Costs of bringing a lawsuit

Region: Ontario Answer # 4470

According to recent surveys of Canadian lawyers, it can cost upwards of $10,000—$25,000 to take a lawsuit through the traditional litigation process and a trial. Small claims actions cost considerably less and often involve little more than a small filing fee and another fee to serve documents on the opposing side.

Typically in a civil lawsuit, it can cost $1,500-$5,000 to initiate an action and have a lawyer deliver a Statement of Claim. Responding to the opposing side’s documents and conducting examinations for discovery will likely involve another $3,500-$5,000. The preparation and presentation of your case at trial is likely to add another $5,000—$15,000 to your legal costs. None of this includes any judgments of the court that may go against you. It is easy to understand why so many lawsuits settle out of court.

That said, in addition to whatever damages or remedies a court awards, a successful party is usually entitled to recover so-called “costs” and some of the “disbursements” incurred in starting or defending a lawsuit. The actual amounts awarded are determined by the trial judge or an administrative officer after the trial has ended. In most cases, however, the costs and disbursements awarded to the successful party are well below your actual legal bill. Also, the costs that may be awarded can be affected if either party delivered a written Offer to Settle before trial.

Since the costs recovered by a successful party are often less than the amount that is owed by his or her own lawyer, a plaintiff who wins a small judgment may turn out to be a financial loser after paying his or her own expenses.

More information about starting a lawsuit and the costs involved can also be found from the Ministry of the Attorney General.



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