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 February, 2016

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Bicep Tendon and Soft Tissue Injuries

February 29th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a bicep tendon injury along with some soft tissue damage.

In today’s case (Pavan v. Guolo) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 T-bone collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered a strain to the tendons in his right bicep along with soft tissue injuries to his shoulder and low back.  The Plaintiff missed little time from work but some of his symptoms persisted at the time of trial albeit not significantly.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:

[21]         Counsel for both parties provided detailed written argument to explain why I should accept their positions regarding the nature of the plaintiff’s injuries and the duration of the symptoms. I thank them for the thorough and detailed argument. I much prefer the defendants’ approach to the assessment of causation and analysis of the evidence. In other words, it is preferable to consider the three symptomatic areas separately and assess the development of symptoms in light of all of the evidence including the limited medical evidence. When I do that, I make the following findings of fact regarding injuries and the duration of symptoms:

1)       Right Arm:  The plaintiff suffered a strain to tendons in his right biceps. That injury has improved significantly over time, but has not resolved and will likely not do so. However, it is not disabling and does not significantly impact the plaintiff’s activities. It still causes the plaintiff momentary discomfort when he performs certain activities.

2)       Right Shoulder:  The plaintiff suffered a grade 2 strain to his neck, upper back and right shoulder. This was the most serious injury sustained in the accident. That injury substantially resolved within about 18 months of the accident. The accident left the shoulder susceptible to what the plaintiff calls flare-ups or aggravations. The plaintiff does not have ongoing persistent pain or discomfort. His occasional flare-ups do not last for long and are not disabling.

3)       Low Back:  The plaintiff suffered a very mild low back strain in the accident. That injury resolved in a few months. The incidents of low back pain suffered by the plaintiff since that time are unrelated to the injuries suffered in the accident.

[45]         Of course, the appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss must take into account, all of the particular circumstances of the plaintiff before the court. The cases cited by counsel were helpful as a guide. I do not propose to examine and compare those cases with the facts I have found here. I will note that the cases relied on by the defendants involved circumstances that are somewhat closer to the facts I have found with regard to the nature of the soft tissue injuries with an exception. I have concluded that the plaintiff has ongoing difficulties with his right arm, albeit relatively minor, and that his right shoulder can still have flare-ups, which are contributed to by the injuries suffered in the accident. Further, the cases cited by the defendants are somewhat dated.

[46]         When I consider all of the relevant factors in light of the facts I have found, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary damages is $40,000.

$31,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Orbital Floor Fracture

February 22nd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, assessing damages for an orbital floor fracture at $31,000.

In today’s case (Bunna (Guardian ad litem of) v. Bunah) the Plaintiff, who was 5 at the time of the collision, was involved in a 2012 crash.  He suffered a fracture to his orbital floor along with some lingering anxiety following the crash.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $31,000 Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:

[13]         The most serious injury sustained in the accident was a displaced fracture of the orbital floor on the right side of his face.  It also healed.  The orbital floor is adjacent to the maxillary sinus and it is not known if there was also a fracture of the maxillary sinus.  As surgery was not required, there was no further investigation of the fracture and possible fracture which would be adjacent to each other in this young boy’s facial area. 

[14]         The extensive swelling was described by a doctor on February 20, 2012 to be “severe swelling in the right facial region with severe bruising, almost unable to open his right eye”.  The bruising lasted a maximum of six months.  There has been no scarring.

[15]         In summary, during the night in the hospital in Mackenzie, Julien had pain and cried quite a bit as he did on the way home to Quesnel.  He had some pain for a few weeks, and for few months he had occasional pain if his face was touched.  He had some anxiety for about six months following the accident.  The long-term effect has been upset and stress and crying from the worry when his mother is late.  He worries that she has been in a car accident if she is late.  This has occurred ongoingly, and a couple of times in 2015, most recently in November 2015…

[18]         With regard to the nature of the injury, the most serious is the fracture of the orbital floor on the right side of the face.  It was accompanied by extensive bruising and swelling.  It resolved without surgery within six months.

[19]         With regard to loss or impairment of life, emotional suffering and severity of duration of pain, due to Julien’s young age at the time, just turned five years old, the evidence is obtained primarily from his aunt’s observations in her frequent visits with him.  From the descriptions, Julien is a stoic and resilient child and recovered quickly, also within six months.  The only lingering effect is that he becomes fearful and upset when his mother is late in arriving to pick him up because he is worried that there has been another accident.  This fear has occurred repeatedly.  In 2015 it happened twice when his mother was late, most recently in November 2015…

[23]         In this case particular weight is given to the plaintiff’s age, his stoicism in the circumstances of the accident, and the emotional suffering of such a young plaintiff.  Non-pecuniary damages are assessed at $31,000.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

February 16th, 2016

Adding to this site’s archived soft tissue injury database, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 for lingering upper body soft tissue injuries.

In this week’s case (Olson v. Yelland) the plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid back and shoulders which continued to pose problems at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[117]     On the whole of the evidence, I accept that the plaintiff received soft tissue injuries to her neck, trapezius muscles and mid-back and headaches that continue to negatively affect her function to some degree.

[118]     I find that her pre-Accident lower back and left knee conditions would have significantly affected her ability to function at home and at work in any event of the Accident.

[119]     I find that prior to the Accident and in any event of the Accident, her competitive employability and ability to perform homemaking tasks had already been significantly compromised. The soft tissue injuries she received from the Accident were superimposed on her Original Position and made it more difficult for her to manage her day-to-day activities.

