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 December, 2017

Tell the BC Government “No!” To Stripping Rights Of Those Injured By Impaired and Distracted Drivers

December 12th, 2017

The Government is flirting with the idea of stripping your rights if you are injured by a distracted or impaired driver.

If you think this is a bad idea tell the government no.

If you want your voice to be heard here are some quick steps you can take to stand up for your rights.

  • Follow ROADBC, a coalition of British Columbians committed to protecting the rights of anyone injured on our roads
  • Contact your MLA.  Tell them “No to caps” and to keep British Columbians rights intact when injured by careless drivers
  • Join ROADBC’s Facebook Page and share this page with those that share your views

Here’s some background on the current situation.

ICBC is under financial pressure.  That has not always been the case.  In recent years the public insurer was so profitable that the past government scooped nearly $1.3 billion from the crown corporation.

Instead of putting this money back into ICBC or taking less drastic solutions the Government has publicly mulled stripping victim rights to save the insurer money.  When the government strips you of your rights it rarely gives them back.

This is done with talk of “caps”.  In short this means restricting the rights of those injured by careless drivers.  Caps are not new and are the creation of the insurance lobby as product to increase profits.  Caps exist in many jurisdictions across Canada and the US and are proven not to be effective in stabilizing insurance rates.  Insurers, even after successfully persuading governments to limit victim rights, look for ever increasing premiums.

The root cause of ICBC’s financial issues are collisions caused by distracted drivers.  Instead of targeting victims of crashes the focus is better placed on bad drivers.

  • Efforts to make our roads safer by reducing speeding, distracted and impaired driving
  • Higher risk drivers should fairly pay higher premiums reflective of the risk they cause.
  • Embracing safe driving technologies projected to cut down collision rates
  • Returning the $1.3 Billion of past profits taken from ICBC

If you want to say no to the Government stripping your rights to benefit bad drivers contact your MLA and tell them no to caps.


$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic, Partly Disabling Soft Tissue Injuries

December 11th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries caused in a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Slater v. Gorden) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 rear-end collision.  The Defendant accepted fault.  The crash caused various soft tissue injuries which turned into a chronic problem.  The Plaintiff’s injuries disabled her from her general duties as a police officer and limited her to administrative work.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $135,000 Madam Justice Forth provided the following reasons:

[84]         As stated earlier, Ms. Slater suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, left shoulder, lower back and left hip area. She continues to suffer from daily pain and stiffness primarily in her low back and left hip area.

[85]         Ms. Slater presented as someone who likes to be in control, and it appears that the ongoing symptoms and their lack of resolution have been particularly difficult for her to adjust to. She testified as to the impact that the accident has had on her life, in that she feels she has lost everything that she worked “super hard” to achieve: her career, her personal life, and her physical well-being.

[86]         With respect to her career, she has lost the ability to perform the type of police work that provided her the greatest enjoyment, that is, general duty police work out on the road. The accident has caused a significant change to Ms. Slater’s ability to undertake general police duties. She has not been medically cleared to work, and the medical opinion supports that Ms. Slater currently cannot return to general police duty. Further, it appears unlikely that she will be able to do so in the future. She has been able to remain an RCMP officer but on administrative duties only.

[87]         She is concerned that she will not have the same opportunity for advancement. She does not find her job in the Serious Crime Unit as enjoyable as her previous role, and she finds it more depressing and mentally draining as she has to deal with serious files for extended periods. Her current role mainly involves computer work in the office, which she finds far less stimulating than the general duty work.

[88]         Ms. Slater has become more withdrawn from her work colleagues, family and friends; her relationship with her common-law husband has ended; and she has not been able to participate in her children’s activities to the same extent. Her sleep is affected and she frequently wakes up at night.

[92]         I have reviewed the various cases provided, and in assessing the particular circumstances of Ms. Slater, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $135,000.


Defense Doctor Opinion Rejected After Finding He Acted As “Advocate”

December 6th, 2017

Adding to this site’s archived judgments of judicial criticism of expert witness ‘advocacy’, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, rejecting the testimony of a defense hired expert.

In today’s case (Nagra v. Stapleton) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 collision that the Defendant admitted responsibility for.  Despite voicing some concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility the Court accepted his medical evidence that he suffered injuries to his neck and low back as a result of the crash.

