relevant documents and information to one another by exchanging “affidavits of documents.” Each party will then serve notice to each other, seeking to conduct “examinations for discovery,” under oath, of relevant individuals involved in the case.
- After the exchange of information and cross-examination at the discovery stage, parties often decide to settle at a mediation session. If a settlement is still not initiated or achieved successfully, either party can serve and file the trial record, and a trial date is set.
- The next step in the process is a pre-trial meeting. At this stage, the court/judge offers their initial assessment of the case in an attempt to encourage the parties to settle before a trial.
- Following a failure to reach any resolution, the case moves to trial.
Have you or has a loved one suffered an accident injury? When people have to file a claim, they sometimes hesitate — as they wonder if it is worth the hassle. Are you wondering how long would it take to reach a settlement agreement? Contact our personal injury lawyer to get a better understanding.
“Do not wait too long! In Ontario, the general limitation period to file a suit is two years. You have to initiate the legal process within two years of when you first realised the need to make a claim.”
How long will it take?
Though there are different types of legal actions, every case has its own unique facts. The type of injuries involved and the resultant damages are significant factors, but the extent and the intensity of the injuries, impairments, and associated losses are significant factors that further complicate the legal dispute. Hence, your personal injury lawyer in Toronto must assess each aspect of your case: a process that require careful consideration and, consequently, will take time. It is worth noting that the extent of the injuries you have suffered and the resultant impairments may not be obvious immediately following the accident. As a result, your lawyer may wish to proceed cautiously in order to ensure that the nature of your losses is fully understood.
There is no fixed formula to calculate how long a case will last, but your lawyer can give you some rough estimates, at each stage of the process, as to where you stand and how much longer your case is likely to continue. In a legal proceeding, both minor and major considerations matter. However, the following are some of the significant factors that can influence or determine the pace of a case:
- The sooner you secure legal counsel, the better. If you hire a lawyer shortly after your accident, they can address all the legal requirements in a knowledgeable and efficient fashion, including making sure all of your injuries and damages are properly documented, leaving you free to focus on your recovery and rehabilitation. It is much easier to collect pertinent information and take action soon after the incident, rather than waiting and then trying to recall and retrace the course of events.
- The parties involved in your case will need extensive and detailed information at different stages of the case. How long it takes to gather the needed data also determines how quickly your case will proceed. Some examples of this are:
- Your personal injury lawyer will need various types of information and documents, depending on the nature of your case. Each client takes their own time to collect and provide this data.
- A defining factor in your case is the type of injury you have suffered, and whether or not the injuries are permanent. In order to allow your lawyer to be able to calculate and seek appropriate compensation for your damages in your claim, obtaining detailed medical records and reports from you physician and other health care providers is essential. Each doctor/hospital works at their own pace. You and/or your lawyer may need to schedule multiple tests or examinations to assess your condition. In addition, your doctor may need to wait for a suitable period of time to pass in order to be able to arrive at a comprehensive judgement of the long-term effects of your injuries.
- Having a cooperative insurance company means fewer roadblocks and helps cut processing time.
- Once you have begun a lawsuit and you have proceeded through the steps that lead to mediation, your lawyer will have to obtain a trial date from the court if mediation fails. With hundreds of thousands of active civil cases, the time taken for this can also vary.
“According to Statistics Canada, 914,194 civil cases were active in Ontario courts during 2017–2018.”