Litigation can be costly, so it’s worth finding out how to get through the court system as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Carole McAfee Wallace LL.B., with WeirFoulds for 12 years now, and one of the firm’s foremost experts in trucking related law (she’s director of the Canadian Transportation Lawyer’s Association as well), has a few tips for making the whole process of getting paid less expensive and time consuming.
“One of the things you have to keep in mind is that most people have very little knowledge of how the trucking business works, and that includes the courts,” she says. “So you have to make sure you’re able to make things clear for them.”
Up front documentation, like bills of lading and invoices, makes things a lot easier when you get to court, and may even help you avoid going there entirely.
“Many clients are able to settle payment issues out of court, simply though a lawyer’s letter,” Wallace says.
As lawyers generally charge by the hour, keeping the time you consume to a minimum will cut costs, says Wallace. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, she adds.
“A good lawyer will spend some time on the phone with you to talk about what you want to do, what your options are and how much it might end up costing up front,” she says.
You may even be able to save money, if the lawyer is willing to use an articling student to do the paperwork and supervise the work.
“That way you get an experienced lawyer supervising the work of someone who costs much less,” she points out.
Ask your potential lawyer what kind of experience he or she has with the transportation industry and whether he or she has ever tried similar cases. And don’t be shy to ask their hourly rate, Wallace adds. Expect your lawyer to call you back on a timely basis, she says. But most importantly, go with your gut instinct.
“Feeling comfortable with your lawyer and with what he or she wants to do is most important,” she says. “After all, you are the one paying the bill.”
If the matter does end up going to court, it’s worth applying for a summary judgment, Wallace says.
“Summary judgments don’t have examinations for discovery, which can take a long time and be quite expensive,” Wallace says. And while both parties must agree to the summary judgment procedure, it’s usually in the best interest of both parties to do so.
In summary judgments, both parties present their documents for judgment, and no one has to actually go to court, which cuts down on lawyer’s fees and is especially useful when one or both parties are not in Ontario.
Of course, if the issue is too complicated for summary judgment (e.g. there’s little documentation and it’s a case of he/she says) then a full trial will ensue. But it’s still worth applying for summary judgment simply to avoid the cost and time it takes for discovery.
Finally, remember that you can pull the plug at any time.
“The lawyer has to give you good advice about what your chances are of winning,” says Wallace. “But you should know that you can stop the train at any time.”
Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry. All posts by Truck News