Should I sue? 4 questions to ask before filing a lawsuit

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No one likes being treated badly. If you’ve been harmed or your rights violated, you should take action. Depending on the circumstances, one of the most common ways to settle conflict or a dispute is by taking it to court.

Courts in Canada help people get justice, whether the issue is between individuals, or between individuals and the state. The courts also interpret and pronounce law, set standards, and apply law that affect all aspects of Canadian society.

If you are in a situation where you are looking to sue, here are a few things you should consider before filing:

  1. Do you have a good case?

    First, there must be grounds for legal action. This means that it’s not enough that somebody did something you didn’t like. It must be something that violated a rule or guideline in a way that harmed you.

    Secondly, if the action violated a law or rule, you must be able to prove this. You have to be able to support your claim with solid evidence. Evidence can include things like documents (such as bills, letters, and contracts) or witness testimony.

    Generally, reasons why a case should be brought to Court include:

    • If someone has been hurt or threatened, the courts can offer better safety. This applies especially when one person has much more power than the other (usually the offender). In this case, the courts might be better at dealing with the problem.
    • Dispute resolution methods are usually private. They are not suitable if one person wants the problem to be known by everyone or wants the result to be a lesson for other similar problems.
    • If there is a need to set a rule that will be followed in the future, or if the result of the case could affect many people, or if a clear and widely usable solution is needed, the court would be the right place to solve the problem.
  2. Do you have representation?

    Cases can be complicated. This is why consulting a lawyer is one of the first steps you should take when considering a lawsuit. A lawyer can assess the merit of your case and guide you on the best course of action. They’ll help you explore your options based on the facts you provide.

    If you need help getting a lawyer, especially if you’re worried about costs, you have several options in Manitoba:

    • Community Legal Education Association – Offers general legal advice, including a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program.
    • Legal Aid Manitoba – Legal Aid Manitoba provides free or affordable legal services to low-income adults and youth, and public interest groups.
    • Legal Help Centre – They provide initial help to eligible clients for free (you must meet financial eligibility guidelines). They provide legal information, advice, and referrals to helpful resources.
  3. Do you have the time and money?

    Legal battles can be time-consuming and costly. You will need to spend time and effort to fill-out forms. For this you would need to learn and follow Court procedures. You have to be able to attend all Court hearings and trial dates. Also, a traditional lawsuit and trial in Manitoba can cost upwards of $10,000 to 25,000. This doesn’t take into account lost wages if you need to take time off from work.

    This is why it’s important to assess whether you have the capacity to commit to the process. Depending on the type of case, getting a judgment may take one to five years on average. While you may be able to recover your expenses if the judgement goes in your favour, there is no guarantee that this will happen.

  4. Did you try to resolve the issue?

    Going to court is not the only way to solve a dispute. If a person owes you money, for example, you can send a demand letter to them. In the letter, you can say why the money is owed, the deadline for payment, and the consequences they face if they don’t pay. If they don’t pay you, the letter can be part of evidence if you decide to file a Civil Claim or pursue other ways to resolve the issue.

    Your lawyer may also advise you to consider less formal processes. Alternative dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, or arbitration might offer quicker and more cost-effective solutions. Exhausting these options before suing can save you time, money, and stress.

Sources: Settling disputes: FAQ, Community Legal Education Association; How does Canada’s court system work? Government of Canada; Costs of bringing a lawsuit,; and Resolving disputes – think about your options, Government of Canada; Accessed October 4, 2023.

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