If you are unable to reach settlement of your case, the final step is trial. This is the last resort. Trial can be a stressful and risky process but sometimes it is necessary because ICBC refuses to pay adequate compensation or takes an unreasonable position on liability for the accident.
Getting a Trial Date
After the plaintiff has filed a Notice of Civil Claim and the defendant has filed a Response, the parties usually agree on a trial date and the length of trial, subject to the court’s availability. Our courts are quite backlogged so there is often some delay in getting a trial date secured at the court registry. Once the date is secured, the filing party sends a Notice of Trial to the other parties in the action. After this form has been served on the parties, any party can elect to have the case heard by judge and jury by filing a notice in the registry within 21 days after service of the Notice of Trial. Otherwise, the case will be heard by Judge alone.
Trial Management Conference
At least 28 days before the scheduled trial date, a trial management conference must be conducted by the parties before a judge or master. The purpose of this conference is to ensure that the parties are ready to proceed, discoveries are completed, there are no problems with witness availability, enough days are set aside to complete the trial, and any other procedural issues are sorted out.
Trials in BC Supreme Court
A Supreme Court trial is complicated, with many procedures and rules that must be followed. The most difficult rules for non-lawyers tend to be the rules of evidence. Those rules include the rule against hearsay, which means that the person who witnessed the event must give the evidence directly – if someone else tries to give that evidence second-hand, it would be inadmissible as hearsay.
Most evidence must be provided by witnesses. The witnesses typically include the plaintiff, collateral witnesses such as family members, co-workers, friends, and medical doctors and other experts, and treatment providers. If liability is in issue, police, accident witnesses, or accident reconstruction engineers may be called to testify. When a witness is called to give testimony, he/she will first be asked questions by the lawyer who summoned the witness (direct examination) and then the opposing counsel is entitled to cross examine the witness.
Trial Procedure Overview
The basic procedure of trial is that the plaintiff’s lawyer will give a brief opening statement and then present his case, by putting documents in evidence (such as medical reports) and calling witnesses to give evidence at trial. Once the plaintiff has finished presenting his case, then the defendant has the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence as well. Once all the evidence has been presented by both parties, the lawyers will make closing submissions to the judge or jury. If the case is heard by judge and jury, the judge will then summarize the evidence for the jury and instruct them on certain matters, and the jury will then deliberate amongst themselves to reach a decision. If the case is heard by judge alone, the judge will then take time to consider the evidence and submissions from counsel and render judgment. This can often take months.