Personal Injury

Car accident injury lawsuit, disability claim dispute tried together

By Nainesh Kotak

It’s not uncommon for persons injured in a car accident to file multiple claims for compensation, depending on the circumstances of the accident and their injuries.

Anyone injured in a car accident, including vehicle passengers and pedestrians, may claim statutory accident benefits under the no-fault accident insurance policy of their driver, another driver involved in the collision, or under their own vehicle insurance.

As well, if the injuries were caused by a negligent driving action, the injured party may file a lawsuit for damages against the at-fault driver.

And, in any circumstance where someone’s injuries prevent them from being able to perform their job, the injured person may also claim long-term disability benefits from their disability insurer. If more than one of these claims are challenged, the courts may grant to have them tried together, which is what occurred in a recent civil action.

Background and the judge’s findings

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident and commenced a lawsuit against the other driver involved in the collision. Because her injuries were serious and prevented her from working, the plaintiff also applied for long-term disability benefits under her disability insurance policy. The defendant in the car accident subsequently filed a crossclaim against the plaintiff. Further, the plaintiff’s disability insurer denied her disability benefits, so the plaintiff initiated an action against the insurer.

Since both actions (the negligence lawsuit and the insurer dispute) were scheduled for trial, the plaintiff made a motion to have both actions heard together or consolidated. In making his decision, the judge referred to the Courts of Justice Act s. 138, which states that multiplicity of legal proceedings should be avoided as much as possible. Whether or not it makes sense to consolidate actions depends on how much the issues in the actions are interwoven; whether any of the parties will save money (or alternatively, incur higher costs) if the actions are tried together; and whether a consolidated trial would result in unnecessary procedural complexities which could not easily be resolved by the trial judge.

The judge stated that the key issue for both the civil suit and disability claim is the nature of the plaintiff’s injuries. In both cases, the plaintiff would be required to present evidence to verify the existence and severity of her injuries, and the necessary medical evidence is likely the same in both actions. In the civil action, the plaintiff will also need to establish her economic losses and damages; while to be eligible for disability benefits, she will need to show that her injuries prevent her from performing the essential tasks of her job. The judge decided that the separate actions had enough in common to support a decision to consolidate the claims.

On the question of costs, the judge found that separate trials would increase the legal costs for the plaintiff and would also increase the burden of scheduling witnesses. On the other hand, the costs for the insurer would be the same whether or not the actions are consolidated or held separately. This finding also favoured having the actions heard together.

The insurer argued that a consolidated trial would add complexity which would be difficult for the judge to manage during the trial. The judge disagreed with this argument and found that these two actions are, in fact, standard civil actions associated with a car accident which are commonly heard by trial judges and do not create undue complexities if combined in one trial. Further, the presentation of evidence could be scheduled in a way that would not require the insurer’s lawyer to be present at all times.

After considering all the issues, the judge granted the plaintiff’s request and decided, depending on the discretion of the trial judge, the actions could either be heard together or one after another.

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