How Long Do Lawsuits Take? A Comprehensive Guide

How Long Do Lawsuits Take? A Comprehensive Guide

Were you injured in Canada because of someone else’s negligence? Under the common law of torts, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit. 

In Canada, most of these lawsuits involve the tort of negligence, which means you’re seeking compensation from the party that injured you. When filing a case for negligence, you must establish the three elements of negligence

You don’t have to decide immediately to bring a personal injury lawsuit. However, understanding time restrictions is essential to protect your legal rights. There’s no universal statute of limitations across Canada. Instead, depending on the type of claim, each province has different limitation periods

If you fail to bring the lawsuit within the set time limit, you’ll be prevented from seeking compensation from the negligent party. However, there are exceptions, and the deadline can be extended.

In any case, many people are concerned with how long a personal injury lawsuit takes. It’s worth noting that once legal proceedings start, there’s no fixed timeline for how long it will take to reach a resolution.

The time frame necessary for a lawsuit varies from case to case. While some are promptly settled, others go through lengthy trials. Considering this, an overview of the claims process, legal procedures, and the factors that affect the timeline is valuable. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the different types of personal injury cases that generally result in a lawsuit in Canada. We’ll also tell you about the steps of filing a personal injury lawsuit, the factors that can delay your case, and the difference a lawyer can make in the process. 

Key Takeaways

  • There are costs associated with a personal injury lawsuit, which is also affected by how long it takes to reach a resolution. 
  • How long personal injury lawsuits take depends on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, the nature and extent of the injuries, and whether liability is disputed. 
  • Being represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer with trial experience will help with the process. 

Common Personal Injury Cases That Lead to Canadian Lawsuits 

A personal injury is an injury to a person’s body, mind, or property caused by someone else’s actions or inactions. 

Such actions could be negligent, which means the person didn’t exercise reasonable care and caution, resulting in your injury. The actions could also be intentional, meaning the other party wanted to injure you. 

In such circumstances, you can get compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit, which may either be settled or it may go to trial. 

A settlement involves negotiating with the other party and their insurance company to determine how much you’ll receive in compensation and for you to waive any future claims. 

If a settlement can’t be reached, you’ll have to go to trial. In court, you’ll need to prove that the other party caused your injuries, and the court will then decide on the appropriate compensation. 

In Canada, the following laws may apply to personal injury cases: 

  • Common Law: The common law applies to cases involving civil liability, and its primary purpose is to provide compensation to the injured party. Seeking compensation from the at-fault party is generally done by filing a personal injury lawsuit, which is part of the law of torts. 

In Canada, tort law is based on common law principles, which have been developed over time through court decisions. While several types of torts exist, negligent and intentional torts are the most common in personal injury claims. 

In a broader context, the tort of negligence holds a person liable for their careless actions that injured someone else. Intentional torts, on the other hand, cover wrongful acts that someone deliberately inflicted on another person. 

  • Criminal Code: Generally, personal injury cases in Canada are civil offences. However, there are instances where intentional torts can lead to prosecutions under the Canadian Criminal Code (Code) because of their heightened severity. For example, dangerous driving is a serious criminal offence under section 320.13 of the Code

If criminal charges are pressed after a car accident, it will likely be for dangerous driving or criminal negligence. Even if there’s no accident, you can still be charged with dangerous driving. 

  • Provincial or Territorial Laws: Common law principles largely govern personal injury law across Canada. Each province and territory, however, has its own set of regulations governing different aspects of personal injury lawsuits.

This means that there can be variations in the legal procedures, requirements, and limitation periods at the provincial or territorial levels

Given these factors, location and the type of accident are important factors when you’re dealing with a personal injury lawsuit. 

For example, the limitation period for filing a lawsuit can vary based on where you are and the type of claim. Therefore, understanding the different kinds of personal injury cases is crucial to making sure that you take the most appropriate legal action and receive fair compensation. 

As a variety of injuries can lead to lawsuits in Canada, some of the most common are the following:

Motor vehicle accidents

In 2021, there were 1,630 fatalities and 108,018 injuries reported from motor vehicle accidents in Canada. Of these, 8,185 were classified as serious injuries. Given this data, it’s evident that car accidents remain a leading source of catastrophic injuries nationwide. 

