Alberta Civil Laws Explained: How long does a civil lawsuit take and what evidence do you need?

According to estimates, on average, it takes up to one year or more to complete a civil lawsuit. The outcome is not always what you expect and the defendant may dispute your claim, making it vital that you work with a professional and understand the process.

 Below is everything you need to know about civil laws in Edmonton and Alberta.

Quick take: Edmonton, Alberta, civil laws explained

  • You cannot be guilty in a civil lawsuit. Instead, if the court rules against you, you become liable to pay damages or reparations.
  • There must be “Preponderance of Evidence” in a civil lawsuit. The claimant must prove that there is a 50%+ chance that the claim is valid.
  • The remedies for civil cases include injunctions, damages, and equitable remedies.
  • The court may impose punitive damages.
  • Civil claim filing fees in Alberta are based on the amount you are suing for.
  • You cannot sue after the limitation period has expired. For example, the limit for owed rent or a car accident is two years.
  • The maximum amount you may sue for in civil court is $50000.
  • If you intend to sue for more than $50000, you must file a claim at the Court of Queen’s Bench.
  • It takes 40 to 45 days to receive a default judgment in Edmonton.
  • A civil judgment in Edmonton is valid for 10 years.
  • You have one year to serve a claim after filing a civil action.
  • If the defendant does not pay you the awarded amount, you may enforce the judgment.
  • You may avoid going to court by sending a demand letter or using litigation alternatives such as mediation.


Read: what is the procedure to file a civil suit in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada? (link to part 2)

How do I file a civil case in Edmonton?

Under provincial laws, the maximum amount you may claim in civil court in Alberta is $50,000. Any claim above must be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Considering that a civil lawsuit in Alberta may take up to a year or more, you must consider the following actions before suing.

Contact an attorney or visit your province’s court office to begin a claim.

If you decide to sue, scroll down to ‘how to file a civil claim in Edmonton, Alberta,’ In the link above.

Option 1: Send a demand letter

As the name suggests, a demand letter is a document that tells the other party that you are aware of the activity and have grounds to sue. You may use one to demand:

  • Unpaid rent.
  • Unfulfilled contract agreements.
  • Resolve debt or contract disputes.
  • Other civil disputes.

In short, what a demand letter tells the other party, is that (1) you have decided to pursue the matter legally. (2) you have retained the services of a lawyer.

If the person receiving the letter fails to comply with your demands, the individual or company knows that you are ready to act.

How do you write a demand letter in Edmonton?

According to provincial rules, a demand letter in Edmonton must contain:

  • The date, name, and address of the party you send it to.
  • An outline of the damages.
  • A demand for restitution.
  • Consequences for not meeting the demand.
  • A deadline to meet the conditions.

If successful, you may solve the dispute without having to take the matter to civil court.

Tip: Sending a demand letter written by a lawyer or law firm gets the best results.

Option 2: Visit the right agency

In Alberta, there are provincial agencies where you can report and find alternative ways to resolve civil disputes without going to court. For instance, the Workers Compensation Board of Alberta can help you find solutions if you suffer work-related injuries. Other examples include:

What is civil law in Edmonton?

Simplified, provincial laws define a civil case as a “private case where one sues the other.” It is also known as a suit or action. Unlike criminal cases, the crown does not prosecute civil cases under Canada’s Criminal Code.

That means if you have a dispute with your employer, neighbor, spouse, corporation, company, or anyone else, you have the option to take civil action in civil court.

What are the four types of civil law?

In Alberta, civil law refers to laws such as:

  • Personal injury claims.
  • Wills and estate disputes.
  • Family law.
  • Employment law.

Alberta’s civil enforcement actions, what you need to know:

  • Provincial courts may only enforce money judgments, a seizure, or eviction in accordance with the act.
  • One’s failure to comply with Alberta’s Civil Enforcement Act may cause another to take civil action.
A single act may constitute a criminal and civil offense in Alberta

Acts of negligence and criminal offenses in Alberta -may result in criminal and civil penalties. For example, if your negligent actions lead to the injury of another, you may face criminal charges, and the injured party may take civil action.

Civil vs. criminal offenses

As mentioned, the difference between civil and criminal proceedings is that the remedies for the former include damages, injunctions, and equitable remedies. Under Canadian law, “equitable remedies” include rescission, rectification, and specific performance.