[120]     I find that the plaintiff has made significant recovery from the effects of the Accident within the past three years, but has been left with ongoing neck, mid-back, trapezius pain and related headaches.

[121]     The injuries the plaintiff is left with, and that I accept, are soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid-back and trapezius muscles. They have caused increased frequency and intensity of headaches.

[122]     I accept that these issues continue to affect her, and likely will continue for two to three more years. However, I find that the Accident related injuries pale in comparison to the unrelated issues she has with her low back and left knee…

[132]     In the circumstances, and following the principles set out in Stapley, I find that a reasonable award for general damages is $60,000. As will be seen below, within this sum I have included the plaintiff’s claim for reduced homemaking abilities.

“Reasonable Efforts” Identifying At Fault Motorist Cannot Be Determined by way of Summary Trial

February 11th, 2016

Adding to this site’s database of ICBC Unidentified Motorist prosecutions, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, finding that the Summary Judgement rule cannot be used to determine if a plaintiff made all reasonable efforts to identify the at fault driver which is a prerequisite to a successful unidentified motorist prosecution.

In today’s case (Lapointe v. ICBC) the Plaintiff used the summary judgement rule to strip ICBC’s defence alleging the Plaintiff failed to make all reasonable efforts to identify the at fault motorist.  ICBC appealed and Mr. Justice Myers overturned the earlier ruling noting the Court can only address this issue when determining liability and cannot address this defense in a piecemeal fashion.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[8]      The issue in this appeal is purely a legal one. The standard of review is therefore correctness: Ralph’s Auto Supply (B.C.) Ltd. v. Ken Ransford Holding Ltd., 2011 BCSC 999, at para. 7.

[9]      I do not agree with the plaintiff’s argument which artificially separates the cause of action against the unknown driver or owner from the claim against ICBC. Although it is common practice to name John Does as substitutes for the driver and owner, the section does not require that; an action may be brought against ICBC only. It is obvious that there is no John Doe to serve and no default judgment can be taken against the unknown driver or owner. ICBC is fully in control of the defence until the time of judgment or the driver or owner is found. I do not think there is a separate claim against under ICBC under s. 24 as the plaintiff maintains.

[10]    Therefore, a decision on s. 24(5) alone is not determinative of a claim and cannot result in a judgment; it is only a decision on an issue. On the basis of Century Services, it is therefore not amenable to a Rule 9-6 application.

 [11]   That is sufficient to allow the appeal but there is a further related point (not argued by ICBC) which reinforces this conclusion. The obligation to attempt to locate the driver or owner is a continuing one in this sense: if facts come to light that make the identity ascertainable, the plaintiff is no doubt obligated to follow up on that information. And, if the identities become known, section 24(6) provides that the driver or owner must to be substituted for ICBC in spite of any limitation period.  The wording of section 24(5) is that “a judgment against the corporation must not be given unless the court is satisfied that…”. This contemplates a single judgment.

[12]    I therefore do not think that a separate decision on section 24(5) can be made in advance of a decision on liability as a whole. Put another way, the time at which the court must be satisfied as to the factors in s. 24(5) is the time of the determination of liability for the accident. The opposite interpretation would allow for a scenario where s. 24(5) is determined in favour of a plaintiff, and the driver becomes known before the trial on liability. It would then make the substitution for ICBC impossible as the matter would be res judicata.

 [13]   I therefore allow the appeal.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

February 3rd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Suthakar v. Humble) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2011.  She sustained soft tissue injuries to neck, low back and shoulder.  The court accepted that the low back injury likely involved her sacroiliac complex.  The Plaintiff remained symptomatic at the time of trial  and her symptoms were expected to persist causing some interference in her daily functioning.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:

[118]     For several years now Ms. Suthakar has struggled with residual symptoms in her neck, left shoulder and low back.  Although her symptoms have improved over time and she may enjoy some modest additional improvement in the next while, they have nonetheless persisted and are susceptible to being exacerbated as a result of her work activities and daily domestic duties.  Her nagging pain leaves her exhausted at the end of her work shift.  When she arrives home, she is usually not able to do much of anything beyond taking a hot shower and resting on the couch with a hot pack.  Fortunately for Ms. Suthakar, her symptoms are manageable without medication on her days off.

[119]     The ill‑effects of the Accident have adversely impacted the quality and enjoyment of Ms. Suthakar’s interactions with her sons.  She is not able to play with them in the same way as before and is quick to anger.  Also of significance for this young woman is that her injuries have interfered with her intimate relationship with her husband.

[120]     In prior cases, I have observed that enduring pain, even when it is intermittent and mostly low-grade, can compel unwelcome adjustments to one’s work life and lifestyle and cloud the pleasures of life, as it has in Ms. Suthakar’s case.  Working in pain during the majority of her shifts has become part of Ms. Suthakar’s everyday work life and is likely to continue for many years to come, if not indefinitely.

[121]     I have reviewed the authorities placed before me by counsel.  The cases submitted by Ms. Suthakar’s counsel are more instructive than those relied on by the defendants.  In any event, the case law only provides general guidelines for what is, at its core, a highly individualized assessment.

[122]     Having regard to the Stapley factors and the other case authorities in the context of the evidence in the case at hand, in my opinion, a fair and reasonable award for Ms. Suthakar’s non-pecuniary damages is $70,000.