Q: What is my time frame for bringing my claim to the Small Claims Court?
A: The amount of time that you have to bring your claim to the Small Claims Court, is called a limitation date. A limitation date means that there is a certain time limit you are able to wait before bringing your claim. The basic limitation period is two years from the date of the action arising. For example, if you have a claim arising from a contractor dispute, you will have two years from the date either the damage and/or inadequacies are discovered, or two years from the date of the first unpaid invoice, if it’s an unpaid debt.
However, a limitation date can change over time depending on acknowledgement of debts including verbal or written acknowledgement, payment towards the debt, or acknowledgement of damages.
In order to best determine your limitation period, we recommend contacting a paralegal or lawyer to assess your matter.
Q: I have filed my claim with the Small Claims Court, and have served it on the Defendant, how long will I wait before I appear before a judge for trial?
A: After you serve a Plaintiff’s Claim, the Defendant (the person you are suing) has 20 days to serve and file a Defence.
Following receipt of the Defence, it is mandatory in Small Claims Court to participate in a Settlement Conference prior to setting the matter down for a trial.
A Settlement Conference is an informal, confidential meeting between the parties and a Deputy Judge. This is done to encourage the parties to resolve matters, in order to avoid the timely and costly procedures of a Trial. If the matter cannot be settled, then the Plaintiff will then submit to set the matter down for Trial.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many courts and tribunals, including the Small Claims Court, are extremely back logged. At this time you are looking at a wait time of at least a few months for a Settlement Conference Date, and at least a year for a trial date.
Q: I would like to pursue someone in Small Claims Court. Will I be able to recover my legal costs in Small Claims Court if I am successful?
A: To begin with, there is a difference between legal fees (the amount you pay your paralegal for representation) and court costs.
Court costs are the amounts paid to courts for the filing of various documents, during the different levels of your matter, and also known as disbursements. Should a matter proceed to trial, pursuant to the Rules of Small Claims Court, a successful party is entitled to have the unsuccessful party pay the reasonable disbursements incurred, unless the court orders otherwise.
As for your legal fees, the paralegal can request a certain amount be awarded towards legal fees should the matter settle prior to trial. If the matter goes to trial, a Judge can order an amount of up to 15% of the total amount claimed on top of your judgment as legal fees.
For example, if the Plaintiff claims $10,000.00 and is successful, the Plaintiff can also be awarded 15% of $10,000.00 towards legal fees, being up to $1,500.00. Should your legal fees be above $1,500.00, you would be responsible in paying those directly to your lawyer or paralegal.
However, if you are unsuccessful, you could be liable for the other Parties’ legal fees as well as your own. It is always best to consult with a paralegal or lawyer prior to starting a Small Claims Court action to determine any risks to you matter.
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