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$150,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Facet Joint Syndrome

Reasons for judgement were release today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Zwinge v. Neylan) the Plaintiff was invoked in a head on crash that the Defendant admitted responsibility for.  The collision resulted in a chronic facet joint syndrome of the spine, various soft tissue injuries and chronic pain leading to psychological difficulties.  This was imposed on pre-existing a substance abuse disorder.  The prognosis for recovery was poor.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 Mr. Justice Branch provided the following reasons:

[68]         In this case, I would summarize the significant factors as follows:

1.     The plaintiff was 49 years old at the time of the trial and 46 at the time of the accident.

2.     The substantial head-on collision caused long-lasting soft tissue injuries and spine facet joint syndrome.

3.     The plaintiff’s pain has, to this point, disabled him from working in any capacity, and has significantly reduced the quality of his life.

4.     The plaintiff suffers from depression as a result of the loss of his ability to work, and to play with his children.

5.     The plaintiff’s anxiety and physical condition have prevented him from driving, and have made routine chores out in public difficult.

6.     While the plaintiff has some prospect for recovery, his prognosis is guarded. Specifically, I find that Dr. Rickard’s confidence in the proposed radio frequency ablation treatment is overstated: see Gregory at paras. 56-58.

7.     The plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing and active Substance Use Disorder, and he did not seek further counselling for this problem after the accident.

8.     Since the accident, the plaintiff suffered from pneumonia, pancreatitis and diabetes, all of which would have occurred in any event.

9.     The plaintiff’s quality of life was already in a diminished state before the accident, in that he was living with his parents following a marriage breakdown that ended violently, resulting in criminal charges and a return to heavy drinking.

10. The plaintiff has been able to live independently and care for himself since the accident.

[71]         Applying the factors above, and with the guidance from the noted case law, I find that the appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages is $150,000.

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