There are two levels of court in which individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents may pursue their claims in British Columbia: The Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Provincial Court of British Columbia. Choosing the appropriate forum to proceed in is an important decision in pursuing a case. Below are a few key features of both courts:
Provincial Court of British Columbia – Small Claims Division:
As its’ name suggests, this court handles claims with smaller values, and has the jurisdiction to award up to $25,000 in damages for a particular claim. While injured persons may bring claims in Provincial Court even if the potential compensation they are entitled to exceeds $25,000, they will be unable to receive more than $25,000 in damages in Provincial Court and must abandon any portion of their clam beyond this amount. While this means that Provincial Court will not be an appropriate forum for pursuing a more serious claim, the advantages of pursing a claim in this court are that fees and other associated costs are generally far lower and the speed with which a claim is adjudicated is much faster. It is possible for a case filed in Provincial Court to reach trial in less than a year from filing, which is fairly fast by legal standards. The court is also geared more towards mediation and settlement of claims, and places a greater emphasis on reaching a settlement before trial.
Supreme Court of British Columbia
Unlike provincial court, this court has the jurisdiction to adjudicate claims in any amount, and is the main forum where more serious claims should be brought. Generally, the pre-trial procedures associated with bringing a claim forward in this court are more complicated and time-consuming than in Provincial Court. For instance, the right pre-trial disclosure, including through examinations for discovery, is more extensive in this forum. The costs and filing fees associated with pursuing a claim in this court are also higher. Perhaps more significantly, claims brought this court will take far longer to proceed to trial. Most trials in Supreme Court are booked 18 months or more in advance, and it is not uncommon for a matter to take 3-4 years or longer to reach trial in this forum.
Ultimately, claims involving serious injuries will result in potential awards far in excess of $25,000 and should be pursued in Supreme Court. However, if your claim is more minor and is unlikely to result in an award over $25,000, proceeding in Provincial Court may result in a more speedy and efficient disposition of your claim and is a viable option to consider. One must also be mindful that the Supreme Court Rules indicate that, if a plaintiff commences a proceeding in Supreme Court and the amount awarded falls within the jurisdiction of Provincial Court, he or she will not be entitled to costs of their proceeding in Supreme Court unless they show a sufficient basis for why their claim was brought in Supreme and not Provincial court.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident the personal injury lawyers at Bisbicis Law Corporation will be able to assist you in pursuing your claim, including providing advice on issues such as the appropriate forum to pursue the claim. Please call us for a free consultation at 1-855-924-7529.