ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

Archive for July, 2008

Sacroiliac Joint Injury nets $48,500 Pain and Suffering in BC Car Crash

July 30th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding an ‘ideal Plaintiff’ just over $100,000 in total damages as a result of a 2006 BC Car Crash which occurred near Kelowna, BC.

Both fault and quantum (value of the injuries) were at issue at trial. The collision happened when the Plaintiff’s vehicle, which was stationary, was hit by the Defendant’s tractor trailer unit. The evidence that was accepted was that the tractor trailer, while passing the stationary vehicle, jackknifed to its right. The collision was significant causing about $12,000 in vehicle damage.

The Defendant gave a different version of what happened saying that the Plaintiff vehicle ‘suddenly and without warning turning into his vehicle’. This was rejected.

This case is worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Josephson’s findings of credibility. In rejecting the defendant’s evidence he noted that the defence theory ‘is contrary to locig and common sense‘ and that the defendant’s testimony was ‘impatient, dogmatic and almost haughty‘.

As is often the case in ICBC claims the court heard from competing medical expert who disagreed as to the extent of the injuries sustained. Here the court preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s expert, a highly regarded rheumatologist who is no stranger to severe soft tissue injuries.

The court accepted the Plaintiff’s doctors evidence of injury which is summarized at paragraph 23 of the judgement reading as follows:

[23] She diagnosed the problem as being with the sacroiliac joint, a joint located between the tail bone and the hip. Ligaments cross over the sacroiliac and can be stretched in a motor vehicle accident, particularly if a foot is pressed on a brake pedal at the time, which can cause the symptoms of pain experienced by the plaintiff. While not certain, Dr. Shuckett was of the opinion that the plaintiff’s hyper-mobility may have exacerbated the injury. This type of injury is difficult to treat when, as in this case, recovery has not occurred. Medicines are not effective as the sacroiliac area does not have a rich blood supply.

In explaining why he preferred Dr. Shuckett’s evidence to the defence doctor’s evidence the court noted that:

[25] I do not place great weight on the evidence of Dr. Schwiegel, a neurosurgeon retained by the defence for an independent medical examination. Dr. Schwiegel does not possess the same degree of expertise as does Dr. Shuckett in this type of injury. He did not diagnose the involvement of the sacroiliac joint in the symptoms, though now agrees that may be the case. Put simply, I prefer the expert opinion evidence of Dr. Shuckett where it conflicts with that of Dr. Schwiegel.

The court found that the effects of these injuries were significant, summarizing them as follows:

[26] In summary, as a result of these soft tissue injuries, the plaintiff has gone from a gifted and active athlete to a person unable to engage in sports and other activities that were a large and important part of her life. It has affected her personal relationships. For example, family and friends now see her retreat to the sofa in pain after a family dinner. Only her strong will and determination has led to some improvement in her symptoms with aggressive physiotherapy. Her future remains “uncertain”. After the expiration of this much time and effort with only modest improvement, it may well be that significant symptoms will continue in the foreseeable future.

$48,500 was awarded for pain and suffering.

Also of interest is the judges awards for past and future wage loss. Here the Plaintiff was a commisioned sales person whose past income loss could not be caluclaed with real precision. Nonetheless compelling evidence was awarded that a loss occurred and an award was made. Simialry, it was found that the injuries may have an impact on future earnings and an award was made for loss of earning capacity.

In making an award for loss of earning capacity the court noted that:

[40] In this case, the plaintiff’s ability to perform at the high level she would have been performing but for the accident will be compromised by her injuries to some degree, though that degree is difficult to measure. Her determination and outstanding personal qualities will diminish that loss. Regular weekly appointments and daily multiple sessions of recommended exercises diminish her ability to perform to the same high level that she would have been able to perform but for the accident.

[41] Her physical limitations, as well, render her less marketable to potential employers in future. Employment requiring even temporary physical stress will not be available to her.

[42] The period of time that the plaintiff will be so affected is also difficult to measure. The best medical evidence is that her future is “uncertain”. That there has been so little improvement over the long period of time since the accident leads to the conclusion that recovery will more likely be long term than short.

[43] The plaintiff seeks a not unreasonable $20,000 for loss of earning capacity. I award the plaintiff $18,000.


