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Statscan Litigation Trends

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Statistics Canada has released its annual litigation survey today, which gives a very high-level view of some trends in the Canadian litigation landscape.  Being a civil litigator, the numbers that interest me are those dealing with general civil litigation, as opposed to other things like family law disputes.  As discussed below, the new numbers show a continuing trend towards fewer bankruptcy and insolvency type cases, with an increasing number of motor vehicle claims.

This study takes data from the various Provinces to give a very general summary of how many cases there are that fall within various categories.  In Ontario, at least, when each lawsuit is started, a form is filed with the court (called Information for Court Use) where a party ticks of what area of law the claim falls under, such as contract law, employment law, product liability etc.  I am presuming that Statscan is mining this information from the various courts to come up with its totals.

If we limit the data from Statscan to Ontario only (there are apparently some data issues with a few of the other Provinces), and only look at we see a few interesting, although not surprising, trends.  For cases that are assigned to a specific category (rather than "other civil action" or "unknown type of action"), here is what the trends from 2005/2006 look like:

We see a big jump in motor vehicle claims over the past couple of years (notwithstanding the various changes to the Insurance Act to make motor vehicle claims tougher).  At the same time, we see drops in bankruptcy proceedings, collection proceedings and "other contract" claims (which includes categories ranging from employment claims to mortgage enforcement claims).  Not surprisingly, the peak in bankruptcy and collection proceedings happened at the tail end of the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

If we combine some of the common categories, we can see a general trend towards a decrease in bankpruptcy and collection type cases.  This chart uses the same data, but combines everything into 3 categories: (1) bankruptcy and collection cases, (2) other contract cases, and (3) all other non-contract/non-insolvency type cases.

Again, we can see the trend of bankruptcy/collection cases slowing since the recession, with non-contract cases (typically tort cases) increasing.

The fact that bankruptcy/collection cases are decreasing is not particularly surprising, although is presumably a good sign economically. Although since bankruptcies/collection cases are a trailing effect of a recession, rather than an advance indicator, it doesn't likely give us more information to predict how the economy will be doing in the future.

On the other hand, the continuing increase in motor vehicle claims seems to indicate that the past attempts by the Ontario government to reduce motor vehicle claims have not been successful.  I am not a motor vehicle injury lawyer, so I don't have much in the way of commentary on this trend.  I do note, however, that the one Province that reports specific motor vehicle numbers that has shown a decrease in motor vehicle claims is Alberta.

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