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to get various benefits and compensation. What you’re eligible for, however, will depend on the extent of your injuries and whether you were at fault. 

Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is when a medical professional, or healthcare facility, causes harm to patients because of substandard treatment or medical care. 

Based on a report for 2021 to 2022, 1 in every 17 patients has experienced a harmful event during their stay at a Canadian hospital. Among these incidents, 47% were linked to health care and medication issues, such as receiving the wrong medicine. 

If you were injured because of prescription errors, poor aftercare, and other instances of improper medical care, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. However, keep in mind that cases involving medical malpractice are the most complex and time-consuming. 

Proving that a physician or healthcare practitioner failed to meet the standard of care requires considerable technical expertise. Additionally, nearly all physicians are members of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA)

The CMPA is a well-funded organization that protects and defends practicing physicians in Canada from lawsuits related to medical malpractice. Because of this, bringing a lawsuit against a medical professional will most likely take several years. 

Premises liability

Premises owners have a legal obligation to keep their property reasonably safe, ensuring that people aren’t injured when they visit. 

If the property isn’t reasonably safe and a visitor is injured, the owner may be held liable. Typical personal injury cases arising from premises liability include the following: 

It’s worth noting, however, that proof of negligence is required to hold the owner liable. For example, if there were warning signs posted and safety measures implemented, the owner might not be liable. Different laws may also apply if the injury happens on a property that’s owned by the local, provincial, or federal government. 

Whether you’re injured because of a motor vehicle accident or medical malpractice, location is very important when you’re dealing with a personal injury lawsuit. A lawyer specializing in personal injury law can help you identify the specific laws in Canada that’s relevant to your case. 

Understanding the Steps Involved in a Canadian Personal Injury Lawsuit

A lawsuit goes through several stages before reaching trial. It’s also possible for a case to reach a settlement at certain phases. While everyone’s journey is different, familiarizing yourself with the process can help you prepare for your lawsuit’s duration and outcome. 

A personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal process while you focus on recovering from your injuries. For your reference, however, we’ve outlined below the stages typically involved in a personal injury lawsuit in Canada. 

Gathering facts and legal research

Gaining a complete understanding of liability is important for anyone involved in legal proceedings. Before filing a lawsuit, gathering facts and doing legal research is a great way to understand whether you have a strong case. 

A lawyer can be valuable here. They can objectively review how the accident happened, the types of injuries you sustained, and assess the value and the strength of your claim. 

This assessment is critical in getting you the compensation you deserve. When you meet with a lawyer at this stage, you may need to provide the following documents: 

  • Police reports
  • Medical records, notes, and receipts
  • Tax returns and employment file
  • Witness statements
  • Any additional information that can help the lawyer assess your case 

Submitting formal pleadings

Filing a lawsuit starts with submitting formal pleadings. These written statements detail each party’s side of the dispute. 

Basic pleadings in a personal injury case involve the following: 

  • Statement of claim: This document is filed by the plaintiff, or the person initiating the case in court. It outlines the complaint against the defendant, or the party against whom the case is filed. It also specifies the amount of compensation the plaintiff seeks and the facts supporting the claim. 
  • Statement of Defence: The defendant prepares this document in response to the plaintiff’s statement of claim, arguing why they shouldn’t be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. If they don’t file a statement of defence, the court may assume that the plaintiff’s allegations are true, and this may result in a default judgment. 

Conducting examinations for discovery

Once parties have exchanged pleadings, they may decide to participate in examinations for discovery. This fact-finding process, which involves both parties gathering relevant information from one another or third parties, is often the longest part of the case. 

During this stage, the defendant’s lawyer will ask you questions about the incident. They will examine your life before the injury happened and its impact. 

Similarly, your lawyer will ask questions to the defendant about the incident that caused your injuries. 

As both parties exchange evidence, they’ll understand their position and develop strategies for litigation. The primary objective of discovery is to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the case before they go to court. 

Initiating settlement through mediation

After discovery, parties may opt to settle the case through mediation. Although they can negotiate a settlement without outside help, most cases involve a neutral third party or a mediator to resolve the dispute. In some cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, mediation before the court requires a trial date.

