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

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No one likes being treated in a bad way. If someone has hurt you or broken your rights, you should do something about it. One common way to solve a problem or a fight is by going to court.

Courts in Canada help people get a fair treatment. This can be for problems between people, or between people and the government. The courts also explain and say the law, set rules, and use the law in ways that touch all parts of Canadian life.

If you are in a situation where you want to take someone to court, here are a few things you should think about before you start:

  1. Do you have a strong case?

    First, there must be a reason for legal action. This means that it’s not enough that someone did something you didn’t like. It must be something that broke a rule in a way that hurt you. Secondly, if the action broke a law or rule, you must be able to show this. You have to be able to back up your claim with strong proof. Proof can include things like papers (like bills, letters, and contracts) or what a witness says.

    Reasons a case should be brought to Court include:

    • If someone has been hurt or threatened, the courts can offer safety. This applies when one person has much more power than the other. The courts might be better at dealing with the problem.
    • Dispute resolution methods are private. They are not suitable if one person wants the case to be known. They want the case to be a lesson for others.
    • Cases should be brought to court if there is a need to set a rule that will be followed in the future. Especially if the result of the case could affect many people, or if a clear and widely usable solution is needed.
  2. Do you have a lawyer?

    Cases can be hard to understand. This is why talking to a lawyer is one of the first steps you should take when thinking about a lawsuit. A lawyer can look at the strength of your case and guide you on the best way to go. They’ll help you look at your choices based on the facts you give. If you need help getting a lawyer, especially if you’re worried about costs, you have several choices in Manitoba:

    • Community Legal Education Association – Gives general legal advice, including a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program.
    • Legal Aid Manitoba – Legal Aid Manitoba gives free or cheap legal services to adults and young people with low income, and groups.
    • Legal Help Centre – They give initial help to clients who are eligible (you must meet financial eligibility rules) for free. They give legal information, advice, and point you to helpful resources.
  3. Do you have the time and money?

    Legal fights can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. You will need to spend time and effort to fill out forms. For this, you would need to learn and follow Court rules. You have to be able to go to all Court hearings and trial dates. Also, a traditional lawsuit and trial in Manitoba can cost more than $10,000 to 25,000. This doesn’t include lost wages if you need to take time off from work. This is why it’s important to check if you have the ability 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 get back your expenses if the judgement is in your favour, there is no promise that this will happen.

  4. Did you try to solve the problem?

    Going to court is not the only way to solve a fight. 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 what will happen if they don’t pay. If they don’t pay you, the letter can be part of proof if you decide to file a Civil Claim or look for other ways to solve the problem. Your lawyer may also advise you to think about less formal processes. Alternative dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, or arbitration might offer quicker and cheaper solutions. Trying 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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