A civil lawsuit is a court proceeding involving a legal dispute between two or more parties. A civil claim is solvable through an out-of-court settlement before trial, but the parties may also choose to go through a court of law.
A lawsuit can address a wide range of disputes, from a contractual disagreement between employer and employee to a suit in defamation.
In Ontario, civil cases include small claims court matters, family law matters, and anything not related to a crime.
How Long Does a Civil Lawsuit Take?
A civil lawsuit duration varies. A lot depends on whether the case gets settled before it goes to trial, whether a settlement conference or mediation occurs, or its complexity.
A civil lawsuit can be resolved very quickly in an uncontested divorce action that does not involve children or a significant amount of assets.
In a much more complex case involving real estate, employment law, or an appeal from the Tax Court of Canada, it can take years from start to finish before achieving a resolution.
Why Does It Vary?
A civil lawsuit takes as long as needed because there are no strict time limits. For example, a Small Claims Court action must start within the time limits set out in the statute, but there is no limitation on how long it can take.
However, there are steps or things one can do to quicken the process. Here are a few.
Hire an Experienced Lawyer
Hiring a civil lawyer who has experience with the type of lawsuit you wish to start is essential. It ensures your case will be adequately prepared and presented.
There is a lot of preparation, back and forth communication, and many details to submit. However, an experienced lawyer understands the intricacies, who to work with, and what to do to quicken the process.
The lawyer will not be doing a trial and error process. However, the experience should not be the only aspect to check. Make sure the lawyer has the time required to devote to the case.
Will they be handling the matter themselves or passing it to their juniors? Who will they work with?
How many open cases are they currently running? An overwhelmed lawyer may not be able to give your case the attention it needs.
Collaborate with the Lawyer
A seamless and smooth working relationship with the lawyer is vital to reduce stress and ensure a quick process. Therefore, ensure you communicate well with your lawyer.
Discuss the steps, requirements, and when to commence the process. Finally, one should feel comfortable enough to respectfully challenge their lawyer if need be or question certain decisions.
When the lawyer requests certain information, documents or evidence, provide it right away. Please don't wait until the last minute when they want to do something with it.
Ensure you understand all that is being suggested or requested by your lawyer and why.
Collaborating with your lawyer ensures smooth processes in everything from evidence gathering, sharing information, and filing motions in court.
Working with a lawyer organized in their deposition and discovery gathering can help the process to move along quickly.
Asking for changes when you do not understand something, disagree, or even worse, ignoring requests from your lawyer will only lead to delays and more stress.
Excellent communication enables the lawyer to:
Understand the case well
Inform you on what is happening and why
Prepare evidence and submissions with ease and precision
Ensure deadlines are met (or work around them if need be)
Start the Process Early
Don't wait for months or even years before starting the process. Instead, start as soon as possible. The more you wait, the more likely something will happen to hold up the process or prolong it even further.
People do not like waiting and having things hanging over their heads for extended periods. The urgency is even more when trying to move on with their lives and forget the incident.
Doing it sooner also makes it easier to gather all the information and evidence needed to shorten the civil lawsuit duration.
Also, note that you cannot file most claims two years after the injury or incident.
The Case's Complexity
The length of time it takes to resolve a civil action depends on how complex your case is. Sometimes, you can settle out of court within months.
Minor issues tend to be resolved outside the courtroom (through mediation or arbitration) in the pre-trial process.
A case that takes years to resolve, on the other hand, will be long and complicated. These include claims involving people who lack capacity (who are not mentally sound enough), children, lawsuits involving big corporations or banks, and class-action suits.
A complex civil lawsuit in Ontario may probably have to be handled by several lawyers. The civil lawsuit procedure may also be lengthy, requiring additional investigation and experts' opinions.
The lawyer will need time to examine your case thoroughly before filing any legal claims or actions against other involved parties.
The Intensity of Injuries and Damage
Note that some injuries or damages may not be noticeable immediately after the accident or incident.
Some take months or even years to develop fully. As a result, settlements in these cases may take a while, depending on the extent of injury and damages.
If you sustain injuries or damage that will take a long time to heal, your lawyer will need enough time to gather medical evidence.
They may also have to fully understand how it has affected your life now and in the future. The more severe the injury, the longer it takes to address and resolve the case.
Out of Court Settlement or Civil Lawsuit
An out-of-court settlement may take less time to resolve, depending on the case. However, if it goes into court proceedings, expect the civil lawsuit duration to take longer than expected.
Your lawyer needs to prepare all your evidence and submissions per Ontario's civil litigation rules.
Are you thinking of filing a civil lawsuit? Contact the civil litigation lawyers at Baker Doodnauth to schedule a consultation. We will be glad to help you.