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$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Aggravation of Pre-Existing Neck Symptoms

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic aggravation of a pre-existing neck injury.

In today’s case (McCartney v. McArthur) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The 62 year old Plaintiff had a 20 year history of occasional neck complaints.  The collision aggravated these and led to chronic symptoms which impacted the Plaintiff’s functioning.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Bowden provided the following reasons:

69]         I am satisfied that the defendant’s negligence, which has been admitted, contributed to the injuries complained of by the plaintiff. While the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition resulted in symptoms in his neck area that had some similarity to those he experienced after the accident, the degree of pain experienced by him clearly increased after the accident and, I find, became chronic in nature. In particular, Dr. Gittens testified that the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition, involving some degenerative changes in his spine, was aggravated by the accident. He said that his pain, which he described as neuropathic, occurs after the underlying trauma has resolved and is extremely difficult to resolve. He said it may be a permanent condition. In my view the evidence establishes that the symptoms suffered by the plaintiff after the accident were different and worse than before the accident. His neck condition was significantly aggravated by the accident…

[76]         I have concluded that the plaintiff suffered aggravation to his neck pain as a result of the accident and his pain has become chronic in nature. For the first time, the pain that the plaintiff suffers imposes some functional limitations on him.

[77]         The evidence also establishes that the plaintiff went from an outgoing pleasant person to someone who was easily irritated by other people. This has interfered with his ability to work effectively as a cabinet salesman.

[78]         I am satisfied that the accident has negatively affected the quality and enjoyment of the plaintiff’s life and that may continue indefinitely. He will likely continue to suffer pain, together with the associated deleterious effects on his enjoyment of life.

[79]         After considering the relevant case law referred to by counsel and keeping in mind that the award in each case is very dependent upon the unique facts of the case, I award the plaintiff $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

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