You may have had a dispute with someone that you have not been able to resolve. Next thing you know, there is a lawsuit handed to you by a mysterious person who says, “you’ve been served”.
This article provides a brief summary of the process involved in a lawsuit. This article isn’t intended to be legal advice, but will instead give you information on your options when involved in a law suit.
So what is a lawsuit?
To begin with, you will receive a Statement of Claim. It should explain the amount that your opponent wants to be paid and provide an explanation of why your opponent believes that he or she is entitled to that amount. You then have 20 days to respond with a Statement of Defence.
At this point, you may want to get legal advice. If so, feel free to give us a call to discuss your options. If you decide to defend yourself, you may want to first contact your opponent and see if you are able to settle. The second option is to send to your opponent and file in Court a document called a Notice of Intent to Defend which gives you an additional 10 days to hand in your Statement of Defence.
If you can’t settle, you will need to prepare a Statement of Defence. The Statement of Defence is a legal document that explains why a judge shouldn’t conclude that you should pay the amount requested by your opponent. It contains a summary of your version of events. You also have the option of launching your own lawsuit against your opponent, called a counterclaim.
If you believe that there are other people or businesses that are responsible for the damages claimed, you may sue them in a document called the Third Party Claim.
If you don’t prepare a Statement of Defence by the deadline, your opponent may ask a judge to order judgment against you (without giving any notice to you that this request was submitted) for the amount that you have been sued for.
What happens before trial?
The Court system is built to promote settlement. There are a number of steps that you must complete before proceeding to trial. These include discoveries, mediation, the pre-trial conference. I will elaborate a bit more on these steps in articles to follow.
What happens if you don’t defend yourself?
If the judge decides that you are responsible for payment of the money requested by your opponent, judgment is granted. Now your opponent is called a creditor and you are a debtor.
The creditor is at liberty to collect on its debt. There are many ways of doing so, such as registering a lien against your property. The creditor could then force the sale of property in six months to collect on the judgment. Similarly, your bank account could be frozen, or part of your wages could be garnished and submitted to the creditor.
One important problem created by having a judgment against you is that this may affect your credit rating. I would therefore suggest that, even though it may be unpleasant to deal with a lawsuit, you should try to tackle it head-on.