The Basics of Civil Litigation in Canada

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The Basics of Civil Litigation in Canada

The legal system can be a complicated place for people who are not used to navigating through it. If you are involved in a civil suit, like divorce or otherwise, or are being sued, it is wise to find a lawyer who can guess your best course of legal action. 

What Is Civil Litigation?

Civil litigation refers to legal proceedings that are not criminal. Any matter between two parties within the state will be heard in civil court. Cases may include breach of contract, personal injury claims, employment issues, or business disputes.

A civil litigator will not just argue cases in a court of law. A civil litigator drafts documents, performs due diligence, and performs examinations for discovery to build a court case. The process in each province will vary, but each province has a generally similar system.

In civil litigation, a judge or jury awards the plaintiff based on the standard of the balance of probabilities. If they believe that it is more likely that the defendant violated the law or committed misconduct, then the plaintiff will win.

Each province will have its own court system through which litigation will progress. The lowest court in many provinces is the Provincial Court. This court is inferior, meaning that most matters can be heard here, and self-represented litigants are allowed to represent themselves. Matters heard at the Provincial Court will generally reflect those cases heard at District Court, except that cases involving complex civil claims are often put off from the Provincial Court until they can be heard at District Court.

The appeals from the Provincial Court are heard in the superior court. The name of the superior court varies by province and does not necessarily have to be in the capital. Appeals from the superior court go directly to the Court of Appeal in that province.

What laws govern civil litigation in Canada?

Under the Canadian Constitution, each province has its own court system. A statute is created to govern lower courts within a province, the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada to establish them. The decisions made by more powerful courts are still subject to review by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Numerous other laws can give rise to some lawsuits. For example, statutes that cover the Fatal Accidents Act and the Survival of Accidents Act establish the types of claims that can be brought in cases of death. In addition, each province has laws that lay out the conduct of cases at the various levels of court and the matters certain courts can decide. In addition, some provinces have laws that set out specific damages for various cases.

What Work Do Civil Litigators Do?

New litigation will require the drafting of documents to send to the other side, including statements of claim and defence and other procedural motions. Litigators are lawyers who advocate for their clients. They use their experience and knowledge to create legal documents that support their argument or position. 

Despite what American TV shows often suggest, court cases are generally conducted with respect and dignity. Lawyers aren't there to be the show's stars, but to aid the court in reaching an outcome based on evidence. 

The lawyer may want to engage experts to testify at trial for specific or complex legal cases, such as intellectual property or professional negligence cases. These experts will agree to accept the scope of the case and will prepare the necessary documents.


The civil litigation system can be intimidating for uninitiated lawyers or those inexperienced in the process. It is best to have a lawyer you can trust on your side, and a civil litigator is an excellent guide.

Hamilton Cahoon is an association of independent practices serving Medicine Hat and the surrounding area that practices law in matrimonial or family law, estate planning, civil litigation, corporate, real estate, and personal injury law. We can assist you in all your legal matters, including personal injury claims, ensuring that you have the right guidance and information and know what to expect.  If you need corporate lawyers in Medicine Hat, call Hamilton Cahoon now!