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$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Low Back Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back injury.

In today’s case (Truong v. Lu) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision the Defendant accepted fault for. The Court found the collision caused a chronic low back injury that was amplified by non-collision related depression.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Affleck provided the following reasons:

[78]         The termination of Mr. Truong’s employment, particularly at the age of 58 when other employment was difficult to find, was an emotionally catastrophic event for him. He believed erroneously but sincerely that the job loss must have been connected to his poor performance on the job, which had been caused by the accident injuries. He was naturally upset by the immediate effects of the accident and in that sense was depressed emotionally by those effects and by his fear that he might lose his job. After that loss occurred he descended into a major depression. I believe the precipitating event that caused the major depression was the loss of employment and thereby the loss of his self-respect. I accept Dr. Shaohua Lu’s evidence that the major depression would not have happened without the job loss.

[79]         Even without the depression I find Mr. Truong would have experienced physical pain and discomfort for some considerable time after the accident. I find the plaintiff’s low back pain, which travels into his left leg, as well as his neck pain, even in the absence of the major depression, would have continued but gradually diminished over the last five years. It will remain chronic indefinitely into the future, but with medication for pain relief will no longer limit his ability to function to any significant extent.

[80]         The defendant is critical of much of the plaintiff’s evidence as unreliable and accuses him of embellishment particularly for example when undergoing a functional capacity evaluation. I agree there was some embellishment but I believe it was not deliberate deceit. Mr. Truong genuinely believes he is severely disabled and adjusts his behaviour, without conscious thought, to fit the way he sees himself. He is also very reluctant to push his physical boundaries because of a fear of further injuries. In my view that fear is not justified and there is no risk of further injury if he becomes more active…

[86]         I have been referred by the parties to numerous cases in which non-pecuniary damages were awarded. I need not review those authorities in these reasons for judgment. I am persuaded a substantial award should be made under this head of damage largely because, apart from his work with C2 Imaging the plaintiff’s handyman role at home provided him with one of his main pleasures in life and in late middle age he has been deprived of that role for at least several years. I award $100,000 under this head of damages.

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