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$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for “Moderate To Severe” Soft Tissue Injuries

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

In today’s case (Farbatuk v. Lagrimas) the Plaintiff was rear-ended in a 2011 collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained moderate to severe soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.  The Plaintiff’s physician gave evidence that the prognosis for recovery was extremely guarded although the Court rejected this finding that any lingering symptoms did not “debilitate or impair” the Plaintiff in any meaningful way.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Kloegman provided the following reasons:

[22]         It appears from the medical evidence that all three expert witnesses agreed that the plaintiff suffered a moderate to severe whiplash to his neck and back in the accident. It also appears that the medical experts agree there is evidence of a pre-existing degenerative condition in the plaintiff’s back and neck, whether D.I.S.H. or something else.

[23]         Dr. Miki described the plaintiff’s prognosis as “extremely guarded”, particularly in relation to the work the plaintiff has done for the previous 25 years. Dr. Richardson’s prognosis for the plaintiff’s neck and back was moderate, with no increasing risk of developing osteoarthritis. Dr. Werry stated in his report that the plaintiff will probably continue indefinitely to experience variable neck and low back pain and stiffness, but that he probably has not reached maximum medical improvement.

[24]         As stated earlier, Dr. Miki’s evidence was given in an advocational manner and he relied heavily on the plaintiff’s self-reporting. His prognosis of “extremely guarded” was not consistent with some of his clinical notes that had been omitted from his report. These showed steady and continuous improvement in the plaintiff’s position. His prognosis was also not consistent with the evidence of Louise Craig, functional capacity evaluator, who opined that the plaintiff’s main limitation is in his range of motion in his neck. She reported that the plaintiff felt an increase in symptoms from sustained sitting and stooping, but that he showed a tolerance for exertion of low to upper range of heavy physical strength, very good core strength and aerobic fitness, no limitation in standing, walking, crawling, kneeling, crouching, managing stairs, balancing, reaching, gripping and most importantly; he was able to carry a medium load of 50 lbs on a frequent basis which placed his ability to work in the Heavy category of occupations.

[25]         In my view, the plaintiff’s prognosis is more optimistic than either Dr. Miki or he would admit. Although 2½ years have passed since the accident and the plaintiff still complains about neck pain, back pain and limited range of motion, I am not satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that these subjective complaints are sufficiently supported by any objective evidence of continuing injury. Simply put, he has not established that his ongoing complaints are serious enough to debilitate or impair him in any way…’

[46]         I find that the plaintiff’s situation is closer to those of the plaintiffs in the above cases cited by defence. In my view, an award of $60,000 is fair compensation for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary losses.

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