FAQ’s about Jury Trials in BC Personal Injury Cases


By Mel Chaudhary, Partner
Email address: [email protected]
Phone: 604 697 3251
Simpson, Thomas & Associates
A wrongful or harmful incident such as a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, assault, or defective product has caused you serious injuries. You have started a lawsuit to recover damages. Should your trial be with or without a jury? Read on for answers to FAQs about personal injury jury trials in BC.
What is a Jury Trial?
Many lawsuits are held before a judge alone. In those cases, the judge is the “trier of fact” who weighs all the evidence, considers the law, and decides the outcome of the case. Issues in personal injury cases typically include determining who was at fault for the wrongful or harmful incident and the amount of damages for pain and suffering, past and future wage loss, and the cost of future care.
In BC, the parties to most types of personal injury lawsuits have the right to choose to have their trial held before a judge and jury. In those cases, the jurors are the triers of fact. The members of the jury hear and weigh the evidence and decide the outcome of the case after receiving instructions from the judge presiding at trial.
In What Situations Are Jury Trials Allowed?
In BC, the default is that a trial is heard by a judge without a jury. However, both the plaintiff and the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit can request a jury trial by filing a notice in accordance with BC Supreme Court Rule 12-6. There are certain timelines and notice requirements that must be met for a jury trial to be allowed. There are also certain types of cases where jury trials are not allowed. For example, it is not possible to have trial by jury in Fast Track Litigation under Rule 15. Fast track litigation is mandatory where damages sought are less than $100,000 and the trial can be completed within three days.
Why or Why Not Choose a Jury Trial?
Jury trials require more preparation and increase the work and risk for both parties, but the risk can pay off. Each personal injury is unique, and there are many considerations that factor into the decision to request a jury trial. Here are some of the considerations:
The issues in personal injury cases can be complex with a lot of technical expert evidence and legal concepts. It may be inappropriate to leave a particularly complex case to a jury in such cases.
A jury trial typically takes a few days longer than a non-jury trial because of the additional steps such as the jury selection process and the judge’s charge to the jury. There are also jury fees to be paid. For that reason, jury trials in BC tend to be more expensive.
Jury verdicts tend to be difficult to explain. Unlike judges, juries don’t provide written reasons for judgment, which can make jury awards difficult to appeal. Jurors can’t be contacted after the trial to get insight into their deliberations.
Damage awards can be highly unpredictable. A BC case called Mazur v. Lucas is a great example of the unpredictability of jury awards. Mazur was a personal injury case involving a woman seriously injured in a car accident. She was awarded $528,400 following a jury trial. ICBC appealed on a technical ground unrelated to damages, and a new trial was ordered. At the second trial, the jury awarded her just $84,000.
How Are Jurors Picked?
Jurors are chosen from the general public, randomly selected from the BC voters list. A document called a summons is mailed to prospective jurors, who must attend court on a specific date and time to participate in the jury selection process. Only the people selected at that hearing are empanelled as jury members. Jury trials in BC require a panel of eight jurors to hear the case. The jury members do not have to be unanimous, but at least 75% (six out of the eight jurors) must agree on the verdict after at least three hours of deliberation.
Are You Allowed to Say no to Serving on a Jury?
BC residents have the duty to serve as a juror unless they are disqualified or exempted under the Jury Act.  The BC Jury Act lists certain people who are automatically disqualified from sitting on a jury.  For example, a person is disqualified from serving as a juror if they are not a Canadian citizen, not resident in BC, under the age of majority, or employed in certain professions, including, lawyers, judges, and peace officers. Beyond automatic disqualifications, the Jury Act also allows potential jurors to request an exemption from jury service in certain circumstances.   Potential reasons for exemption include being over age 65, hardship, religion, and language barriers.
Do You Have More Questions About Jury Trials in BC?
If you have been hurt in a wrongful or harmful incident caused by someone else’s fault, consider getting legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. The team at Simpson Thomas and Associates can advise you on whether a jury trial is in your best interests. We welcome you to call us on 604 229 6448.