ICBC Law

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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

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Archive for the ‘ICBC Chronic Pain Cases’ Category

$110,000 Non Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Pain and Major Depressive Disorder

April 3rd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries sustained in three separate collisions.

In today’s case (Parhar v. Clarke) the Plaintiff was injured in three collisions that the Defendants accepted blame for.  She suffered chronic physical and psychological injuries as a result including thoracic outlet syndrome, chronic pain,  major depression and anxiety.  Her prognosis for further improvement was guarded.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Mr. Justice Pearlman provided the following reasons:

[215]     Ms. Parhar was 27 years old at the time of the first accident and 35 at the time of trial.

[216]     The injuries she suffered in the accidents include injuries to the muscles of her neck, shoulder girdle and back with attendant muscle spasm, low back pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, persistent headaches, TMJ pain and dysfunction and soft tissue injuries to her knees and right hip.

[217]     In addition, as a result of the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff sustained a chronic pain disorder, a major depressive disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD.

[218]     Although there has been some improvement in the plaintiff’s condition, Ms. Parhar’s prognosis is guarded in light of the persistence of her symptoms of pain and her psychological conditions.

[219]     Further psychological counselling would assist Ms. Parhar in coping with chronic pain and managing the functions of daily living. Exercise and conditioning will probably produce further improvements to her symptoms of neck, shoulder and back pain, and may also alleviate her headaches. However, after eight years of chronic pain, it is unlikely the plaintiff will make a full recovery and probable that she will experience flares of her back and neck pain, anxiety and depressive moods indefinitely.

[227]     Taking into account the Stapley v. Hejslet factors, all of the authorities cited by counsel, the risk that the plaintiff would have suffered a recurrence of depression in any event of the accidents, and all of Ms. Parhar’s particular circumstances, I would assess her damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life in the amount of $110,000…


$175,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Post Concussion Syndrome and Chronic Pain

January 5th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a “violent” collision resulting in a permanent brain injury and chronic pain.

In today’s case (Sundin v. Turnbull) the Plaintiff was rear-ended while riding his motorcycle in 2012.  The collision was severe with the motorcycle being embedded in the Defendant’s truck as a result of the forces involved.

The Plaintiff suffered a head injury and post concussive symptoms lingered.  The Plaintiff developed chronic pain and the prognosis for the conditions was poor with residual permanent disability.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Madam Justice Gerow provided the following reasons:

[106]     As stated earlier, the accident involving Mr. Sundin and Mr. Turnbull was a violent one. Mr. Sundin’s motorcycle was embedded into Mr. Turnbull’s pickup truck and Mr. Sundin was thrown through the air landing on the pavement. Immediately after the accident Mr. Sundin was dazed and spitting out teeth.

[107]     As well, there is no issue regarding Mr. Sundin’s credibility. I found that Mr. Sundin provided evidence in a straight forward and reliable fashion. I accept his symptoms as he described them are genuine.

[108]     There is no question that Mr. Sundin’s life has changed profoundly as a result of the accident. Prior to the accident Mr. Sundin had a history of performing at a high level in both his work and personal life.

[109]     As set out earlier, all the experts agree that Mr. Sundin suffered a MTBI, as well as numerous soft tissue injuries and damage to his teeth in the accident. As Dr. Benavente, the defendant’s expert, acknowledged, Mr. Sundin continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome as a direct result of the head injury he sustained in the accident. Mr. Sundin’s ongoing symptoms of chronic headaches, problems with concentration and memory, and mood problems are attributable to the post-concussion syndrome.

[110]     As well as his cognitive problems, the expert and lay evidence establishes that as a result of the accident, Mr. Sundin suffers from chronic pain in his neck, shoulders and back, problems with his teeth and jaw, and some ongoing pain in his hips and knees. The evidence is that it is unlikely Mr. Sundin will recover to his pre-accident condition, mentally or physically. Mr. Sundin is having a difficult time accepting that he cannot perform physically or mentally as he did before the accident, and as a result has developed an adjustment disorder. The ongoing symptoms Mr. Sundin is suffering from as a result of the accident impact every aspect of his life.

[111]     As noted in Stapley, the assessment of non-pecuniary damages depends on the particular circumstances of the plaintiff in each case. Having considered Mr. Sundin’s age, the nature of his injuries, the severity of his symptoms and the fact they have been ongoing for four years with little improvement, the ongoing treatments, the psychological, cognitive and memory problems, and the guarded prognosis for full recovery, as well as the authorities, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $175,000.


