How to Start a Claim
In BC’s Small Claims Court, all cases start with someone making a claim – which is done by completing a standard court form called the Notice of Claim. Once the Notice of Claim form is completed, the claimant will register it with the court and then provide the defendant with a copy. This is called filing a claim and serving documents. This page describes how all Small Claims Court lawsuits are started.
What is a Notice of Claim?
The Notice of Claim is a standard Small Claims court form. It provides information for claimants to explain who you are, who you are suing, what happened and what you are asking for.
How do I make a claim?
To make a claim you need to file a Notice of Claim with the court and also let the person you are suing know about your claim.
Step 1. Complete the BC Small Claims Notice of Claim form (all copies).
Step 2. File the claim with the court registry at the suitable courthouse.
Step 3. Pay the court fees.
Step 4. Serve the Notice of Claim on the other party or parties.
Once these steps are completed, the lawsuit has begun. Make sure you are using the correct form with all the required attachments. You will need to complete 5 copies of the form: Court Copy (1), Claimant Copy (1), Defendant Copy (2), Service Copy (1).
NOTE: You must use the correct names and addresses of the people you are suing (the defendants) on the form. If you are suing a company or a corporation, you must do a company search. Include a copy of the company search with your Notice of Claim.
Before you complete the Notice of Claim, get help from these online resources:
- Making a Claim Guide from the BC Ministry of Justice.
- Starting a Lawsuit - factsheet from The Law Centre
- Court Forms Video Tutorial shows you on how to fill out court forms
- Small Claims Filing Assistant guides you through the process of completing the form online
- Starting a Claim Checklist helps ensure you complete the claim properly.
How do I decide what court to file in?
The claimant decides where to file the Notice of Claim. This is an important step because the court location will determine the specific court process that the case will follow. The claim needs to be filed in the court registry nearest to where the defendant lives or carries on business, or where the event that led to the claim happened. Since the claimant decides between these two, it is worthwhile to review the Court Process.
What about court fees?
There are fees associated with filing court forms and these are listed in Schedule A of the Small Claims Court Rules. Court registry staff will tell you what fees are due when you file your forms.
What about personal injury claims?
If you are claiming damages for injury to yourself, the maximum amount of your claim must still be $35,000. In addition to the Notice of Claim form, you must also file a Certificate of Readiness form. The certificate must:
- Say that you are willing to discuss settling the entire claim at a settlement conference
- Be filed within six months of the date you served the Notice of Claim
- Have attached to it all medical and other reports and records that you intend to rely on to prove your claim for expenses and losses
- Be mailed with copies of all the attached documents to the other side, usually ICBC
If necessary, you can ask the court to extend the six-month time limit. If you are under 19 years old and involved in a personal injury claim, the adult assisting you as your litigation guardian must use a lawyer and must have the consent of the Public Guardian and Trustee to settle any claim.
How do I serve documents?
In a lawsuit, getting paperwork from one person to another is called “service of documents.” The Ministry of Attorney General’s guide Serving Documents will explain the rules for service of documents and will answer questions you may have about how you serve the Notice of Claim and other documents on the defendant. In addition, you can read The Law Centre Factsheet: Serving Documents. Use the Serving Documents Checklist to ensure you serve your documents correctly.
How do I prove service?
You can prove that you have served the document by filing a Certificate of Service. It is a good idea to read the Serving Documents guide before you start so that you know the rules that need to be followed in order for the court to know that the defendant has received the documents.
What court forms do I need?
To start a claim or to move your case forward in Small Claims Court, you will need to use standard court forms. There is a complete list of Small Claims forms under the Court Forms menu on this website. The forms are grouped under six categories:
How do I file court forms?
There are several ways to file a Small Claims Court form. You can:
- File it online using a digital signature and paying the filing fees online.
- File the printed forms at the court registry and pay the filing fees in person.
- Mail the printed forms to the courthouse, along with a cheque payable to the Minister of Finance to pay the filing fees.
What if there is a counterclaim?
Sometimes the defendant in a claim decides to sue the claimant. This is called a counterclaim. If the defendant is now suing you, you have the following options:
- Pay the amount of the counterclaim directly to the defendant and ask the defendant to withdraw the counterclaim
- Complete a Reply to a Claim form and file it with the court:
- Admit all or part of the counterclaim and explain why.
- Oppose all or part of the counterclaim and explain why.
The claim and counterclaim will be handled by the court at the same time.