In the course of the trial the Defendants called a physician they hired who provided an opinion minimizing the collision’s connection to the injuries.  In rejecting this evidence Mr. Justice Cole found this expert “seemed to be more of an advocate” and provided the following critical comments:

[40]         Dr. Laidlow, called on behalf of the defendant, also confirms that movement of the neck noted during joint examination did seem to be consistent with what was observed spontaneously. Dr. Laidlow also found restrictive range of motion in the plaintiff’s neck but was of the view that his physical symptoms are at the same level or consistent with the plaintiff’s physical symptoms as a result of the 2012 motor vehicle accident.

[41]         I have difficulty with Dr. Laidlow’s evidence as he seemed to be more of an advocate, he was argumentative, and based his report, in part at least, on the fact that because there was no record of neck pain prior to his examination of the plaintiff, that the neck pain had been resolved to the state it was prior to the motor vehicle accident.

[42]         Dr. Laidlow’s opinion is based on the assumption that the neck pain that the plaintiff reported at the end of June 2013, continued on through 2013 and 2014, since the plaintiff was still experiencing neck pain when the June 2014 accident occurred. This assumption was made despite the fact that the plaintiff provided no information to suggest he was experiencing these pain symptoms in 2014 at the time of the accident. Dr. Laidlow admitted that he found no clinical records between 2014 and the date of the accident where the plaintiff reported ongoing neck pain or headaches. Dr. Laidlow reviewed the report of the plaintiff’s family doctor to indicate that there were no reports in his records of pain symptoms similar to those sustained in the accident. Instead, Dr. Laidlow relied on a report by Dr. Novak from June 16, where he indicated that the plaintiff was suffering from chronic neck pain “likely since 2012”.

[43]         I prefer the evidence of Drs. Watson and Waseem, however, the weight to be given to their evidence is diminished because I do not find the plaintiff to be a credible witness.


BC Supreme Court Discusses When Short Leave Applications Should Be Granted

December 4th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, providing a general overview of when a short-leave applications should be granted and criticizing the frequency with which such applications are brought by defence lawyers in personal injury lawsuits.

In today’s case (O’Callaghan v. Hengsbach) the plaintiff claimed physical and psychiatric injuries from a collision and sued for damages.  The Defendant had the plaintiff assessed by a neurologist.  After the time limit for delivery of expert reports the Defendant brought sought to have the Plaintiff examined by a psychiatrist and requested short leave to bring the application.  The Court dismissed the request and in doing so Master Baker provided the following reasons of the protocol that should be followed when seeking short leave –

[16]         The Masters in chambers, almost daily, are asked to give short leave under Rule 8-5(1). I have heard three of these applications in 1 ½ days of chambers; in one application, plaintiff’s counsel told the court that it was the third short leave application by the defence in that case since October 17. Interestingly, on a quick search I found no authorities to guide the court in granting or refusing applications for short leave. The rule itself offers little guidance, other than an application may be made in circumstances of “urgency”.

[17]         Such applications should be restricted to emergent circumstances and should not reward inefficiency, inattention to a particular case, or a lack of oversight. To abridge the time limits imposed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules is, presumably, to prejudice the other party who is, naturally, entitled to rely on timelines imposed by the Rules and to expect the opposing party to do likewise.

[18]         In the absence of guiding authorities, I suggest the following considerations, non-exclusive, should guide the parties and the court in considering short leave applications:

  1. a)       The application, of course, is to be made by Requisition, usually without affidavits, and may be made before a Registrar, Master, or Judge.
  2. b)       While undue formality in the application is discouraged, the application should be made in court, on the record (even if by video or telephone) and not online as an e-filed application.
  3. c)       Applicant’s counsel should notify the opposing counsel or party of an intention to apply for short leave so that counsel can appear. At the very least applicant’s counsel should canvass with his or her friend their availability on the proposed chambers date and whether he or she is opposed to the short leave.
  4. d)       The applicant should be prepared to give a full accounting of the facts, circumstances, context, and chronology leading to the application for short leave, all of which should establish that the applicant has been affected or surprised by events or developments not reasonably foreseeable.
  5. e)       If opposing counsel is not present should, as in the case of without notice applications, be prepared to give both favourable and unfavourable details.
  6. f)        If any important or pivotal fact or element is disputed by opposing counsel the applicant should be prepared to offer affidavit evidence on the point and, as always, counsel should not speak to his or her own affidavit if the matter is contested.
  7. g)       Busy schedules for the applicant counsel will usually not be sufficient reason for short leave; in that case counsel should arrange for a colleague or agent to speak to the chambers application on the usual notice required by the rules.

[19]         Ultimately, taking these points into consideration, the court will balance the prejudice both to the other party by potentially disrupting their schedules and trial preparations as well as service to other clients and to the applicant by virtue of reasonably unforeseen facts, circumstances, or developments that have inhibited the applicant’s preparation in the normal chronology that the rules contemplate and mandate.

