From Complaint to Resolution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Civil Lawsuits


Disputes relating to issues such as property, family matters, and money fall under civil law. These lawsuits are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. While a civil lawsuit can seem daunting, the overall process is not so complex if you understand the basics of civil lawsuits.

In this blog, our civil lawyers will provide a step-by-step guide to understanding civil lawsuits in Ontario!

What is a Civil Lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit is a legal process in which two parties (individuals or organizations) seek a resolution to a dispute. This dispute might be related to a breach of contract, personal injury, property damage, divorce, or any number of other issues. Basically, a civil dispute is anything not covered by the Canadian Criminal Code.

6-Step Overview of Civil Lawsuits From Our Civil Lawyers

Step One: The Claim

The first step in filing a civil lawsuit is to make a claim. This claim is a document outlining the dispute and what the plaintiff (the person or organization filing the lawsuit) is seeking. The claim must be filed with the court and served on the defendant (the person or organization being sued).

Step Two: The Defence

Once the defendant receives the claim, they have a limited amount of time to respond with a defence. This is a document outlining their side of the story and any relevant evidence.

Step Three: Discovery

After both the claim and defence have been submitted, the discovery phase begins. This is a process in which both parties exchange relevant documents, evidence, and witness lists.

Step Four: Mediation

Before the trial begins, both parties must attend a mediation session with a neutral third-party mediator under Rule 24.1 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The goal of this session is to resolve the dispute without going to trial. The civil litigation lawyers must also have a settlement discussion within 60 days of the statement of defence being filed.

Step Five: Trial

If mediation and settlement are unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. The trial will be held in front of a judge and possibly a jury, depending on the nature of the case. Both parties will present their evidence and arguments, and the judge or jury will make a decision.

If the value of the suit is $200,000 or lower, it follows the simplified claims process; if it’s greater than $200,000, it follows the ordinary process.

Step Six: Appeal

If either party is unhappy with the outcome of the trial, they may choose to appeal the decision. This involves taking the case to a higher court to be reviewed by a new judge or panel of judges. Your civil lawyers will be able to advise you if there are any grounds to appeal the decision.

How Much Does a Civil Lawsuit in Ontario Cost?

The cost of a civil lawsuit depends on a wide range of factors, such as the complexity of the dispute, the evidence that must be gathered, how long it takes to settle or decide, and more. Your civil litigation lawyers may charge an hourly fee, a flat rate for the engagement, or offer a contingency fee (though that’s more common in personal injury claims).

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