Another ICBC Intersection Crash

July 30th, 2008

I’ve said it before an I’ll say it again, the issue of FAULT and ICBC claims tends to be most heavily disputed when dealing with left hand turning vehicles in intersection crashes.

Reasons for judgement were released today determining fault as a result of a 2004 intersection crash that occurred in Vernon, BC.

The Plaintiff was travelling through the intersection. The Defendant, travelling from the opposite direction, was intending to make a left hand turn. A significant collision happened. The issue of fault was decided by Mr. Justice Brooke.

This is an interesting case because it appears that the Plaintiff suffered a serious brain injury (a frontal lobe injury) as a result of this crash. When motorists suffer from brain injuries in car accidents it is not unusual for them to suffer a period of amnesia, either before, during or after the event. Here it appears that the trauma of the crash caused the Plaintiff to have no recall of the crash.

How then, do you prove your case when you can’t remember what happened? This case shows some of the usual trial strategies in such a situation. In this case the defendant’s examination for discovery transcript was utilized, lay witnesses were called, the investigating police officer who took scene measurements was called as to where expert accident reconstruction witnesses.

In the end the court found that the Plaintiff vehicle was speeding at the time of the crash and that the left turning driver failed to see a ‘dominant’ vehcile that was ‘there to be seen’. The court reference s. 174 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act in finding the left hand turner largely at fault. The court also found the speeding ‘through’ driver at fault.

In BC personal injury claims, if both parties are at fault the court has to determine the degree of fault of each party. Here the court assigned 20% of the blame to the speeding through vehicle and 80% against the left hand turning vehicle.

One matter worth noting is the effect of the traffic ticket. Here the defendant was ticketed for ‘failing to yield on a left-hand turn.’. He paid the ticket. Such an act is an ‘admission against interest’ and a court can use this ‘admission’ to help decide who is at fault. However, such an admission is not binding on the court. Here the defendant testified that when he gets a ticket he pays it. The court found him to be a straighforward and credible witness and accpeted that in not disputing the ticket that spoke to his characger rather than admission of fault.


Chronic Pain Syndrome and Fractured Spine Net $60,000 for Pain and Suffering

July 29th, 2008

In a judgement released today a total of $81,694 was awarded in compensation as a result of a 2004 ‘chain rear end’ accident in BC.

The accident involved mutliple vehicles and the force of the crash was enough to write off the Plaintiff’s car. Fault was admitted by ICBC leaving only quantum of damages at issue.

As a result of crash the court found that the Plaintiff suffered from a fracture at T12 and a disc injury to T11 / T12 and perhaps T9 / T10 (basically fractures to the mid back) and that the Plaintiff ‘has gone on to develop a chronic pain syndrome with discomfort, sleep disturbance and depression.

The court went on to award $60,000 for pain and suffering, $20,000 for Loss of Earning Capacity and just over $1,000 in special damages (out of pocket expenses as a result of the accident.)

This case is worth reading for the judge’s discussion of credibility. When people complain of ‘chronic pain’ in an ICBC claim their credibility is always at issue. The reason is obvious, pain cannot be measured objectively. People can only describe their pain and a judge or jury can believe this descrpiton or reject it. In this case the judge had problems with the Plaintiff’s credibility but accepted that her chronic pain syndrome was legitimate.

More interesting is the judge’s comments on the credibility of the expert witnesses that testified. In this case ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, hired an orthopaedic surgeon to examine the Plaintiff. He testified, in essence, that the Plaintiff had no serious injuries or ongoing problems. The court rejected this doctor’s evidence finding that ‘it was obvious to me that he had not spent as much time, nor was he as objective in his assessment of the Plaintiff (as her own physicians were). (ICBC’s doctor) impressed upon me that he was more of an advocate for ICBC than an objective expert, and I therefoe attach little wieght to his evidence.

This case is also worth reviewing for the judge’s great summary of the law relating to future wage loss at paragraphs 34 and 35.


$108,924 Awarded for Chronic Low Back Pain

July 28th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $100,000 in compensation for injuries and losses arising from a 2006 BC car accident.

This was primarily a low-back soft tissue injury case. The Plaintiff did have other injuries but these largely resolved.

