After being injured in two cars accidents, the first on the Alex Fraser Bridge, this litigant swaggered into court without a lawyer. ICBC offered him $75,000 but he refused and was awarded $60,000 at trial, all of which will have to be paid back to ICBC as costs. In this article learn about the costs consequences for self-represented litigants when they fail to accept a reasonable offer in a personal injury case filed in the Supreme Court of BC (click here for full case of U. v. Chung,2017 BCSC 356).
Although the claimant had no lawyer, the ICBC lawyer and the judge explained to him the risk he was taking in proceeding to trial without a lawyer and without medical evidence. Despite the warnings the claimant proceeded to trial self-represented instead of asking for an adjournment of the trial.
The claimant did at one point have a lawyer but, in the months leading up the trial, the lawyer withdrew. Even if he could not find a lawyer to represent him at trial the court found that he could have sought legal advice about the need for expert medical evidence or advice about the terms of the Offer to settle his personal injury claim.
ICBC warned the claimant about the financial consequences of an offer to settle should he proceed to trial and be awarded an amount less than a defendants’ offer. In particular, it said:
If we serve a formal Offer on you under the Rules, you do not accept it and you are awarded less than the amount of the Offer, we will ask the Court to order that you pay our legal costs and disbursements for having to go ahead with the trial when the Offer should have been accepted.
The fact that the claimant was self-represented was not the defendants’ fault said the judge. While self-representation is a factor the court may consider, it does not exempt a person without a lawyer from the application of the Civil Rules of Court ( click here to read our review of the trial decision litigant without lawyer crushed)
The judge ordered the claimant to pay ICBC’s costs after their $75,000 offer to settle and refused to compensate the claimant for any of his costs after the ICBC offer was made. The judge also ordered a set-off of any costs owing to the claimant as against costs he owes to ICBC, after the date of the offer to settle, and costs owing by the claimant in the claim that was dismissed.
The judge found that it was extremely unlikely that the claimant would have anything left of his money award after paying these punitive costs.
Bottom line is that the claimant should have factored into his consideration of ICBC’s offer to settle of $75,000 the risk he could get less by proceeding to trial without medical evidence.
There can be serious costs consequences for failing to accept a reasonable offer in a personal injury case. Hiring a lawyer is no guarantee of success but to have the best chance of making the right decision seriously consider hiring a legal professional to advocate your cause of action. If you do hire a lawyer, for heaven’s sake, follow the legal advice given!
Watch our short video to learn more about hiring a personal injury lawyer in BC: