Earlier this year, the B.C. government announced plans to expand the authority of the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) to handle personal injury claims arising from car accidents. If you are unfamiliar with CRT, it is a special type administrative tribunal previously established by the B.C. Legislative Assembly to handle certain types of small claims cases. More precisely, the CRT currently handles claims for damages of $5,000 or less.
Unlike traditional litigation, the Civil Resolution Tribunal process encourages online dispute resolution. Individuals must initiate the claims process thru CRT’s website. The process itself involves three stages:
A Tribunal decision is enforceable the same as a court order, but either party may appeal by filing a notice of objection with the Provincial Court, which will then hear the case. If neither party objects, a successful applicant can seek enforcement of the Tribunal order by filing it with the Provincial Court.
One other key difference between the CRT and a normal personal injury claim is that the parties are expected to represent themselves before the Tribunal. This does not mean you cannot–or should not–consult an experienced personal injury lawyer beforehand.
As far as the actual adjudication goes, B.C. law requires self-representation unless the party is a “child or a person with impaired capacity” or the Tribunal otherwise permits legal representation “in the interests of justice and fairness.”
As a part of the government’s cost-savings measures for ICBC brought about by removing or limiting car accident victim rights, the Civil Resolution Tribunal will become a central part of resolving car accident claims. Previously, car accident victims had access to the courts when seeking justice for their injuries. That has largely changed.
The CRT jurisdiction has been increased to allow for car accident claims involving disputes of $50,000 or less, the determination of “minor injuries”, and the determination of whether injured people are entitled to accident benefits.
Accident victims will also have a limited ability to recover legal costs for disputes before the CRT, which will make it more expensive, personally, to prosecute car accident claims and therefore limit access to justice.
The barriers created by these new laws will be the subject of further blog posts.
Here is a recent example of a CRT decision, which offers some additional insight into how the process works. The applicant in this case sought damages of $2,858 as compensation for damage to her car. The respondents included a townhouse complex in North Vancouver. According to the applicant, a resident of the complex was driving her car at the time of the accident.
The townhouse complex is a gated community. Access to the gate is controlled by a clicker, which the driver had at the time. As relevant here, the driver was following two other cars to exit the complex onto Indian River Drive. The lead car saw there was oncoming traffic–Indian River Drive was limited to a single lane that day due to construction work–and started to back up into the complex’s driveway leading up to the gate.
The middle car then followed. The driver, attempting to avoid a collision, then backed up the applicant’s car, which put him “in the path of the mechanical swinging gate,” according to court records. The large metal gate then closed on the applicant’s car, causing the aforementioned damage.
Before the Tribunal, the applicant argued the townhouse complex was negligent by either failing to keep the gate locked in an “open position” while there was ongoing work on Indian River Drive, or in the alternative by not installing a “safety mechanism to prevent the gate from hitting objects as it closed.” The complex denied responsibility for the accident.
But Tribunal Member Kate Campbell agreed with the applicant. She noted that under B.C. premises liability law, the “occupier” of a property–in this case the townhouse complex–has “a duty of care to ensure those who use their premises are reasonably safe from harm to themselves and their property.” This includes making sure individuals with “proper authority,” such as complex residents, have “safe access” to enter and exit the premises.
Although the gate itself was “functioning in its normal manner” at the time of the accident, there was evidence the complex knew about at least one prior incident where the gate had struck a car. Yet even with this knowledge, the complex failed to post any warning signs or inform residents that the gate “would not stop automatically if blocked.”
Given this, Campbell said the complex “failed to meet the reasonable standard of care,” and was therefore liable for damages to the applicant’s vehicle.
That said, Campbell denied several other requests made by the applicant. The first was that the Tribunal order the complex to directly reimburse ICBC for the repair cost. Campbell explained ICBC was “not a party to this dispute” and it therefore made more sense to have the complex reimburse the applicant directly.
Additionally, the applicant asked the Tribunal to order the complex to “fix its gate.” Campbell said it was not within the Tribunal’s power to “make prospective orders relating to matters that have not yet occurred,” especially in a case like this, where the applicant herself does not live in the complex.
Finally, Campbell declined to hold two other parties–the District of North Vancouver and the company hired to do the construction work on Indian River Drive–liable for the accident. Here, the applicant argued that the District and its contractor “should have posted a traffic flagger at the end of the [complex’s] driveway.”
Campbell noted that there was no evidence the contractor failed to follow the applicable “traffic control standards,” and for that matter it was not “reasonably foreseeable” to the District or the contractor that the applicant’s car would be struck and damaged by the complex’s gate.
Of course, it is not always clear following an accident just how much your claim might be worth. This is why you need to consult with a qualified Vancouver car accident lawyer. Contact the Preszler Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to discuss your case.