January 2, 2024
If you are served with a statement of claim (or in Small Claims Court, a claim), the first thing to do, even before you call a lawyer, is consider whether you might have insurance. A call to your agent or broker is always a good idea.
Insurance will usually cover accidents, but not intentional harm or breach of contract, but coverages vary. So, finding out if you are covered for the claim is important, and it is crucial to let the insurer know as soon as you are aware of a claim. Even before actually being sued, if you receive a demand letter, let your insurance company know. Late reporting may result in denial of coverage.
Unless the insurer agrees to defend you, the next step is to call a lawyer. Sure, you have the option of defending yourself, but that is a time consuming and frustrating experience. At the very least, some preliminary advice will be worth it in saving you some frustration.
We never recommend defending yourself, except perhaps on the simplest of Small Claims actions. Lawyers are trained in both procedure and the art of advocacy. You could look up procedure in a book, but there are always “unwritten rules”. Advocacy is an art. You cannot learn it from a book. Lawyers learn it from watching and doing. You do not have that time, or that margin for error. You need to get it right the first time.
If the only lawyer you know drafted your will, did your divorce, or helped you buy a house, start there. Most likely however, you want a lawyer who has experience in claims like the one you are facing. Your previous lawyer can give you some names, or you can ask around, or try the internet. Once you have a litigation lawyer in mind, ask around about their reputation. Lawyers are not all the same.
Most lawyers will give you a no obligation or low-cost initial meeting to determine whether there is a good fit. You might want to talk to a few lawyers to find the right fit. Few lawyers are insulted if you decide to go elsewhere. Your satisfaction is what is important.
Arrive with not just the statement of claim, but also the documents that will help you tell the story. Whatever you say is confidential, even if you do not hire the lawyer, so be ready to tell the truth, even the embarrassing parts. A lawyer can only help you if you are honest with them.
Lawyers cost money, but it may be a good investment, especially in Superior Court. Remember that the cheapest lawyer may not be the best fit for you. Hourly rates, which most lawyers use to set defence fees, are deceptive. A lawyer may cost more per hour, but take fewer hours, or achieve a better result.
It is results that count, and you deserve the best lawyer that you can afford. And by “best” we mean “best fit”. Litigation takes time, and you want a lawyer that you can trust for the long haul.
At Weilers LLP we have lawyers with a broad range of litigation experience. We hope that we can find a lawyer on our team who will be the right fit for you and give you the advantage of access to other team members. That is why we like to say, “give us a call and see if we are the right lawyers for you.”