If you’re thinking about issuing and filing a Statement of Claim, here’s everything you need to know before you get started.
In Ontario, the litigation process always begins with a Statement of Claim (SOC).
A Statement of Claim is a document, also known as an “originating process” or a “first pleading,” that is issued on behalf of the person who has been harmed (the “Plaintiff”) in order to kick-start a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. The SOC outlines the details and the legal reasons that the Plaintiff has for feeling entitled to compensation from the other party (the “Defendant”).
You might be wondering whether it is mandatory to have a lawyer issue a Statement of Claim on your behalf or whether you can proceed with this process on your own.
In Ontario, a lawyer is not required to draft or file your SOC. However, litigation lawyers are trained to effectively draft a Statement of Claim that best positions your case and can also be helpful in navigating the complex court system to ensure your claim is filed properly and on time.
Whether you are obtaining the expertise of a lawyer or proceeding on your own, the litigation process can be daunting. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the process and the requirements before imitating any legal case.
The first thing to note is that it is extremely important to issue the SOC before the applicable limitation period expires. In most cases, the Plaintiff has two years from the date of an accident to issue a SOC. While 2 years seems like a long time, it is often considered a very strict limitation and many people find themselves missing this deadline. Under certain circumstances, a lawyer may be able to find a way around this regulation; however, it is always advised that claimants begin the process well in advance of the 2-year mark.
What information will you need to issue a Statement of Claim?
- The identity(ies) of the Plaintiff(s)
- The identity(ies) of the Defendant(s)
- How much you are claiming against the defendant(s)
- The general details of how the accident happened
- An outline of what the defendant(s) did to cause the accident
- A broad list of the injuries and impairments sustained by the plaintiff
- The city or town that the action will be tried in
- A list of the relevant legislation that will be used in the trial
This may seem like a simple list, but when you start to think about answering some of these questions, you might begin to realize how complex they can be.
For starters, one of the main obstacles that Plaintiffs encounter is identifying the at-fault party(ies) in their case. In some cases, it might be hard to determine exactly who is at fault in your case, especially if multiple parties were involved. That’s why it’s important to sue everyone from the start and then release certain parties once you have determined without a doubt that they are not at fault. Oftentimes, Plaintiffs fail to list all relevant parties and then they try to add new parties to their initial claim once the 2-year limitation has passed.
How do you determine the quantum of your lawsuit?
A complaint that lawyers are often faced with by Defendants is that they are being sued for an absurd quantity of money. When you are drafting your lawsuit, it may be difficult to judge what a case is truly worth until it goes to court and a judge and jury make the final decision. Since the assessment of pain, suffering, and other damages can often be subjective, we never know what a jury might award a Plaintiff. So to play it safe, we recommend suing for much more than you think your case is worth.
What happens once the SOC is filed?
Once your SOC is served and filed, Defendants will have twenty days to respond with a Statement of Defence and to file a copy of their defence in court. If the Defendant fails to file a Statement of Defence within the required time, you may have won the case. In this case, a judge will sign a default judgment against the Defendant, and you may be entitled to collect your money right away. Although possible, this is a rare outcome.
While these basics are meant to assist you in understanding how to file a Statement of Claim, the process may still be confusing and intimidating to you.
If you were injured in an accident and need help understanding your options and what you are entitled to, we can help! Contact us for a free consultation.