[20]         Some areas of the law tend to offer more emergencies or crises than others; family law would likely fall in this category. Despite this, however, of late more applications for short leave seem to arise from personal injury/motor vehicle accident cases than in any other. And most of those applications for short leave seem to be on behalf of the defence, seeking short leave to bring an application for an IME close to trial. In that respect, this case is completely typical of that growing practise.

[21]         In many cases, the applicant can point to genuine circumstances giving rise to surprise or the advent of claims or circumstances the applicant could not have reasonably anticipated. This, and many similar applications, is not in that category. In too many cases, in my view, the defence, either assuming that settlement is likely or simply by applying triage or prioritizing in busy offices with large caseloads, have not given due attention and focus in a timely way to the possible claims and damages of the plaintiff. Lawyers are extremely busy professionals. They have many cases other than the one specifically before the court. Every master and judge knows that. Still, that cannot be permitted to affect the other party’s right to due process and adherence to the rules unless clearly justified; it is the court’s function to prevent that.

[22]         I have opined often, from the bench, about the template nature of pleadings in personal injury cases[3]. Often, it seems, the only change to pleadings are the names of the parties and the date and location of the accident. The damages claimed and particulars of alleged negligence are almost rote. Still, when a party specifies concussion, cognitive impairment, nightmares, sleep disruption, and driving related anxiety (which, to be fair, not all plaintiffs claim), it should be an obvious announcement to the defence that psychiatric enquiry is justified.

[23]         With the advent of standardized pleadings, an obvious problem for the defence arises: what really are the damages (if any) to this particular plaintiff?  It is my conclusion that very often the true issues in the claim are not established until expert medical (and sometimes economic) reports are delivered. And, yes, very often these reports are delivered at or very near the 84-day deadline. I do understand the defence dilemma in that, but even when faced with standardized pleadings, nothing prevents the defence from, as here, conducting the usual steps for disclosure and discovery. The chronology or timing of that is very much for the defence to decide and control.

[24]         In this particular case, Ms. Stewart is right; there were multiple indications to the defence that Ms. O’Callaghan was not only making a claim for psychiatric injuries, but that she was firm in her allegation and that in her view the damages were significant and long-lasting. Both the clinical records and her discovery evidence should have reinforced that assertion. Her denial of the facts contained in the defence notice to admit was a further obvious sign. But preceding all of those indicators was the NOCC which, despite my complaints of template pleadings in general, was clear in alleging specific psychiatric or psychological injuries and consequences of the accident.


Motorist Found Fully At Fault For Clipping Cyclist While Attempting to Pass

December 4th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing fault for a collision involving a cyclist and a motorist.

In this week’s case (McGavin v. Talbot) the Plaintiff had merged onto the roadway where a bike lane ended.  Shortly thereafter the Defendant, proceeding in the same direction of travel, clipped the Plaintiff’s bike while a vehicle attempting to pass causing him to lose control and crash.  The motorist denied fault.  Mr. Justice Masuhara found fault rested fully with the motorist in these circumstances and provided the following reasons:

[20]         I find that Mr. McGavin had merged on the roadway at the end of the bike lane.  Mr. McGavin estimates he was riding at about 20-25 kmph which I accept.  I also find based on the testimony of Ms. Talbot, that Mr. McGavin was ahead of the Mr. Talbot’s pickup when the bike lane ended.  In my view, Mr. McGavin had the dominant position on the roadway beyond the end of the bike lane, and Mr. Talbot passed Mr. McGavin when there was not a safe distance between his pickup and Mr. McGavin to do so.  Mr. Talbot did not pass at a safe distance. 

[21]         I find the passing occurred before the X in the lane and before the start of guard rails for the Colquitz Bridge (Exhibit 1, Tab 4) and that the rear of the pickup driven by Mr. Talbot struck or clipped the handle bar of the bicycle ridden by the plaintiff causing the plaintiff to fall at about the start of the guard rails by the Colquitz Bridge. 

[22]         As a result, it is my determination that Mr. Talbot is entirely at fault for Mr. McGavin’s fall. 

[23]         My finding here is made on the bases that:

(a)            A cyclist has the same rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle pursuant to s. 183(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, s. 318;

(b)            A driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle must cause its vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance and must not cause or permit the vehicle to return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle pursuant to s. 157(1); and 

(c)             A driver of a vehicle must drive with due care and attention and must have reasonable consideration for other drivers pursuant to s. 144.