By Laura Pearce
In a lawsuit started by a person who has suffered personal injury due to the negligence of another person or company, the injured person is called the “plaintiff”. The at-fault party is called the “defendant”. The lawsuit is called a “tort action”.
A plaintiff commences a lawsuit by preparing a document referred to as a “Statement of Claim”. The Statement of Claim, often called a “claim” for short, alleges negligence against the defendant. In numbered paragraphs, the Statement of Claim sets out how much money the plaintiff is asking for; the specifics of what happened (i.e. the motor vehicle collision or other incident that caused the injury); what the defendant did wrong; what injuries the plaintiff sustained because of the defendant’s wrongdoing; and how the plaintiff’s injuries negatively affect their life: their ability to work and earn an income; go to school; do their housekeeping; take care of their children; participate in sports or other activities; and/or find enjoyment in life.
In most instances, the plaintiff’s injuries and impairments will be known at the time the Statement of Claim is prepared. The Statement of Claim can usually be revised later if the plaintiff eventually develops more health issues or impairments related to the incident.
In Ontario, an injured person has a limited time to start a lawsuit. The deadline is the second anniversary of the day on which the person discovered their right to bring a claim. Put simply, this normally means that a plaintiff must commence a lawsuit no later than two years from the date the injury was caused, or else the person loses the right to sue. The Limitations Act, 2002 establishes this timeline. There are exceptions to the two-year rule, so if you have ongoing issues related to an injury that was not your fault, you should consider consulting a lawyer.
Once the Statement of Claim is prepared, the plaintiff’s lawyer sends it to the court house where it is “issued” and becomes an official court document. The Statement of Claim is then “served” on the defendant. The plaintiff’s lawyer hires a process server to locate the defendant and hand deliver to him or her the Statement of Claim.
The defendant, if served in Ontario, has a certain number of days to respond to the Statement of Claim. If the defendant is served outside of Ontario, the time for responding to the Statement of Claim varies. The defendant’s response is called a “Statement of Defence”.
The Statement of Defence is prepared by the defendant’s lawyer. It is also a formal court document. In the Statement of Defence, the defendant answers (defends) the allegations that were made against him or her in the Statement of Claim. Typically, the defendant denies the allegations made against him or her. The Statement of Defence is served on the plaintiff’s lawyer. In some circumstances, the defendant’s response to the Statement of Claim involves making counter allegations of negligence against the plaintiff or allegations of negligence against another person or company.
Once both the Statement of Claim and the Statement of Defence are served on the opposite party, the lawsuit is ready to proceed.
If you have been injured due to the fault of another person, you might have questions about whether or not starting a lawsuit is right for you. We can answer your questions. Consultations are free. Call us at 519-946-4300.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact us at 519-946-4300.