What is a Statement of Claim and How Do You File One in Alberta?
A Statement of Claim is a document filed with the Court to formally start a lawsuit against a party who has caused you injury, financial loss, or any other harm that is compensable in law.
Chances are, by the time you are thinking about suing someone, you have already been engaged in a dispute with that party (or their lawyer or insurance adjuster/representative) for some time and it doesn’t look like you will be able to agree on what is owed or how to resolve the dispute. It is important to note that starting a lawsuit does not mean that Court becomes your only venue for achieving a resolution or compensation for your injuries and/or losses. In fact, one of the primary goals of the Rules of Court, a regulation the governs the Court process in Alberta, is to encourage parties to resolve their claim out of Court and as early in the legal process as possible. This saves time and money for everyone involved, including the judicial system.
Practically speaking, filing a Statement of Claim allows you to continue trying to resolve your dispute out of Court, with or without the help of lawyers and mediators, while giving you the ultimate backstop of a trial in the event an agreement cannot be reached. It also signals to the other party that you are serious about seeking what you are owed, and imposes consequences on that party should they fail to respond or participate in the legal process.
Here are the key items you should consider when preparing to file a Statement of Claim:
1. When is the deadline for filing a Statement of Claim?
Generally, you have two years from the date you suffered an injury or loss (or ought to have known you suffered an injury or loss) to file a Statement of Claim. This deadline is called a limitation period. If a legal action is not commenced before the expiry of the limitation period, you lose your right to claim and recover compensation (called damages in the legal process) against the person who wronged you.
The purpose of imposing a limitation period is to balance the rights of both sides in a dispute: the party who has been wronged (the Plaintiff) has the right to sue for damages, while the party who has been sued (the Defendant) has a right to finality and certainty. The latter means that a potential Defendant cannot be expected to wait indefinitely to see if legal action will be taken against them, nor can they be expected to retain the evidence they may need to defend against a lawsuit in perpetuity. As with many rules, though, there are exceptions to the general two year limitation period, and these can serve to either shorten or extend your limitation period depending on the type of claim you are making or the party you are suing. If you aren’t certain what your limitation period is for your case, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you don’t become barred from seeking recovery.
2. What is the value of your claim?
It is essential to determine how much money you are seeking before you start preparing any paperwork, as this will govern the form you are required to use and the Court that will hear and decide your claim. If you are seeking damages of $50,000.00 or less, your claim must be filed at the Alberta Court of Justice. If you are seeking damages exceeding $50,000.00, you must file your claim at the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta. This blog post focusses on claims before the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta, but for information on claims before the Alberta Court of Justice, please visit their Civil Claims Process informational webpages at albertacourts.ca.
For personal injury claims, there are many categories of damages that make up the total amount claimed. For more information on types of damages, please see our personal injury page here.
3. What form should be used?
The Court of King’s Bench of Alberta provides a template Statement of Claim (Form 10; ID No. CTS3780) that can be found at albertacourts.ca.
4. What information should be included in a Statement of Claim?
A Statement of Claim should outline your case against the Defendant(s). It must set out (1) the facts of the case, (2) the legal basis for the claim, and (3) the relief you are seeking, including the amount of damages claimed.
5. How is a Statement of Claim filed?
A Statement of Claim can be filed online or in person at the Court of King’s Bench, any time before the expiry of the limitation period. Please note that a $250 filing fee will be payable at the time of filing.
6. What happens after a Statement of Claim is filed?
Once you file a Statement of Claim, you must serve it on the Defendant(s) within one year, generally by leaving it with the Defendant(s) in person or sending it to them by recorded mail. If you do not serve your Statement of Claim on time, in keeping in line with the principle behind limitation periods, you will be barred from seeking recovery. It is possible to apply to the Court for an extension to serve your Statement of Claim, but you must bring your application before the one-year deadline.
You may still engage in negotiations or mediation to try to settle your matter out of Court before your Statement of Claim is served, and certainly afterwards. Once your Statement of Claim is filed, you have initiated a legal process that will run in tandem with any dispute resolution mechanism you engage in. Settlement agreements can be reached at any stage of the legal process, which includes:
- The filing and service of a Statement of Defence by the Defendant(s), which serves as their formal response to the Statement of Claim. The deadline for serving this document ranges between 20 days and two months, depending on if the Statement of Claim is served on the defendant(s) in Alberta, outside of Alberta but in Canada, or outside Canada.
- The exchange of all relevant and material information in the possession of each party with all other parties named in the Statement of Claim;
- The questioning of each party to discover relevant and material information to the claim; and
- The trial of the claim.
Needless to say, there are several steps and potential processes involved to get from the point of injury or loss to the point of resolution and compensation. If you have been put in the position of commencing a lawsuit, our experienced team of lawyers can help you assess the value of your claim, ensure your Statement of Claim and all other Court documents are properly prepared and filed, and navigate the Court and dispute resolution processes efficiently and strategically to obtain the best possible result. Contact our personal injury team today to discuss your matter and how we can help.