Before You Sue

Alternatives to suing
Are you eligible to sue?
Limit on the amount you can sue for
What you cannot sue for
Time limits to sue

Alternatives to suing

Before suing, you may make a written demand of the other party for payment by a specific date, in the hope that you do not have to take the matter to court.

You may also find that there is an agency that will help you solve your problem.

For example, if you are owed money for wages, the Alberta Employment Standards Branch may be able to help you.

Also, Service Alberta - Consumer Information can help with some consumer problems. Call the Consumer Information Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-4088 or visit their website.

Are you eligible to sue?

You have to be 18 to sue someone. If you are under 18, you have to find someone to accept responsibility for the lawsuit including costs. This person is called the "next friend."

Limit on the amount you can sue for

In Provincial Court-Civil, you can sue for an amount up to $50,000. This is the civil court's jurisdiction.

If your claim is for more than the Civil Division limit $50,000 you can drop the extra amount (this is called abandonment) or you can go to the Court of Queen's Bench to sue for the total amount. Court of Queen's Bench contact information.

You can start your action in any Provincial Court in Alberta. (See If You Have To Sue Someone.)

What you cannot sue for

You cannot sue for:

  • matters involving ownership of land;
  • matters involving wills, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment or defamation (libel and slander); or
  • matters involving governments.

Time limits to sue

You should know that, in many cases, you cannot sue after a certain period of time has gone by (the limitation period). The time limit depends on the reason for suing.

For general debt problems, such as contracts, loans, damage deposits and rent you must sue within two years from the time the debt began. An exception to this rule exists: if it has been stated in writing that the person knows the money is still owed, or if the person has paid part of the debt, the two-year limit starts when the debt was last acknowledged.

If you are suing for injuries or damages caused to yourself or your property (for example, assault, car accident, etc.), you must sue within two years of the injury or damages. If you wish to sue your own insurance company for failure to pay you as a result of an accident, you must do so within one year.

This is a complex area of law and you should consult a lawyer if there is any doubt about the limitation period affecting your case. Please see our links page for more resources.