Trial by Jury or Judge?

A question for my ICBC car accident lawyer: is it better if my ICBC trial is heard by a jury or a judge?

If you have retained an ICBC car accident lawyer to represent you in your ICBC claim and you find yourself going to trial: is it better to have your claim heard by a jury or by a judge?  When possible we try to settle our clients ICBC claims before they go to trial.  However, sometimes it is necessary to proceed to trial.  In British Columbia, our Supreme Court Civil Rules allow any party to the action to take out a jury notice and have the trial proceed before a jury.

Each individual ICBC injury claim is different and there will be different factors that your ICBC car accident lawyer considers, when deciding whether it is preferable or not to have the case heard by a judge alone or by a jury. More often than not, it is ICBC’s preference on complex claims, to have the claim heard before a jury. However, if the claim is too complex, it may unjust to have the claim decided by a jury. In such a case, if ICBC insists on a jury, it may be appropriate to bring an application to seek a Court Order that the claim be heard by a judge alone.

This was a problem recently faced by one of our clients.  ICBC had filed a notice requesting a trial by jury.  Expert reports were obtained by all parties.  ICBC’s had retained doctors who provided opinions that injuries identified on the Plaintiff’s brain MRI, were not connected to the car accident.  We obtained doctors reports which rebutted these opinions and stated that the injuries shown on the brain MRI were a result of the car accident.

It was our submission that this evidence was too complex for members of a jury to comprehend and that it was in the interest of justice that ICBC’s jury notice be struck and the claim be heard by judge alone. Accordingly, we brought an application to have the jury notice struck. 

Master Cameron of the Supreme Court of British Columbia heard the application and agreed with our position, that the claim was too complex for a jury. Master Cameron stated in his decision that:  

 “These conflicting opinions are the central issue on damages in this case and by virtue of their nature and content are fairly described in my view as “complex, multifaceted, and not easily or lightly considered or understood”….Even with the guidance and assistance of the trial judge, it will be a difficult task for a jury to retain a clear understanding of this technical medical and scientific evidence through this 15 day trail…I find it would not be convenient for the jury to do so…I direct that the trial of this action be with a judge without a jury.”

Our success on this application was significant and shortly after winning this application, we were able to obtain our client a settlement far in excess of what ICBC was offering, when the claim was scheduled to be heard by a jury.

If you have any questions about your ICBC claim please contact one of our experienced lawyers.  We offer free consultations.  Call us on:  604-689-8888.

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