Fault was admitted for the accident, as such, the trial focussed exclusively on quantum (value of the injuries).

In reading the reasons for judgement Mr. Justice Metzger was obviously impressed with the Plaintiff. ICBC’s defence (assuming of course that the defendants were insured by ICBC) was largely rejected.

The court summarized the plaintiff’s injuries and course of recovery as follows:

[14] I am satisfied that within seven to ten months of the accident, the plaintiff recovered from any significant discomfort or effect of injuries to his shoulder, wrist, right foot and right side. Although Mr. Raper’s low back pain does not prevent him from working, or from mountain scrambling, I am satisfied that his physical ability in these pursuits has been compromised. His ability to perform his work to his previous standards and to enjoy his sports activities has been decreased.

After naming some precedents dealing with low back injuries the court went on to award $35,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).

This case is worth reading for the court’s discussion of future wage loss or loss of future earning capacity. In this case the Plaintiff returned to work shortly after the accident and continued to work through to trial. Despite this the court found that he was entitled to an award for loss of future earning capacity because he could no longer do general carpentry work (something that he has done in the past during slow cycles of employment) and that he lost the opportunity tow obtain a management position in his current line of work. In these circumstnaces the court awarded $55,000 for loss of earning capacity.

This case, and many like it, goes to show that simply because a person recovered from injuries to the point that they are able to return to work does not preclude an award for future wage loss. There are many factors to consider when valuing a future wage loss in an ICBC claim. In this case Mr. Justice Metzger did a good job summarizing the law and repeated one of the quotes that all ICBC claims lawyers should be aware of, namely that:

Because it is impairment that is being redressed, even a plaintiff who is apparently going to be able to earn as much as he could have earned if not injured or who, with retraining, on the balance of probabilities will be able to do so, is entitled to some compensation for the impairment. He is entitled to it because for the rest of his life some occupations will be closed to him and it is impossible to say that over his working life the impairment will not harm his income earning ability.


ICBC Claims and your Vacation Photos

July 23rd, 2008

I’m still in (not so sunny today) Kelowna (currently on break during an icbc claim examination for discovery), so bear with me as this blog entry is a little lighter on detail than I would like.

As most ICBC injury claims lawyers know these claims can go on for years, particularly when dealing with severe injuries.

During these years you go on living life as normally as possible. You go to work, school, play sports, socialize with friends, go on holidays etc. Like most people, you probably take photos of your activities from time to time. Did you know that ICBC can sometimes get their hands on these?

Reasons for judgement were released today forcing a Plaintiff involved in a BC injury claim to produce to the Defendant any photos of him on vacation after the accident. These applicaitons are routinely made by ICBC defence lawyers and are sometimes successful.

Here the court did a great job in referring to sevaral precedents where courts have either ordered, or refused to order, the production of holiday photos of a party to a lawsuit. These cases are worth reviewing when deciding how to respond to an ICBC request that private photos be shared with them in their efforts to defend against an injury claim.

The court concluded that:

12] Here counsel on behalf of the plaintiff points out there should be evidence of the existence of photographs and then if it is established that photographs exist, that they be shown to be relevant. He also raises the issue of others being in photographs and those other people having privacy rights.

[13] I am satisfied here that the fact of the plaintiff having been on vacation is such that one can presume there are some photographs having been taken, whether by the plaintiff or by others, and of course if the plaintiff is not in the possession or control of photographs taken then nothing need be produced by the plaintiff.

[14] It is my understanding there is a discovery scheduled for the 12th of August of this year, and although the trial is not set until the 23rd of March, ’09, I am satisfied it is not a sufficient stretch, if you will, to require there to be proof of holiday or vacation photographs prior to ordering that they be produced.

[15] So far as the privacy issues relating to others is concerned, the only interest the defendant has is in the activities of the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims damages for loss of enjoyment of life and injury to portions of the plaintiff’s anatomy as were injured in a 1998 workplace injury. There is a significant likelihood of probative value in vacation photographs, the vacation having been taken at a time when he states he was disabled from carrying on his normal work duties. Apparently the holiday in the Dominican Republic was some time between the 15th of December and the 13th of January and took place after the 6 November motor vehicle accident.

