Introduction to Small Claims (20:I)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 4, 2021.|
Most people with legal claims under $35,000 are not lawyers and do not have the benefit of legal representation. It can be challenging to choose how to resolve a dispute and how much to claim. While this guide primarily focuses on the Small Claims Court, it briefly reviews other options for resolving disputes, including the Civil Resolution Tribunal for Small Claims up to $5,000 in British Columbia. On April 1, 2019, the CRT’s jurisdiction expanded to include certain claims about motor vehicle accidents, including liability and damages claims up to $50,000, minor injury determinations, and accident benefits. This chapter of the manual only covers the CRT’s small claims jurisdiction, not the accident claims jurisdiction. The jurisdiction for motor vehicles accidents is currently very complicated.
If you are a party to a small claims action or proceeding, take the time to read this guide in its entirety. If you fail to comply with the rules, the process may be delayed, your claim or defence may be weakened, and you may be liable to pay costs and penalties to the other party. Reading this guide will help you be more prepared and minimise confusion.
This guide is meant to explain the general Small Claims Court process; it is not legal advice. Read the guide along with the Small Claims Court Rules and the Civil Resolution Tribunal Rules and obtain legal advice where necessary.
Figure: Small Claim Process from Provincial Court of BC website.
A. Changes due to COVID-19s
Directions for in-person proceedings and filings for small claims court (i.e., claims above $5000) have been significantly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions the provincial court registry placed on the services provided and documents that could be filed were removed on July 13, 2020. As of the time of writing, the following protocols apply to appearances:
- In-person trials scheduled on or after July 3rd, 2020, have resumed.
- Settlement conferences, trial conferences, and applications and payment hearings scheduled on or after July 3rd, 2020, are proceeding by audio or video conference.
Because of the fluid public health situation, the functioning of small claims proceedings is subject to ongoing change. For the latest updates, we recommend you contract the court registry or visit: https://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/COVID19 .
Conversely, the CRT is fully functional and remained so throughout the pandemic.
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