Some of my clients have felt that litigation was necessary, but I have yet to hear one say it was pleasant. Someone once commented that Courts were like abattoirs - "If you go in like a pig, you will come out like a sausage!" 

Suing someone is a protracted and expensive process. There is a lot to be said for giving up a bit to achieve an early settlement. In fact, fewer than 5% of the civil cases started actually get to trial. The rest are resolved or abandoned along the way. 

To collect damages or debts that are owed to you, you go through the Civil Court system. Depending on the amount you are claiming, you will generally be either in Small Claims Court or The Superior Court of Ontario. Most people find that, especially if you are in Superior Court, the complexities are such that you need to hire a lawyer. Small Claims Courts handle matters under $6,000 Canadian, with some urban areas having a jurisdiction up to $10,000. Superior Courts handle larger cases. 

In Small Claims Court, if the issue is fairly straight forward, you may be able to handle it yourself or by hiring a paralegal or ‘agent’. The Small Claims Court Office will give you a copy of an excellent, step-by-step, guide called "How to Make Small Claims Court Work For You". 

For more information on litigation in Ontario, see the Courts Administration website and click on "Going to Court".


Litigation tips

Whether you act for yourself or get a lawyer, there are some things you ought to try: 

Be Prepared

Whether at the Court Office, your lawyer’s office and especially in Court, have all your papers, with extra copies, with you and ready. A lot of cases have been lost by litigators who did not have their proof with them. 

Be Forthright

Trials are no longer won by sneak attacks (except on American T.V.) You have a duty to disclose your case in a timely manner to the other side. 

Be Realistic

Suing a rich man is costly; suing a poor one is futile. If someone does not have the money to pay an unsecured debt, not even a Judge can extract it from him. 

Be Flexible

If there is a good chance to resolve a case, even by giving up quite a bit, it is worth considering.