[16] So I am satisfied that there should an order go that vacation photographs taken during that time frame of the vacation to the Dominican Republic be produced, but that it be at the option of the plaintiff to delete the facial features of any persons other than himself in the photographs.

One thing all of you should know is this – If you take photos and publish them on the internet (myspace, facebook etc.) these become public and ICBC can verly likely get access to these. As an ICBC claims lawyer I have seen many instances of ICBC tracking down such photos and using these in the defence of personal injury claims.

What is more troubling is when ICBC tries to get access to clealry private photos. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing for anyone concerned about personal privacy and their ICBC claim.


"On the Road Again…" ICBC claims and Litigation Privilege

July 21st, 2008

As an ICBC claims lawyer I find myself frequently traveling throughout BC representing clients involved in ICBC claims. This week I’m back in one of my favourite destinations (particularly this time of year), sunny Kelowna, BC. The lake, the heat, what’s not to love?

I try to minimize the amount that travel interferes with business as usual, but despite my best efforts the responsibilities of life on the road do get in the way, so here is the ‘travel version’ of my reporting on recent ICBC claims…

Litigation Privilege. An ICBC claims lawyer representing his/her clients may come into the possession of privileged information. One of the most common types of privilege claimed over evidence by ICBC claims lawyers is the medico-legal report.

When a lawyer obtains a report providing an opinion as to the extent of injury caused in a BC car accident that report may very well be privileged and not disclosed to ICBC. The problem is, oftentimes a privately paid report authored by an independent physician or other hired expert may provide useful rehabilitation advice for a client. So the question is, can such a report be disclosed to the client’s treating physician to better aid in rehabilitation without waiving legal privilege and forcing disclosure to ICBC? A judgement released today seems to say that this can in fact be done.

In this case the Plaintiff had 2 claims, the first being the ‘tort claim’ meaning the claim against the motorist who injured the Plaintiff (who happens to be insured by ICBC) and a ‘part 7 claim’ meaning a claim against ICBC directly for the enforcement of any ‘no fault benefits’ that may be owing as a result of the same BC car accident.

The Plaintiff’s lawyer obtained a report that made some rehabilitation recommendations. This report was shared with the Plaintiff’s treating physician who adopted some of the recommended treatments. The ICBC defence lawyer argued that this disclosure ‘waived’ the claim for privilege. The Plaintiff lawyer disagreed. The ICBC defence lawyer made a motion asking the BC Supreme Court to order that the privately hired report be handed over to ICBC. Master Caldwell of the BC Supreme Court dismissed the motion stating that:

I am unaware of any authority which would dictate that reports which are prepared for purposes of litigation but which are provided to an individuals GP for treatment purposes lose the protection of privilege. No such authority was provided to me.

This is a great result for Plaintiff’s involved in ICBC claims and is certainly must reading for an ICBC claims Plaintiff lawyer who wishes to share a private report with a client’s treating doctor for treatment purposes.


$75,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Headaches and Chronic Pain

July 18th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just under $150,000 damages in total as a result of two ICBC claims.

One thing I’ve been meaning to point out for some time on this blog is that in BC tort claims (which include car accident claims), ICBC is almost never named as a party to the lawsuit. There are a few circumstances when it is appropriate to name ICBC directly but these are few and far between. It is a safe bet that if a case goes to court in BC involving a BC car accident it is more often than not an ICBC claim. I know that this case involves ICBC (despite them not being named as a party) because the defence lawyer is an ICBC in house lawyer from Kamloops. When you are looking at precedents to help you value your ICBC case to determine what a fair settlement, you should know that most any BC car accident case serves as a valuable precedent because even if ICBC is not mentioned or is not the insurer in any given case, each BC case serves as an example of how our courts value injuries in BC.

Getting back to the case – here the Plaintiff was injured in 2 car accidents for which others were at fault. The first in 1998, the second in 2004. In the first accident the Plaintiff was a passenger in a pick-up truck involved in a roll-over accident. In the second the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was T-boned. Both crashes were significant and resulted in injuries.

This case is a good example of how complex chronic pain ICBC claims can be when they head to trial. In this case the court heard from over 10 lay witnesses who could comment on their observations of the Plaintiff’s injuries (or lack thereof by the witnesses called by the ICBC defence lawyer). The court also had access to medical evidence from over 6 doctors and other specialists.

