BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Whiplash Injury

Adding to this ever-growing BC “Pain and Suffering” Caselaw Database, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff close to $90,000 in total damages as a result of injuries and losses sustained in a 2006 car crash.

In today’s case (Cabral v. Brice) the Plaintiff was in a pick up truck which was rear-ended by a commercial truck driven by the Defendant.  The issue of fault was admitted leaving the Court to determine the value of the Plaintiff’s injury claim.

The Plaintiff had a pre-existing problem from a herniated disc at C6-7 but this made a complete pain free recovery in the years before the crash.  This previous injury did, however, make the Plaintiff more susceptible to being injured in a motor vehicle collision.  The crash caused a soft tissue injury to the Plaintiff’s neck which resulted in mechanical neck pain.  Although there was some improvement in his symptoms by the time of trial he continued to have ongoing intermittent symptoms which increased with activity.  In assessing the non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $50,000 Madam Justice Wedge noted the following:

[63] In Unger v. Singh, 2000 BCCA 94, [2000] B.C.J. No. 246, Proudfoot J.A. observed the following at para. 32 concerning the quantum of general damages in soft-tissue injury cases:

After analyzing the many cases cited by both counsel (I will limit my comments to relevant material) I find that the range of damages is indeed wide. Cases involving primarily soft-tissue injury with some emotional problems including sleep disruption, nervousness, depression, seem to be from a low $35,000 to a high of $125,000. However, I caution though that these numbers are only guides.

[64] In Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, [2006] B.C.J. No. 128, Kirkpatrick J.A. (writing for the majority) outlined (at para. 46) the factors a trial judge should consider when assessing general damages:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)        age of the plaintiff;

(b)        nature of the injury;

(c)        severity and duration of pain;

(d)        disability;

(e)        emotional suffering; and

(f)         loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)        impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)        impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)         loss of lifestyle; and

(j)         the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff:  Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163 (QL), 2005 BCCA 54).

[69] Mr. Cabral performed light duties at work for one month following the accident, and then returned to his full duties. He undertook a three-month course of physiotherapy, and was participating in all of his pre-accident sports activities by the summer of 2006. He received several further physiotherapy treatments between October 2006 and February 2007. Thereafter, he again underwent treatment for his neck pain in December 2008.

[70] The medical evidence established that Mr. Cabral suffered a significant neck sprain in the accident which, while it does not prevent him from working full-time in his job and participating in his sports activities, continues to cause intermittent pain which increases his fatigue and stress at work and limits some of his activities at home. The evidence established that Mr. Cabral’s recovery has reached a plateau. The evidence further established that his condition will not worsen over time.

[71] Mr. Cabral’s medical condition is not as severe as those suffered by the plaintiffs in the decisions cited by his counsel, although it does share some of the features of those decisions. The medical evidence suggests that his neck pain may now be chronic in nature.

[72] Each personal injury case possesses its own unique facts, and Mr. Cabral’s is no different…

[73] I have concluded that an appropriate award for Mr. Cabral’s non-pecuniary loss is $50,000.

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