If you have a motor vehicle accident injury claim, the general rule is that you must either settle the claim or start a court action, within two years from the date of loss. Otherwise, your claim will be barred. Note that this two year limitation period does not start until you turn 19.
Small Claims Court vs. Supreme Court of BC
An action is commenced by filing a Notice of Civil Claim (“NOCC”) either in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, or Small Claims Court (aka Provincial Court – Small Claims Division).
While there are some advantages to filing the action in Small Claims Court (less expensive, more informal, quicker trial dates, etc.) it is almost always better to proceed in Supreme Court. The main reason is that Small Claims Court has a monetary limit of $25,000, you cannot receive any more in that court. In Supreme Court, there are no monetary limits. Also, there are pre-trial procedures available in Supreme Court that do not exist in Small Claims Court, which help the parties reach a settlement or be better prepared for trial if the case does not settle.
Plaintiff & Defendant Responsibilities
The injured party who commences the action is the plaintiff. The owner and driver of the negligently operated vehicle are named as defendants. The owner is vicariously responsible for the negligent conduct of the driver, unless the vehicle was stolen or driven without consent. In cases where the accident involves multiple vehicles, it is important to ensure that all owners/drivers who may share responsibility for the accident are named in the lawsuit. Likewise, in some cases, other parties need to be added to the lawsuit, such as road maintenance contractors, municipalities or commercial hosts.
Once the NOCC is filed, the plaintiff must have it served on all defendants named in the lawsuit. Once served, the defendants must file a Response to the NOCC. Once that is done, the lawyers for both sides will begin exchanging documents, arranging examinations for discovery, and setting trial dates.
The Importance of Having An ICBC Lawyer
If you have an ICBC injury claim, you must not attempt to prepare and file a NOCC without consulting a qualified lawyer. Prepared improperly, you risk having your claim dismissed. Also, do not wait until the eve of the limitation period expiry before seeking legal advice, as it may take time for the lawyer to ascertain who should be named in the lawsuit and the appropriate allegations of negligence.