The Plaintiff presented a case of chronic pain affecting every single aspect of her life. The defence case was one of injury which significantly improved after 2 years.

The court concluded that, although the Plaintiff ‘exaggerated her claim to some extent‘ she ‘has suffered to some degree from headaches and chronic pain over the past 10 years, and will continue to suffer these in the future, over some limited period of time. Some of her complaints are psychosomatic and she may benefit from counselling‘.

The court awarded damages as follows:

The plaintiff shall recover damages as follows:

- general damages: $75,000

- past income loss: $680

- cost of future care: $4,271.72

- diminished future earning capacity: $60,000

- special damages: $7,753.60

In doing so the court recited some good quotes from previous BC judgements addressing the assessment of damages. These precedents are worth knowing for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim. Particularly the court referred to a great BC Court of Appeal case summarizing the principles used in the assessment of damages in personal injuries, the key quote being:

The most basic of those principles is that a plaintiff is entitled to be put into the position he would have been in but for the accident so far as money can do that. An award for loss of earning capacity is based on the recognition that a plaintiff’s capacity to earn income is an asset which has been taken away. Where a plaintiff’s permanent injury limits him in his capacity to perform certain activities and consequently impairs his income earning capacity, he is entitled to compensation. What is being compensated is not lost projected future earnings but the loss or impairment of earning capacity as a capital asset. In some cases, projections from past earnings may be a useful factor to consider in valuing the loss but past earnings are not the only factor to consider.

Because damage awards are made as lump sums, an award for loss of future earning capacity must deal to some extent with the unknowable. The standard of proof to be applied when evaluating hypothetical events that may affect an award is simple probability, not the balance of probabilities. Possibilities and probabilities, chances, opportunities, and risks must all be considered, so long as they are a real and substantial possibility and not mere speculation. These possibilities are to be given weight according to the percentage chance they would have happened or will happen.

The trial judge’s task is to assess the loss on a judgmental basis, taking into consideration all the relevant factors arising from the evidence … [The factors] include:

[1] whether the plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;

[2] whether the plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers;

[3] whether the plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to him, had he not been injured; and

[4] whether the plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.

The task of the court is to assess damages, not to calculate them according to some mathematical formula. Once impairment of a plaintiff’s earning capacity as a capital asset has been established, that impairment must be valued. The valuation may involve a comparison of the likely future of the plaintiff if the accident had not happened with the plaintiff’s likely future after the accident has happened. As a starting point, a trial judge may determine the present value of the difference between the amounts earned under those two scenarios. But if this is done, it is not to be the end of the inquiry. The overall fairness and reasonableness of the award must be considered taking into account all the evidence.

The court then did a great job of summarizing the two approaches when addressing future wage loss and ICBC claims, summarizing the law as follows:

There are two methods of assessment under this head of damages, although both have the same outcome. The court can either use the “real possibility” approach, and compare the plaintiff’s likely earnings, had she not been injured, with the income she likely now earns, factoring in the positive and negative contingencies; or the court can value the loss of earning capacity as a capital asset (as Finch J.A., as he then was, suggested in Pallos v. ICBC (1995), 100 B.C.L.R. (2d) 260 (C.A.)).


Disc Herniation, Nerve Damage and ICBC Claims

July 15th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff injured in three separate BC car accidents, the first in August, 2002, the second in December, 2002 and the third in June 2003. At trial the issues were the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and whether these were caused by the car accidents or other life events.

A frequent tactic of ICBC defence lawyers is to call evidence to cast doubt on the connection between motor vehicle accidents and trauma and find other explanations for injuries. In this case the defence lawyer pointed to a car accident that the plaintiff was at fault for and a work incident where the plaintiff aggravated his back as potential causes for the Plaintiff’s problems.

In ICBC claims a Plaintiff has the burden of proving the extent of his injuries and their connection to the car accident. If defence evidence can effectively point to another explanation an ICBC claim can be dismissed.

In this case the injuries were fairly serious. An MRI revealed a ‘tear in the annulus at L5/Ss and a disc bulge at L4/5 wit impingement of the L5 nerve root‘.

