Case Evaluation

  • Fill out this form to schedule your initial consult with our lawyers.
  • * By using this site and/or submitting this form, I agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Frequently, I am contacted by potential clients who are seeking to hire me to represent them in small claims matters. While I am of course happy to represent them throughout, in most cases, I tell them it makes financial sense to consult with me for only a few hours, and to handle most of the claim themselves. Here’s why:

The small claims process is relatively simple

For those bringing a claim, the small claims process typically involves only several steps, namely:

  • Drafting and filing a claim
  • Serving the claim
  • Reviewing the statement of defence (if one is filed)
  • Serving and filing a list of witnesses and document brief
  • Attending at the settlement conference
  • Trial

For those responding to a claim, the process is typically similar, in that it involves:

  • Review of the claim (and ideally evaluating the strength thereof, and determining whether it might make sense to settle)
  • Serving and filing a statement of defence
  • Serving and filing a list of witnesses and document brief
  • Attending at the settlement conference
  • Trial

For people looking to simply the process, documents that prove your case can be attached to your claim (or defence), and the witness list can be served along with the claim (or defence), minimizing the amount of time required to be dedicated to administrative tasks (preparation and service of documents).

I can assist with drafting your claim

Drafting a claim isn’t rocket science, but doing it well typically requires knowledge of the facts and the law, experience and time. In a nutshell, the goal is to concisely state what happened, generally in chronological order, in a way that fits within a recognized legal cause of action (i.e. perhaps your claim is based on negligence or breach of contract). In most cases, this will take at most several double spaced, typed pages.

The claim is perhaps the most important document in a small claims action, as it provides a roadmap for both the plaintiff and the Judge to follow to determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to damages, and if so, how much. Done well, and it will allow the plaintiff to follow it at trial (if trial is necessary) to demonstrate that they are entitled to damages and if so, how much. Done poorly, and it will confuse both the plaintiff, and the court, who will (sometimes) be at a loss as to what legal theory you are seeking recovery under, or how the evidence you are presenting relates to your claim. A poorly drafted claim can also help the defence, who wins by default in the case of a tie.

To save time and headache, I generally advise my clients to attach all relevant documents to their claim or defence, and to serve and file their list of witnesses at the same time as their claim or defence.

How can I assist at the settlement conference?

Where money is a concern, I generally advise clients to attend the settlement conference without me. Generally speaking, the settlement conference determines whether the parties are able to agree upon a settlement amount that works for both sides, i.e. high enough for the plaintiff to accept, and low enough that the defendant is willing to pay. Where no agreement is reached, the matter is scheduled for trial.

How can I assist with trial?

Where requested, I conduct trials on behalf of my clients. However, given that small claims courts have jurisdiction only up to $25,000.00, that trials may span days, and that typically for every day of time in court, at least one day is required for preparation, hiring a lawyer like me (or a paralegal) does not always make sense.

However, I can still assist clients via a limited scope retainer whereby I provide them with several hours of coaching as to how to conduct a trial, and most significantly, how to present their case in the strongest manner, while anticipating and dealing with any weaknesses. In much the same way that most people get driving lessons before they start driving, in my experience, most people could use some coaching before trying to run their first trial. Of course, it’s not strictly necessary to do that, and you could still win (or lose) with coaching or without, but coaching can nonetheless help things to run more smoothly and with fewer surprises.

If you would like assistance with your small claims matter, including on a limited scope basis, call our lawyers today to see whether we can help, at 647-495-8995. The above is general in nature, and is not specific advice for your legal matter.

Share this page:
Share this page: