Civil Litigation, Personal Injury & Employment

Civil Litigation, Personal Injury & Employment

MHR Law’s Civil Litigation Group is dedicated to providing efficient legal services to assist you in resolving your dispute in a timely cost effective manner. Civil litigation is a very broad area of the law that includes many specific areas of law including: contractual disputes, debt collection, disputes with insurance companies, personal injuries caused by the fault of someone, employment law, and many other similar type issues. MHR Law are able to assist in all areas of Civil Litigation.

Lawsuits

Lawsuits arise for many reasons: unpaid debts, contractual disagreements, defective materials, improper supply of labour, negligence, and many other reasons. Given the wide range of reasons lawsuits are commenced there are many options available to resolve them (some examples include: negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and Court). At MHR Law we assist you in selecting the proper avenue to resolve your dispute, and we work with you to conclude the matter in an efficient manner.

Personal Injury

Personal Injury Law is a specialized type of civil litigation, which focuses on someone who is injured as a result of the fault of someone else. Common personal injury issues stem from motor vehicle collisions, slip and fall injuries, defective products, et cetera. At MHR Law we have the expertise to deal with the Court process to ensure you receive proper compensation for your injuries.

Employment Law

Employment Law is a specialized type of civil litigation, which deals primarily with the termination of employees. If an employee is terminated on a “without cause” basis the employer is required to provide the employee with notice or payment of money is lieu of notice. If the employer breaches this obligation the employee may have recourse against the employer.
What is Litigation?

Litigation is a method of settling disputes between persons, organizations, or governments. To initiate litigation, one party will bring a court claim (which in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta is called a Statement of Claim). A court claim is also often referred to as a lawsuit. After certain steps in the litigation process are completed (see “How does the litigation process work?”) the court will hear the case during a trial or other fact-finding process. When the parties to the claim have submitted their evidence before the court, the judge, or in rare circumstances the jury, will apply the law to the facts and decide on a resolution to the dispute. The court’s decision will be issued by way of a Court Order. If one party refuses to comply with a Court Order, an opposing party may take steps to enforce the Court Order. Finally, if one party believes that the Court Order fails to properly apply the law, then that party may apply to a higher court for permission to appeal the trial court’s decision.

Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need the assistance of a lawyer to bring or defend a claim in court. However, the litigation process can be complex, which is why the majority litigants choose to hire lawyers. Parties to a litigation claim must not only adhere to the rules of evidence and the procedural requirements of the Alberta Rules of Court, but must also argue how the court should apply previous court decisions (known as the common law or precedents), and legislation to the facts of their case. The knowledge, training, and experience of a lawyer will assist you in understanding the process and legal issues involved in your case. Additionally, while a lawyer can assist you during a trial, a lawyer will also provide options for alternative methods of dispute resolution, which often generate outcomes that are more satisfying and less expensive to parties. Nevertheless, it is your right to represent yourself in court. If you would like to learn more about being a self-represented litigant, you can contact the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (or CPLEA).

How do I choose a lawyer?

Choosing a lawyer should be done carefully.  You will work closely with the lawyer during your case, and you want to be certain that you are able to communicate effectively with your lawyer. You should confirm that the lawyer is experienced in the area of law that you require assistance with, and you should also learn about your lawyer’s team. Many law firms, including MHR Law LLP, will take a team-oriented approach to your case. While one lawyer will ultimately be responsible for your file, specific tasks will be allocated to appropriate members of the team. Legal assistants may assist with filing and procedural matters, students-at-law or junior associates may assist with legal research, document production, and court appearances, and the senior lawyer on file will often provide oversight, guidance to the team, and advice to you. As members of the team charge at an hourly rate based on their level of experience, the team-oriented approach is intended to save you costs while ensuring that you receive the best possible service. Ultimately, when you are considering which lawyer to hire, also consider the team that lawyer will rely on.

What steps are necessary to initiate a lawsuit?

Initiating a lawsuit involves filing a claim with the courts. In preparation to file a claim there are a number of preliminary steps to be completed. Initially it is important to complete the necessary investigation to establish the basis of the lawsuit. Records need to be secured, witnesses may need to be interviewed, legal research must be completed, and experts may need to be hired to express opinions on the issues involved in the lawsuit. Only after these preliminary matters have been addressed should a claim be filed with the court.

What do I need to do to prepare for an initial meeting with a lawyer?

To ensure that you maximize the value that you receive during your initial meeting with a lawyer, you must be prepared. Although many clients want legal advice during their initial meeting, a lawyer will usually emphasize that an initial meeting is strictly a fact-gathering exercise. The lawyer will use the meeting to gather and assess your financial records, review essential documents, and elicit your version of events leading up to the dispute. The most important steps you can do in preparation for an initial meeting are organizing the records proving or defending your position and writing a chronology of events to help the lawyer understand your story. However, while it is important to provide your records and narrative at an initial meeting, it is also important to select only the records and information that are relevant to your legal issues. By overloading your lawyer with unnecessary documents, you will slow the process and incur costs for the additional time allocated to document review by the lawyer. In summary, you want to organize relevant documents and prepare a succinct chronology that will assist the lawyer in understanding your story and legal issues.