The court found that in cases where there are multiple potential causes of injury ‘it is most helpful to have the opinion of (the Plaintiff’s family doctor) who treated the plaintiff throughout and has a long history and detailed knowledge of the Plaintiff as a patient.’ The court found the GP’s findings of objective injury persuasive including ‘muscle spasm, reduced range of motion, and visible hypertonicity of the musculature following each of the three motor vehicle accidents’.

The court assessed damages for all three accidents globally. The court concluded that “the Plaintiff has, since December 7, 2002, experienced functional limitations due to his low, mid back, and neck pain with referral pain from the low back to his leg. The Plaintiff is unlikely to achieve a substantial improvement in future, but exercises and care will assist in controlling pain and flare-ups‘. As a result of this finding the court awarded $70,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).

Addressing past wage the court found that there was some failure of mitigation on the Plaintiff’s part. The Plaintiff’s claim for past wage loss exceeded 5 years. The court found that he could have returned to work in some capacity during this time. In all $50,000 was awarded for this loss.

The court also awarded $75,000 in damages for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ finding that

[50] There is no doubt that the plaintiff’s income earning capacity is affected by his chronic pain and physical limitations and disabilities. The plaintiff is by education and experience limited to low income, minimum wage types of employment, although that is reflective of his actual earnings history prior to his injury and disability.

[51] The pool of low income jobs available to the plaintiff is however much diminished as he can no longer work at jobs with a physical component which he can no longer meet. The plaintiff is 49 years old and increasing age will combine to impede access to the work for which he remains qualified.

[52] The plaintiff’s health may be stressed more than the average person requiring that he take more time off work. He may in future be more suited to only part time or work of a sporadic nature.


TMJ Muscular Injury and ICBC claims

July 11th, 2008

In reasons for judgement released today the Honourable Mr. Justice Meiklem of the BC Supreme Court awarded a Plaintiff $25,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) as a result of a 2004 BC car accident.

The Plaintiff was 15 years old by the time of trial. He was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair because of that condition.

In 2004 he was in an accident when his mother’s van was struck on the driver’s side by another vehicle in an intersection crash. Liability (fault) was admitted on behalf of the other driver.

The Plaintiff testified that the impact caused his body to move to the left with his head hitting the window and his left leg and hip hitting the inside of the door of the van. He was injured in this crash.

The court heard expert medical evidence from 2 physiatrists (specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation). While one physiatrist testified on behalf of the Plaintiff and the other on behalf of the defendant, both had largely similar opinions.

After an 18-A trial (a summary trial where witnesses do not testify orally in court, rather evidence is given by way of affidavit’s and medico-legal reports) the court concluded that “both specialists agree that the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to the muscles of the jaw area and the neck and shoulders, and that recovery has been protracted because of his cerebral palsy conditionI find that while the plaintiff has not yet fully recovered from his soft tissue injuries sustained in the accident, because his recovery has been prolonged by his pre-existing cerebral palsy condition, he has suffered no permanent injury or disability, and suffered no period of total disability‘.

In addition to the $25,000 for pain and suffering the court awarded just over $4,000 for special damages (out of pocket expenses as a result of the defendant’s wrong-doing) largely comprising of massage therapy expenses, medications and transportation costs.

I have previously blogged that one of the best ways to get a sense of the pain and suffering value of an ICBC claim is to review BC cases with similar injuries. This case is worthwhile because , while there are many ICBC cases with temporomandibular joint injuries (TMJ injuries), this case involves something slightly less serious. Here the Plaintiff suffered injuries to the ‘major muscles overlying the temporomandibular joints’ as opposed to injury to the actual joint. This case sets a precedent worth reviewing for anyone suffering a similar muscular injury around the TMJ’s in an ICBC claim.


$40,000 Pain and Suffering for "Very Unique' Ankle Injury

July 11th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff a total of$71,060.06 as a result of personal injuries which were caused by a 2004 BC car crash.

This was a left-turn intersection case involving a semi-truck and a mini-van. The semi truck turned left in front of the mini-van at an intersection causing a collision. The Plaintiff was a passenger in the mini-van. She ‘braced herself (for the collision) by holding the sides of the seat and placing her feet on the dash’.