Attending a pre-trial conference

If a settlement isn’t reached at the mediation stage, each party’s lawyer must attend a pre-trial conference. 

Pre-trial conferences involve discussions between the lawyers for the plaintiff and the defendant in front of a judge. This step is critical in litigation, as it attempts to resolve legal matters and narrows the issues before the case goes to trial. This stage can overlap or be interrupted by motions.

Filing a motion with the court

Both parties can bring motions either before or during a trial. Filing a motion means requesting the judge to make a decision on a particular issue. For example, one party may file a motion to discover or obtain information, such as police or cell phone records. 

It’s also possible for the defendant to make a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because of a lack of legal grounds or evidence. When there’s no dispute about the facts, and only a legal question needs to be answered, one party can file a motion for summary judgment. 

Appearing in court for trial

When parties fail to settle, the case may proceed to trial. Every trial starts with opening statements from each party, which gives them the opportunity to present the facts. 

After opening statements, each party will present their evidence and call witnesses to substantiate their claim. Depending on the issue in question, expert witnesses may also be necessary. Witnesses will then be examined and cross-examined to make sure that their story is accurate. 

After all the evidence has been presented in court, both sides will deliver their closing arguments. This is the chance for each party to remind the judge or the jury about the crucial evidence presented and convince them to decide in their favour. 

If a party isn’t happy with the outcome of the case, then can file an appeal. 

How long do personal injury lawsuits take on average?

The length of personal injury claims can be as short as two weeks. It can, however, also take two or more years, especially if the case goes to court and involves intricate legal issues. That’s why the majority of personal injury claimants opt for out-of-court settlements. 

However, in Canada, statistics show varying results across different provinces on how long a civil trial takes. 

For example, a civil case at the Federal Court takes an average of 13 days. In Ontario, the average time for a civil case is about seven days, and it’s about eight days in British Columbia. However, regardless of the province or territory, one-third of civil cases will probably exceed the average timeline. 

To get a decision at the Federal Court, the average time is about 162.5 days. About 45% of cases, however, exceed this timeline, and 5.4% of cases take more than 400 days. 

In Ontario, it takes about 98.3 days to get a decision. However, 39% of decisions exceed this timeline, with about 1.5% exceeding 400 days.

In British Columbia, it takes an average time of about 127.4 days to get a decision. However, 58% of cases exceed this timeline, with over 2.6% of cases exceeding 400 days.

It’s also important to understand that the more complex a personal injury case is, the longer it will take to reach a verdict.

Variables Affecting the Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Canada

The circumstances of each case affect the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit. Knowing the factors that can expedite or prolong your case can give you an insight into what to expect. It can also make the process less stressful for you. 

Below, we’ve listed the factors that can affect the duration of your personal injury lawsuit.

Nature of the case

Some personal injury cases are straightforward. Others, however, involve intricate details that require careful investigation. For instance, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, your lawyer will need to examine several documents and consult with medical experts. 

Moreover, the number of liable parties can extend the duration of the overall process. When multiple parties are involved, you need additional time to collect evidence to prove which parties are responsible for your injuries. It can also take longer if the party doesn’t have insurance.

Type and extent of your injuries

The type and extent of your injuries can substantially impact how long the process will take. Cases involving serious injuries will require extensive medical treatment and therapy, which means you’ll need more time to recover. 

Such personal injury cases often require additional time to determine the full extent of injuries. The legal procedures can become longer and more complex if the claim involves long-term disability

Availability and reliability of evidence

Evidence is the foundation of a personal injury lawsuit, and it’s critical in trying to prove the liability of the other party. However, the availability and reliability of evidence can delay the entire process. 

For example, if evidence isn’t properly gathered and preserved at the initial stage, it can prolong the process. Similarly, if the evidence is unreliable, the other party will dispute it, which can lead to more motions and hearings. All of this can prolong the legal process. 

Disputes concerning liability

Establishing liability is crucial to every personal injury case. However, it’s sometimes challenging to identify who should be held liable. 

Disputes concerning liability can extend the duration of a lawsuit. For example, the insurance company may refuse to settle because they don’t believe that the defendant was at fault. In such cases, you may have to go to trial and establish your case in court. 

