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Stages of a Lawsuit


1. How will my case proceed?
2. How long will all of this take?

1. How Will my Case Proceed?

Shortly after you hire your lawyer, he or she will generally notify the defendant (i.e. the person or company who you plan to sue) that you intend to pursue a claim.

If the defendant is not agreeable to a reasonable settlement of the case at that point, your lawyer will start the lawsuit.  This is done by filing a document called a “Statement of Claim” with the Court office and then serving the defendant with the Statement of Claim.  The defendant will generally hire its own lawyer and file a “Statement of Defence”.

The parties then exchange documents and proceed to “examinations for discovery”.  At the discovery, each party is asked questions about the case by the other party’s lawyer.

Your lawyer will likely arrange medical examinations for you.  The defendant is also entitled to have you seen by doctors it chooses, although there are limits on this right.

The parties can discuss settlement at any point.  In recent years, more and more lawsuits are settled at a “mediation”.  A mediation is a non-binding attempt to settle the case.  The parties can choose the mediator they want to try and help them settle the case.  There will also be a “pre-trial” conference before a Judge, usually a few months before trial.  The pre-trial is an opportunity to obtain input from a Judge about the strengths and weaknesses of the case.  Many cases settle at, or shortly after, the pre-trial.

Most lawsuits are settled before trial.  However, if your lawsuit cannot be settled, you will be given a trial date.  The unsuccessful party at trial can appeal the trial decision.

2. How Long Will All of This Take?

The length of time it takes to resolve your lawsuit depends on many factors, including the following:

* How quickly you respond to your lawyer’s requests for information and documents;
* How much cooperation your lawyer receives from the defence lawyer;
* How long it takes for your doctors to provide a prognosis (ie an opinion on the nature and severity of your injuries going forward);
* How much co-operation your lawyer receives from doctors, other health professionals and other institutions in providing their records;
* How long it takes for the defence lawyer to arrange various defence medical examinations: and
* How long it takes to obtain a trial date in the county where your lawyer has started the lawsuit.  There have been significant delays in obtaining trial dates in recent years in certain Ontario jurisdictions, in particular certain jurisdictions in and around the GTA.