Differences between civil and criminal offenses in Canada

Tort refers to wrongful acts or right infringement leading to legal liability.

  • Torts provide grounds for a civil lawsuit.
  • The law does not require the defendant to commit a criminal act, meaning you may have grounds to sue if someone injures you physically, financially, or emotionally.
  • Examples of torts include assault, battery, negligence, emotional distress, and trespassing.

What is vital to remember is that there are three categories of torts. That includes intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts. Also, tort laws in Canada aim to compensate the victim for their losses and punish the defendant, thereby discouraging the act.

Criminal law aims to punish the defendant and prohibit actions that may harm the public.

What can you be sued for in Edmonton?

Under the Canadian Code of Civil Procedure, anyone who suffers mental, emotional, financial, or physical injury may take civil action. However, if you are not fully able to exercise your rights because of your capacity, you must be assisted, authorized to act, or represented. What do I mean?

If, because of age or other reasons your mental state has diminished. You cannot institute proceedings at a small claims court without legal representation. The rule applies to minors.

What you need to remember is, that to commence a civil action on your own in Canada, you must be 18 and of sound mind. If not, you will need a litigation representative willing to accept responsibility for the suit and costs involved.

To begin the process, visit Edmonton’s Provincial Court Office. You may also consult with an attorney near you.

That said.

You may file the following claims in civil court

  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Personal injury
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Property damage
  • Debt claim

Court of Queen’s Bench Lawsuits

  • Defamation
  • False imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
  • Will related and land ownership matters.
  • Claims against a peace officer or judge for actions while executing duties.

We recommend consulting with a lawyer before filing a claim.

Can you sue someone for emotional/mental distress in Edmonton, Alberta?

Yes. You can sue someone for emotional or mental distress in Canada.

Under new laws, evidence of a “recognized psychiatric injury” is no longer required. Instead, according to the Canadian supreme court, the claimant must prove, quote;

“a serious and prolonged disturbance that rises above ordinary annoyances, anxieties, and fears.”

The supreme court holds that:

“A finding of legally compensable mental injury need not rest, in whole or in part, on the claimant proving a recognized psychiatric injury. The law of negligence accords identical treatment to mental and physical injury. Requiring claimants who allege mental injury to prove that their condition meets the threshold of recognizable psychiatric illness, while not imposing a corresponding requirement upon claimants alleging physical injury to show that their condition carries a certain classificatory label, would accord unequal protection to victims of mental injury.”

If you have suffered mental anguish because of someone else’s actions, we recommend consulting with a lawyer.

Can you sue for pain and suffering in Edmonton, Canada?

Yes. Currently, the maximum amount you may sue for pain and suffering in Canada is $370000 (adjusted for inflation). Causes for pain and suffering lawsuits include workplace accidents, slip, and fall accidents, medical malpractice, vehicle accidents, and dog bites.

In a pain and suffering lawsuit, the claimant must prove that the defendant was at fault.

Can you sue for negligence in Edmonton?

Yes. Chapter C-27 (Alberta’s Contributory Negligence act) reads, quote:

“When by fault of 2 or more persons damage or loss is caused to one or more of them, the liability to make good the damage or loss is in proportion to the degree in which each person was at fault but if having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability shall be apportioned equally.”


When damage or loss has been caused by the fault of 2 or more persons, the court shall determine the degree in which each person was at fault.

(2)  When 2 or more persons are found at fault, they are jointly and severally liable to the person suffering the damage or loss, but as between themselves, in the absence of a contract express or implied, they are liable to make a contribution to and indemnify each other in the degree in which they are respectively found to have been at fault.”

Evidence you will need in a civil lawsuit in Edmonton

Just like in criminal cases, you will have to prove your claims in a civil suit. You may need evidence including:

  • Letters
  • Bills
  • Videos/pictures
  • Contracts
  • Lease agreements
  • Witness testimonies

How long do you have to file a civil claim in Edmonton, Canada?

You have one year to serve all defendants after filing a civil claim. If you cannot serve the claim within the set time, you may renew the civil claim through a court order.

Note that upon being served, the defendant has the option to settle the claim or file a dispute note. If the defendant disputes, the court may set up a pretrial conference to settle the issue. The parties may also settle the issue through mediation.

What to remember

  • If a dispute note contains a counterclaim, the defendant becomes a “plaintiff by a counterclaim.”
  • You may file a counterclaim at the provincial court office.