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Car Accident Claimant Awarded Legal Fees Despite Low Personal Injury Award

Legal fees paid


 
In British Columbia car accident injury claimants that bring their lawsuit in Small Claims Court are not entitled to a contribution toward their legal fee even if they win the case. If an award for a personal injury is less than $25,000.00 the Supreme Court will not award a  contribution toward  legal fee unless the claimant can establish that there was sufficient reason for bringing the claim in Supreme Court. 
In this infant car accident injury case (Mehta v. Douglas,2011 BCSC 714) the court found that it was reasonable for the claimant to have brought the claim in Supreme Court to utilize the summary trial procedure not available in Small Claims Court. The judge awarded the injury claimant $15,000 for pain and suffering and $3,400 for future treatment costs due to  minor soft tissue injuries as well as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and sleeplessness.  
In awarding the injury claimant a contribution toward her legal fee the judge pointed out,  

“[9]   I accept the submissions of the plaintiff. In my view, the plaintiff required counsel to present her case. It would be unjust to deny her costs that would permit her partially to defray the expense of retaining counsel. Although it would have been difficult to predict at the outset whether this matter would prove to be suitable for summary determination, the availability of examinations for discovery and the possibility of summary trial are both factors that in the circumstances of this case are sufficient to justify starting the action in this court. The availability of these procedures and their potential to promote a proportionate and efficient use of resources is something that would be known at the outset. In my view, it would be unjust to deprive the plaintiff of costs in circumstances where knowing of those procedures she has subsequently used them efficiently. 

[10]         Although the plaintiff did not initially plead the injuries that ultimately formed the primary basis of the summary trial, I accept that it is appropriate to be cautious in assessing what could reasonably be predicted as the quantum for a damages claim when the action is started, particularly in the case of an infant. While on the facts that were known concerning the minor nature of the plaintiff’s soft tissue injuries and the speed with which they had resolved, it would have been unlikely that the award would exceed the small claims jurisdiction, but the exact value of the claim nevertheless could not be predicted accurately. Given the uncertainties facing the plaintiff at the time she started the action, it was not unreasonable to start it in this court.” Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness 

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