Cross-border personal injury litigation poses unique challenges

Personal injury claims can be challenging to navigate, but when it involves the laws of both Canada and the United States, those hurdles may overwhelm victims who simply seek recovery of damages. If a Seattle resident travels to Vancouver and is hurt by a negligent driver, the U.S. citizen must pursue cross-border personal injury litigation in British Columbia to seek financial relief. The subtle differences and similarities in the applicable laws of the two countries make such litigation something best handled by professionals who are skilled in handling cases on both sides of the border.

The legal environment in which the lawyers of the two jurisdictions practice further underscores the dissimilarities. The differences in legal cultures, procedures and language will determine how things are done across the border. Even those for whom this is a first brush with the law and litigation may have preconceived ideas about what should happen, but the fact that it occurs in a foreign country may result in something different.

When filing a case before a court in a foreign jurisdiction, the typical goal is to narrow the divide between what the plaintiff expects to happen and what could happen. The actual challenge for an attorney is to minimise that gap between reality and theory. Litigation in a closely affiliated neighbouring country is not typically regarded as foreign, and the probability exists that the procedural laws would be similar. However, the differences between litigating cases in the two jurisdictions are sufficient to provide unanticipated traps.

For these reasons, victims of cross-border crashes or other incidents that might lead to personal injury lawsuits will likely seek representation by lawyers who are experienced in navigating cross-border personal injury litigation. A lawyer who can do a case assessment and prepare the injured victim for what to expect, regardless of whether the case is in British Columbia or Washington State. The aspects that he or she will likely cover may include the requirements for gathering evidence, as well as preparing and presenting the case in court, along with an estimation of the time it will take to complete the case, the cost and the anticipated result.

Source: FindLaw, "Managing U.S.-Canada Cross-Border Litigation", March 27, 2017

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