A January 23, 2017 article in the Toronto Star has confirmed something many of our personal injury clients already know – it takes a long time to get to trial in civil courts in the GTA. The article also points to legitimate concerns that this delay is only going to get worse after a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision that set timelines within which to try criminal cases.

There are a lot of personal injury cases on the trial lists of Ontario civil courts and it seems there have never been enough judges to hear them all right away. The Ontario Superior Court in Toronto has typically had a long wait time for any civil trials that will be more than two weeks in length. Our office recently scheduled a 3 to 4 week trial on a personal injury action in Toronto and the first available dates were in 2019. In this case the trial was scheduled for September of 2019.

Ontario Superior Courts in the Central East Region of Ontario hold civil trial sittings for personal injury actions (and other civil actions). These sittings are held twice a year in the Spring and Fall in jurisdictions such as Barrie, Oshawa and Newmarket. All the civil actions scheduled for trial in a particular sitting are placed on a list and judges are assigned to those matters at the top of the list. It is normal to have a case on the list for a civil trial sitting and be told that there are no judges available to hear your action. In these circumstances, your civil case is adjourned and rescheduled for the next trial sitting.

This wait time and delay in having a matter heard is a definite problem for personal injury plaintiffs. Personal injury claimants are often in dire need of money as they may not be working, they may require ongoing medical treatment or they may require some other form of care that is expensive. The financial burdens on these injured parties become even more difficult when they have to wait years for their legal case to come to a conclusion.

In Ontario courts, criminal cases are usually given priority when it comes to judicial resources. The decision of the Supreme Court in R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, was handed down last July. It set specific timelines within which criminal cases are to be heard in the country or else possibly dismissed for delay. As reported by the Toronto Star, judges and court resources are being allocated even more towards criminal cases as a result of this decision. Allocating these resources in such a manner seems appropriate to ensure these criminal matters are not thrown out due to delay. However, the potential impact on civil cases is a major concern. It makes it even harder to provide our personal injury clients with a clear answer as to when their cases will be heard.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.