Involvement of expert witnesses 

The involvement of expert witnesses can also affect the timeline of a lawsuit. Selecting an expert witness requires careful consideration, adding more time to the scheduling process. Similarly, if a particular expert witness isn’t available, it’ll take more time, as hearings may have to be rescheduled to accommodate their schedule. 

Settlement negotiations 

Many lawsuits are resolved by settlement before they even get to trial. However, negotiations can be delayed if the parties don’t agree on the compensation amount. This is particularly true if you’re seeking a significant sum of damages, which typically demands more time to investigate and negotiate. 

Backlogs in the court system

Backlogs in the court system, caused by a lack of staff and judges, can also delay your personal injury case. 

Access to timely compensation is increasingly difficult for personal injury victims. In fact, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec are experiencing the worst court delays in Canada

How Legal Representation Can Accelerate the Lawsuit Process

Legal proceedings typically take considerable time, especially before the case gets to trial. Although delays are unavoidable, several steps can be taken to speed up the process. 

Working with a competent lawyer is the most effective way to accelerate the process at any stage. Certain delays are beyond your control. However, it’s typical for a lawsuit or claims process to involve inefficiencies, which a lawyer can work to resolve. 

Below, we’ve listed the reasons why retaining a personal injury lawyer can accelerate the lawsuit process. 

Helps avoid filing mistakes

Errors in filing can interfere with the legal process. If you don’t have a lawyer, it’s easy to overlook the necessary steps or provide incomplete documentation. 

Any misstep in the filing process may make the court send the documents back to you, which can extend the processing time. 

With the help of a lawyer, you can file your documents correctly the first time. This will allow you to reduce the overall duration of your case.

Submits proper documentation

Paperwork is a very important part of the lawsuit process. If you don’t provide enough documentation or evidence, the other party may ask you for more information, or they may even reject your claim altogether. 

Therefore, not only does providing insufficient evidence prolong the process, but it can also hurt your claim. However, with an experienced lawyer by your side, you can rest assured that all the necessary documents and evidence will be provided. 

Lawyers know what evidence is required and the deadline to submit all documents. Providing proper documentation the first time eliminates unnecessary delays in the insurance claim or lawsuit process. 

Collects physical evidence on time

Collecting physical evidence can also prolong your lawsuit. For example, trying to get medical records for a case without a lawyer may be delayed. 

While you have the right to access your medical records, it’s easy to make errors when you make a medical record request, which can delay the process. 

The upside is that lawyers are well-versed in drafting requests while also taking into consideration your privacy. 

Negotiates fair settlements

Settlement negotiations also form an important part of your personal injury case. Negotiating a fair settlement with the other party can take a bit of time, but doing so by yourself may result in delays. 

It generally takes several weeks for the insurance company to respond to your claim. In some cases, they may entirely disregard the demand. Lawyers, on the other hand, are skilled at negotiating a settlement and can do it more efficiently without compromising your rights. 

Builds a compelling legal case

Sometimes, parties can’t agree during negotiation. If that happens, you can bring a lawsuit against the liable party while settlement negotiations continue. A personal injury lawyer is well versed in the law, so they can promptly build a compelling legal case to get you the compensation you deserve.

Did you know?

During the fiscal year of 2021-2022, Canadian civil courts handled 765,967 active cases. Among these, 344,382 were initiated cases, while 389,446 were subject to disposition, such as settlement or judgment.

Obtain Legal Assistance From a Diamond & Diamond Lawyer

Have you or a loved one experienced loss, injury, or unfair treatment? If so, you can seek compensation for your losses by filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, even for minor personal injury cases, filing a lawsuit is stressful and it requires a lot of time and money. Therefore, before you begin a lawsuit, make sure you think it through. 

Determining liability and how much to claim in compensation can be difficult. Thankfully, Diamond & Diamond lawyers are skilled at navigating these complex issues and are dedicated to making sure that you get the compensation you deserve. Connect with us now for further assistance and to discuss your case. 

Expedite the lawsuit process with legal representation. Contact Diamond & Diamond Law to discuss your legal situation in detail.

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