If you have a personal injury law suit in Ontario or certain other jurisdictions in this province, you will have a pre-trial before there is a trial date set.
The purpose of a pre-trial is to settle the case or narrow the contentious issues in the case. In a personal injury case, the issues are usually: who was responsible for the collision and what are the injuries worth?
A case management judge or another court official called a case management master facilitates a discussion of the issues and reviews the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.
You will attend the pre-trial along with the lawyers for each party. The Defence Lawyer usually hired by the insurance company as well as a representative of the defence, usually a claims examiner or adjuster, will also be present.
Before the pre-trial is held, parties are required to complete all examinations for discovery, produce all of the required documents and complete any related motions. Your lawyer will prepare a brief with a detailed outline of the evidence he or she will be leading at trial. This will include key passages from the transcripts from the examination for discovery, important medical records and expert reports. The brief will also identify the witnesses he or she intends to call at trial and what they will say at trial.
You will meet with your lawyer before the pre-trial to discuss your settlement position and any developments in the case that arise from the defence lawyer’s pre-trial brief. Different judges run pre-trials in different ways.
Sometimes all the parties, lawyers and the judge will meet in a court room. The lawyers will make submissions and the judge will comment and then give an evaluation of the case. In other cases, the judge will meet privately with the lawyers and go through the case and then come back into the courtroom to speak to the parties about his or her views.
A pretrial may only last one hour or it may last several, particularly if the parties are actively negotiating. If a settlement is reached, the case will not proceed beyond the pretrial.
If a settlement is not reached, the judge will discuss the expected length of the trial with the lawyers and a trial date will be set.
Although the parties will often be disappointed if the case does not settle, having a fixed trial date motivates the parties to continue to work toward settlement. It also provides a deadline for the resolution of the case—the trial date.
The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace a lawyers’ advice. Please always consult a lawyer for your legal needs.