Fault for the accident was admitted. The issue at trial was the extent of the injuries sustained and their value.

The court concluded that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck back and jaw which ‘had all effectively cleared up within some 6-7 months after the accident‘.

The Plaintiff also suffered injuries to her knee and ankles which ‘progressed to the point where she could return to work in July, 2005‘. The exact nature of these injuries were ‘bilateral ankle bone contusions and patellofemoral discomfort‘. The court found that these injuries were chronic and that ‘she will have continuing pain from time-to-time (in her ankle) of more likely on a diminishing basis‘.

The court awarded $40,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).

This case focused largely on credibility. The court concluded that the plaintiff ‘has exaggerated her ongoing pain’. This case is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim as an example of how BC courts deal with the credibility (truthfulness) of a witness.

Here the court found that the Plaintiff was not truthful when describing the extent of her pain and that she misled the court when addressing past wage loss.

Specifically, the court found that:

[56] Following the adjournment of the trial to October, it became clear from the evidence led by the defence from West Jet’s representatives and employment records that the plaintiff’s position on picking up shifts was not true. In fact, the employment records in evidence confirm that the plaintiff began picking up more work than she was scheduled within a month of returning to regular hours of employment in July of 2005. From the evidence of the West Jet supervisor the plaintiff could routinely work 30 hours a week or less simply by working the hours that she was scheduled but it is clear from the employment records she chose to work more than 40 hours per week by picking up shifts from fellow agents following her return to work in July 2005 and commencing in August 2005.

[57] From a review of her employment records relating to her employment before the accident it became crystal clear that since she began working at West Jet Ms. Polson has routinely lobbied her fellow agents for more work as evidenced from commentary in work reviews directed to her in 2005 and 2006.

[58] Primarily relative to these inconsistencies relating to her employment following the accident, I have, regretfully, come to the conclusion that the plaintiff, in her direct evidence, led the court to believe that she was unable to work additional hours that she had worked prior to the accident and wanted fewer hours of employment because of the pain working additional hours caused her when, in fact, she volunteered for and obtained additional hours notwithstanding the additional pain she asserts.

[59] Likewise, with respect to the medical evidence and her contention that the pain levels at the time of trial were in the ranges she described, this level of pain is inconsistent with her attendances at her treating physician’s office. As indicated previously, following her return to work in July 2005 I can count, from the clinical records, only one occasion prior to her attendance for a medical/legal report to be provided by Dr. Gorman some 13 months after returning to work. While there are complaints of depression, as already indicated, there is ample clinical notations to indicate pre-existing problems with depression and fatigue which cannot be causally connected to this motor vehicle accident without more.

[60] Although the plaintiff testified that she routinely suffers from pain in her neck at a 7 out of 10 pain level when at work, and frequently rubs her neck as a result, only one witness testified that she had seen the plaintiff sometimes stretching her neck, perhaps once a week, and only occasionally sitting on an exercise ball provided by her employer. With respect to rolling her ankle at work and the resulting limp thereby occasioned, Ms. Polson described herself rolling her ankle frequently at work and limping frequently at work for approximately 3 or 4 times a day, but no witness testified to having seen Ms. Polson limping or rubbing her ankle. While her co-worker Amanda Fraser-Doyle testified that Ms. Polson had slowed down since the accident, this would be inconsistent with the actual hours worked and voluntarily picked up by Ms. Polson after returning to work.

[61] One other matter of evidence also needs to be dealt with. Tricia Spencer, the administrative assistant for West Jet at the Prince George operations, testified to having observed the plaintiff at the Christmas party in December 2006 where she described the plaintiff as “enjoying herself on the dance floor for a relatively substantial time and was unable to notice any pain behaviour while she was dancing”. While Ms. Spencer agreed that she did not have much casual conversation with the plaintiff at this time, she maintained her observations of the plaintiff’s abilities on the dance floor.

Credibility of a Plaintiff is vital in all ICBC injury claims, particularly those where the injuries cannot be verified through objective measures such as X-rays or MRI findings. In such cases courts are very careful in assessing a Plaintiff’s credibility prior to awarding damages for injuries. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing if you are proceeding to trial in an ICBC injury claim to see what kinds of factors the court can consider when weighing a person’s credibility.