Civil Litigation 101

I have recently fielded a number of questions from clients about what they should do if someone threatens to sue them, and the first thing we’ve needed to clarify is what exactly “I’m going to sue you” means. Suing a person or corporation means starting a civil claim in Court against him/her or it. This type of Court proceeding is a form of civil litigation, and claims can be brought in Provincial Court and in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In order to sue someone – meaning to start a civil claim against them – one must have suffered a loss and the person being sued must be responsible for that loss. The loss can be monetary, or it can be loss caused by damage to property or through personal injury. The purpose of a civil claim is to indemnify the Plaintiff, which means putting the Plaintiff in the position he or she would have been in had the wrong which caused the loss not occurred.

Indemnifying a Plaintiff most commonly involves awarding the Plaintiff money to compensate for the loss. In order to do this, the loss must be quantified. This means giving the loss a monetary value. This can be complicated, especially in personal injury cases. Consulting with a lawyer about a loss and potential civil claim is usually a good idea, as the law in this area is very broad and there are specific steps in the Court process. A cost-benefit analysis is also a good idea, as sometimes the cost of pursuing a civil claim is greater than the loss itself.

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