Litigation is one of the most crucial means of resolving disputes in Canada. It provides people, government, and organizations with a fair, impartial forum to resolve disputes. In 2021-2022 alone, there were nearly 360,000 active civil cases in Ontario.
However, litigation is a complex process – one that requires a clear understanding of the law, court procedures, and subject matter expertise – which is where litigation lawyers are necessary. Lawyers represent your interests and guide you through complex legal procedures. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about litigation attorneys and the civil litigation process in Ontario.
Introduction to Litigation Lawyers
What is Litigation?
Litigation is the process of resolving a dispute in a court of law. It is initiated before Ontario’s courts if the matter relates to provincial laws or federal courts if it relates to federal laws.
The litigation process is governed by Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure, which guide most facets of proceedings, including how evidence must be gathered, timetables for events, the appeals process, and much more.
Types of litigation
Civil litigation can range from personal injury to financial disputes. Some of the most common civil litigation disputes in Ontario relate to:
- Contractual disputes, such as those related to non-performance of contract
- Employment disputes, such as those arising from sexual harassment or failure to provide sufficient notice period
- Family disputes, such as divorces, property disputes, and child custody
- Financial disputes, like ones that arise from one’s failure to return debts
- Intellectual property disputes, which can relate to copyright claims and trademark infringement
The Role of Litigation Lawyers
A civil litigation attorney wears many hats during litigation, including that of an investigator, a lawyer, and a counselor for their client. Your lawyer will not just gather expert evidence and present a strong case on your behalf, but they will also actively guide you through the complex legal process.
A civil litigation lawyer:
- Gathers evidence
- Formulates a strong legal strategy
- Advocates for your best interests
- Advises you on ideal legal outcomes
- Ensures the court order is followed by the other parties
The Importance of Litigation in Legal Disputes
Litigation is not the only option to resolve legal disputes, but often, it is the most important. Parties come to court only after their efforts to mediate and settle the matter have failed. As such, litigation provides the means to resolve the dispute in a fair, impartial, and enforceable way.
Understanding the Nuances of Civil Litigation
Civil vs. Criminal Litigation
A civil case is one that involves two or more parties with disagreements on a legal matter. The parties can be individuals, groups of people, organizations, businesses, or governments. Civil cases often involve elements such as property, family, and money, and they are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Criminal litigation is a case brought by the province or the federal government against an individual. Cases are governed by the Criminal Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice. Criminal cases can relate to issues such as fraud, sexual offences, or breaking and entering.
Fundamental Distinctions Between Civil and Criminal Litigation
- Nature of the Case: Civil cases typically involve money or remedy, while criminal cases relate to offenses against the state or society.
- Parties Involved: Parties in civil cases can be individuals, businesses, or the government. A criminal case is always brought by a prosecutor, also called the Crown.
- Remedies: Civil cases may result in a monetary award or injunctive relief. Criminal cases may lead to financial penalties or jail time.
- Standard of Proof: In civil cases, the standard of proof rests on the ‘balance of probabilities’, meaning which claim is more likely to be true. In criminal cases, however, the standard is much higher, as the prosecutor must prove the accused’s guilt ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.