What happens in a civil trial?

civil trial prep

Nov 22, 2016

A civil action or suit can begin under a number of circumstances. Typically, civil suits involve disagreements on the performance of a contract, disagreements about the ownership of property or if someone is injured or property is damaged.

If you are required to be present at a civil trial, as either the defendant, witness or as the plaintiff, it’s important to be prepared for what happens next. The process of litigation is complicated and it can be intimidating without having knowledge about how a civil trial works. Also, the rules for civil litigation change depending on whether the claim was started in Ontario Small Claims Court as opposed to simplified or ordinary procedure in Superior Court.

Most civil cases rarely reach trial, instead they are settled out of court, or the claim is abandoned. If you have to go to trial, ensure that you hire a civil litigation lawyer to represent your interests in court. The following is what happens in a civil trial.

Steps before the claim reaches a trial

Before a civil action reaches trial, there are a number of steps that must be taken by all parties. If you are involved in a civil claim expect to go through the following stages before you reach a trial in court:

  1. Pleadings, including filing a statement of claim, defending a claim or potentially naming new and additional parties to the action as a third party;
  2. Discovery, including the exchange of relevant documents and the examination of the opposing parties;
  3. Mandatory Mediation, depending on where the law suit has been started; and,
  4. Setting the action down for trial, including the passing of the trial record.

Pre-trial conference

Once the action has been set down for trial, all parties involved in the civil trial must attend a pre-trial conference. In this conference, the judge or court officer will cover a number of things. They may attempt to narrow down the issues of the case or attempt to settle the case. They will discuss the length of the upcoming hearing and will ultimately determine if the action is ready to go to trial and, if not, what other steps the parties need to take before trial. 

At the civil trial

The trial will begin with opening statements to introduce the case. During the trial, the parties will present evidence before a judge and jury or a judge alone. Each party can use evidence in the form of witnesses or exhibits (documents/objects). At the end of the trial, closing arguments will summarize the evidence presented during the trial and provide legal reasons as to whether the evidence supports or does not support the claims made.

The judge will then consider the evidence and make a decision. The standard of proof in a civil case is on a balance of probabilities, meaning that the plaintiff must prove that it is probable that the defendant is legally responsible or liable for the claim. During the trial, the plaintiff must use the evidence to prove the claim to this standard.

How the trial will end

If the judge finds the defendant liable three things are considered; the remedy, the facts and compensation. Three general types of remedy at the resolve of a civil case include monetary compensation, declaratory relief and injunctions. If the defendant is found not liable, the case will be dismissed.

If you’re facing a civil lawsuit you need to hire a lawyer immeadiately. Request a consult with a Niagara civil litigation lawyer from Chown Cairns St. Catharines law firm below.