So, you’ve been injured in an accident – and through no fault of your own.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of negligence or wrongdoing, you may have the right to pursue monetary compensation. A personal injury can be physical, psychological or financial, and the responsible party can be a person, a company, or even a government organization.
If you’re about to initiate a personal injury lawsuit, it’s important to understand exactly how your case will unfold.
We’ve broken the litigation process down into 7 approximate stages.
Stage 1: This is what we like to refer to as ‘pre-litigation.’ During this stage, the client focuses primarily on their recovery, while their legal team works to build up the case. Lawyers may also open a dialogue with the at-fault party’s insurer. In some circumstances, the case can be settled before a formal lawsuit is initiated (usually within 2 years of the accident).
Stage 2: This is the exchange of pleadings. In this stage, a statement of claim is issued and served to the at-fault party (meaning we formally sue anyone who is at fault and have to find and give them a copy of the lawsuit). Then the at-fault party will appoint a lawyer and serve and file a statement of defence.
Stage 3: This stage involves the exchange of any relevant documents, and an in-person examination for discovery. During an examination for discovery, lawyers will question the opposing parties on any issues relevant to the case.
Stage 4: After examinations for discovery, further document discovery can continue with what we call ‘undertakings.’ An undertaking is a promise from a lawyer that he/she will make best efforts to request a record or obtain a certain piece of information.
Stage 5: In most instances, the case will then move to mediation. While mediation is not a mandatory step in all courts, auto insurers can be required to mediate by the Insurance Act. During meditation, the parties involved hire a third-party mediator who assists them in trying to reach a reasonable settlement. Mediation is different from the other steps as the main purpose of this stage is to settle. Many cases do settle at this stage.
Stage 6: The ‘Pre-trial stage’ involves preparation for trial. In this stage, lawyers may consider hiring experts (or more experts), talking to witnesses, collecting all relevant documents, and organizing their case for trial. At the pre-trial (which is like a mediation but involves a judge), the case has another opportunity to settle.
Stage 7: If the parties cannot settle the case before the trial, then the trial proceeds. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to over 2 months (sometimes even longer). It involves calling witnesses on both sides to testify (including the plaintiff, who is a key witness). At the end of the trial, the decision-maker (either a judge alone or a judge and jury), will make a decision about what the plaintiff is entitled to.
While very few cases end up at trial due to the high costs and risks associated with this stage, the government has recently made some positive changes to the civil trial system that will likely positively impact injury victims in the long-term.
Please note that this is a very brief overview of a personal injury claim process. If you have been injured in an accident, please contact us for a free consultation.