I need some help with a challenging research assignment. The final paper in my introduction to justice studies class has everyone comparing different legal systems. At first, I planned to major in pre-law, but this class changed my opinion of the field. It is more complicated than I thought it would be.

Anyway, I must get through this last assignment. My unique essay prompt asked me to compare the legal systems in the US and Canada. I am supposed to give an overview and use personal injury law as an example. 

I realize the topic is not very complex, but any help beats getting no help.

You would be surprised how often people try to make the same comparison. Some are legal scholars conducting self-directed research, others are practicing lawyers trying to navigate the two national systems for professional purposes. Many, however, are unlikely to hold a law degree or even be affiliated with the legal profession. Considering how often Americans travel to Canada and vice versa, it is completely understandable that the citizens of both countries would have a genuinely motivated curiosity in the matter.

Because of all that curiosity, much research and information exist about the two legal systems and how they overlap. Despite what some might have you believe, you do not need to be a lawyer or have special powers to interpret scholastic publications related to law. The trick is to find your answers written succinctly by lawyers and legal scholars that understand how to convey the law to laypeople. For example, you should consider reading what Peter Bowal wrote for the University of Alberta’s Legal Resource Centre, which highlights ten majordifferences between Canadian and American law. He even does you the favor of grouping the itemized differences into broader categories (e.g., elections, courts, law, etc.).

Anyone reading Peter’s findings learn by shocking accident that American judges enjoy much more autonomy than their Canadian counterparts. In other words, American citizens could very easily take it for granted that incumbent judges receive lifelong terms and work independently from the governments (and its officials) that appointed them in the first place. Another key difference is the employment of trial juries consisting of peers. Whereas most Americans will serve jury duty at least once during their lifetime, Canadians only use juries for criminal trial proceedings. Rarely are juries relied upon for civil proceedings in Canada. Canada has the advantage of having a single criminal code that applies universally. Criminal proceedings in the US can become quickly convoluted thanks to both state and federal statutes.

You will want to consult other resources, too. Staff writers at the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) also put together an informative comparison ofthe Canadian and American legal frameworks. They make a point of explaining that both systems originate from English Common Law, which means they share some of the same fundamental institutions. One case in point is the fact that Canada is a federal state. In other words, like the US, Canada divides its legal sovereignty across the federal and provincial governments. That means provinces have equal empowerment to govern matters uniquely relevant to them. There is also the fact that the Canadian government splits into three branches identical to the ones in the US (i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial).

If you plan to use personal injury as a case study, you will have to explore differences that appear in the courtroom itself. Lewis Klar wrote a salient article in the Pepperdine Law Review (2011) entitled “The Impact of US Tort Law in Canada.” He critically examines both systems and cites many examples that prove how closely related both systems have become. Even though it shares a legal history, political structure, and communitarian values of other Commonwealth countries, Canada cannot escape the proximate influence of its American neighbor to the south. Overlapping elements in Canadian tort law include civil juries, contingency fees, punitive damages, and class actions.

While no one made specific mention of it, aside from Lewis, another key factor is the cross-pollination that occurs because of migrating legal professionals. Matt Rosenberg published a compelling piece on Above The Law examining the rationale behindlateral moves to and from Canada. He does an excellent job of explaining how corporate firms, lifestyle prospects, and competitive salaries are all factors taken into consideration. Other crucial considerations include visa eligibility, bar examinations, and the nature of the work itself.

When it comes to personal injury law across the two countries, you are fortunate that they share foundational tort law interpretations. That means similar circumstances and antecedents should compel you to seek a personal injury lawyer regardless of which country you are in. Writers at The Global Dispatch have already highlighted thetop six reasons why you must hire a personal injury lawyer. They explain that personal injury lawyers are critical to, among other things, protecting your interests, evaluating damages, and tapping into external resources otherwise unknown or unavailable to you.

Editors at the National Law Review also published a short checklist to help peopledetermine if and when they should hire a personal injury lawyer. They urge you to consider the seriousness of the injury and whether the injury occurred due to someone else’s negligence. This could be as obvious as harm resulting from an automobile accident or as obscure as complications originating from medical malpractice. There is a wide spectrum of cases that could easily merit a personal injury lawyer. The key is understanding which ones apply.

Let us take Vancouver, British Columbia, as an illustrative case in point. The city is quickly becoming a tourist hotspot, which means the likelihood of automobile accidents is only going to increase. You might be visiting the city for business or leisure when you accidentally crash into a resident leaving their driveway. That is a prime example of when you might need anICBC lawyer in Vancouver. Much like the US, having a detailed police report and the contact information of the other involved party or parties is critical to making sure that events unfold favorably. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the value of documenting as much as possible. Luckily, that process has never been easier thanks to the now ubiquitous smartphone, which will let you record anything at a moment’s notice and with unparalleled accuracy for such small devices.

The takeaway should be that there are many more similarities than there are differences when it comes to the two legal systems. That should come as little surprise given how close the US is to Canada and how readily the two nations rely on shared cultural imports and exports. Some might be under the impression that it is only goods and services that we share with our neighbors to the north. Our institutions and ideologies are no exception, either. You might consider concluding the assignment by reflecting on the implications of the US implementing one universal criminal code like the Canadians have done. That would be sure to provoke some compelling thoughts.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” - Zen Shin

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