Who is involved in a lawsuit?

The “Plaintiff” is the person that is advancing the claim. If you are initiating a lawsuit you would be named as the Plaintiff.  The “Defendant” is the person that is responding to the lawsuit. The Defendant is the person who is being sued. If there are multiple Defendants, they are referred to as Co-Defendants. If after being served with a claim a Defendant sues an additional party that was not named by the Plaintiff, then for this purpose that Defendant is called a Third-Party Claimant and the additional party is called a Third-Party Defendant. At various stages of the litigation process, any party may make an Application to the court. Common Applications include Applications to Produce Documents, Security for Costs Applications, and Summary Judgement Applications, all of which can be explained by your lawyer. For the purposes of an Application, the party bringing the Application is referred to as the Applicant, while the party defending the Application is called the Respondent.

How much will it cost for you to represent me?

The cost of a lawsuit varies and is dependent on many factors. One of the most significant factors is the time involved in preparing and conducting the lawsuit, as the lawyer are normally paid on an hourly basis. This being said alternative fee arrangements like a contingency fee or a flat fee for certain steps on a matter can sometimes be offered. In addition to the lawyer’s fees there are filing fees with the court, fees for serving the documents, fees for securing records from third parties, and fees for hiring expert witnesses. In addition to these fees there are also charges for photocopying, faxing, file opening and administration, telephone charges, and travel expenses. Not all of these charges will apply in every case. In determining your retainer fee, a lawyer will typically estimate the cost of representing you for your specific portion of a legal matter. However, unless a lawyer is offering a flat rate as opposed to an hourly rate, a lawyer will generally not guarantee the cost of representing you, as the amount of time required for a file can be difficult to predict.

What is a contingency fee?

A contingency fee is a percentage of the total amount recovered in the case. Sometimes contingency fees will be determined according to the point in the litigation process that the matter is settled. While retained on a contingency basis, the law firm will typically cover disbursements and other costs until the claim is resolved, at which time the client will be responsible for paying disbursements and legal fees out of the settlement or court award. Contingency fee retainer agreements are most commonly used in personal injury files, often because a client’s ability to work and pay monthly invoices is jeopardized by the injury. However, although contingency fees typically present significant risk to law firms, a lawyer may in rare circumstances agree to a contingency fee retainer agreement on a litigation file that does not involve personal injury.

How does the litigation process work?

After completing the necessary information gathering and preliminary research, the next stage in the litigation process is to file a Civil Claim in Provincial Court or Statement of Claim in the Court of Queen’s Bench. That document is then served on the Defendants, who if they are in the province of Alberta will have 20 days to reply with a Dispute Note or Statement of Defence, again depending on the level of court. After the Dispute Note or Statement of Defence is filed the Plaintiff must provide to the Defendants a list of the documents that they intend to rely on at trial. The Defendants in turn must also provide a list of documents that they intend to rely on at trial to the Plaintiff. These lists are referred to as Affidavits of Record. Next, the parties may set a date for Questioning, which allows your lawyer (or you) an opportunity to ask the opposing party all of the relevant questions that relate to the lawsuit. It is also necessary to exchange expert witness reports if an expert is going to give evidence at trial. Once these processes are complete the matter may be set for a pre-trial conference with a judge. Intended to prevent frivolous claims or unprepared parties from wasting the court’s time, the pre-trial conference will allow the judge to determine if a trial is necessary and whether the parties are ready for trial. Following the pre-trial conference, a date will be set for trial, whereby the court will hear evidence from all parties and make a final determination to resolve the dispute.

Is it necessary to go to trial?

Trials are expensive, and in many cases taking a claim to trial may not make economic sense. Trials are also uncertain as the decision is ultimately made by the Judge (or in rare cases the Jury). For these reasons, it is important that you understand that litigation is only one method of dispute resolution. Apart from litigation, lawyers are trained in alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation, arbitration, and judicial dispute resolution (“JDR”). During mediation, an impartial third party, typically an experienced lawyer, will assist the parties in negotiating through the legal issues to achieve a settlement. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement even with the assistance of a mediator, then with the consent of the parties the mediator can adopt the role of arbitrator and make decisions for the parties. Similar to arbitration, JDR is a confidential process whereby a judge will assist the parties to reach a pre-trial settlement. As parties do not pay for the judge’s services during a JDR, JDRs are in high demand and can be difficult to obtain in the short term. Whether electing arbitration or JDR, the parties will agree at the outset about whether the process will be binding or non-binding. Significantly more disputes are resolved through alternative dispute resolution processes than through trials because the settlement process is confidential rather than public, the parties have greater control over the outcome, alternative dispute resolution generally costs less than a trial, and each party has a greater tendency to adhere to a resolution if that party contributed to creating that resolution.