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$50,000 Assessment for 6 Years of Back Pain

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries arising from a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Harder v. Poettcker) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  The matter proceeded to jury trial where a jury found the Plaintiff 85% at fault for the crash with the Defendant shouldering the rest of the blame.

The Plaintiff suffered a back injury.  He suffered from pre-existing back problems and fibromyalgia.  The court found that while the Plaintiff’s symptoms lingered at the time of trial after the 6 year mark these symptoms were due to the pre-existing issues.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following reasons:

[77]         The plaintiff suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to his lower back and neck in the motor vehicle accident. Those soft tissue injuries were more painful and discomforting to the plaintiff than they otherwise would have been because he has a troublesome back that had in the past required surgery on two occasions.

[78]         However, the evidence does not disclose that the accident caused the need for the plaintiff’s back surgery. In that respect I prefer the evidence of the surgeon Dr. Splawinski to the evidence of the rheumatologist.

[79]         I expect that Mr. Harder became more uncomfortable as a result of the accident and decided to have the surgery privately. I think that he had the surgery more quickly than he otherwise would have had it because of the soft tissue injuries he suffered. That finding is relevant to whether the cost of the private surgery with a shorter waiting list is recoverable.

[80]         I have also concluded that on the evidence the plaintiff has not demonstrated that his fibromyalgia was brought on by the trauma in the motor vehicle accident. However, like his pre-existing back condition, it was an aspect of his pre-existing condition that on the evidence waxed and waned in any event and I think was an aspect of his condition that probably made his injuries from the accident more uncomfortable and debilitating when he had fibromyalgia.

[81]         How long did the injuries from the accident to his lower back and his neck persist?

[82]         Dr. Shuckett thought (as she described in 2015) that they probably continued as he had probably achieved maximum medical improvement. Dr. Splawinski thought that he suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and lower back and that the symptoms of neck and lower back pain settled down relatively quickly. Dr. Wade described his injury as a mild to moderate soft tissue injury.

[83]         I find that the injuries were soft tissue injuries suffered by the plaintiff that largely resolved by trial more than six years after the accident and any continuing discomfort that Mr. Harder suffers is largely related to his pre-existing back problem or his fibromyalgia which I find was not caused by the accident. The discomfort and pain suffered by Mr. Harder during the recovery period was however more significant than otherwise because they occurred to a man with a troublesome back and waxing and waning fibromyalgia. The defendant concedes that there was at least an acute period of discomfort and restricted activity.

[90]         Considering all of the evidence, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $50,000.

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