$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Likely Permanent Chronic Pain Syndrome

December 6th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing damages for a collision caused chronic pain syndrome.

In today’s case (Beaton v. Perkes) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision the Defendant admitted fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries and related headaches.  Her symptoms persisted and unfortunately developed into a chronic pain syndrome which had a poor prognosis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Mr. Justice Voith provided the following findings and reasons:

[14]         There is consensus on the nature, severity and prognosis for most of the injuries Ms. Beaton suffered in the Accident. There is also agreement that these injuries were caused by the Accident. This consensus is found in the two expert reports of Dr. Loewen, as well as in the expert reports of each of Dr. Grover and Dr. Pisesky. Drs. Grover and Pisesky are orthopedic surgeons who did independent medical examinations of Ms. Beaton on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendants respectively.

[15]         These various issues and conclusions are sufficiently straightforward that the cross-examinations of Drs. Loewen and Grover, on these matters, were limited. Dr. Pisesky’s report was filed without his being called for cross-examination.

[16]         Ms. Beaton has been assessed and diagnosed with soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper and mid-back. She has also been diagnosed with cervicogenic headaches. She struggles with serious and ongoing disruptions to her sleep. She is often awake three or four times a night and some evenings she only sleeps for two to four hours.

[17]         There has been no meaningful improvement in these various symptoms and, indeed, Ms. Beaton considers that some of them have worsened over time. I accept that evidence.

[18]         Ms. Beaton has, as recommended, attended at numerous massage and physiotherapy treatments. She has tried trigger point injections. She has attended a work hardening program. There was no suggestion that her efforts were not earnest.

[19]         Each of the experts I have referred to accepts that Ms. Beaton now struggles with chronic pain syndrome. They provided the following opinions on her prognosis:

(a)      Dr. Grover opined that Ms. Beaton will “continue to have some degree of chronic pain which is highly likely to persist permanently”.

(b)      Dr. Loewen said: “Based on my experience treating other patients with similar conditions, I would expect that Mrs. Beaton will have ongoing chronic back pain extending from her neck all the way to her lumbar spine. She may make some small further gains but I would expect most of her symptomology with which she currently struggles to persist long-term. Also of note, due to the injuries sustained in her neck and back, all of which are soft tissue in nature, it is possible that she may be susceptible to injuries with lower amounts of trauma in the future.”

(c)      Dr. Pisesky said: “in terms of overall progress it is my opinion that she … had plateaued in terms of recovery approximately 6 months post injury and therefore her prognosis for any significant improvement of either pain or function is guarded”…

[59]         In the result, I consider that an award of $110,000 fairly compensates Ms. Beaton for her non-pecuniary losses.


$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Low Back Injury

November 7th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back injury.

In today’s case (Truong v. Lu) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision the Defendant accepted fault for. The Court found the collision caused a chronic low back injury that was amplified by non-collision related depression.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Affleck provided the following reasons:

[78]         The termination of Mr. Truong’s employment, particularly at the age of 58 when other employment was difficult to find, was an emotionally catastrophic event for him. He believed erroneously but sincerely that the job loss must have been connected to his poor performance on the job, which had been caused by the accident injuries. He was naturally upset by the immediate effects of the accident and in that sense was depressed emotionally by those effects and by his fear that he might lose his job. After that loss occurred he descended into a major depression. I believe the precipitating event that caused the major depression was the loss of employment and thereby the loss of his self-respect. I accept Dr. Shaohua Lu’s evidence that the major depression would not have happened without the job loss.

[79]         Even without the depression I find Mr. Truong would have experienced physical pain and discomfort for some considerable time after the accident. I find the plaintiff’s low back pain, which travels into his left leg, as well as his neck pain, even in the absence of the major depression, would have continued but gradually diminished over the last five years. It will remain chronic indefinitely into the future, but with medication for pain relief will no longer limit his ability to function to any significant extent.

[80]         The defendant is critical of much of the plaintiff’s evidence as unreliable and accuses him of embellishment particularly for example when undergoing a functional capacity evaluation. I agree there was some embellishment but I believe it was not deliberate deceit. Mr. Truong genuinely believes he is severely disabled and adjusts his behaviour, without conscious thought, to fit the way he sees himself. He is also very reluctant to push his physical boundaries because of a fear of further injuries. In my view that fear is not justified and there is no risk of further injury if he becomes more active…

[86]         I have been referred by the parties to numerous cases in which non-pecuniary damages were awarded. I need not review those authorities in these reasons for judgment. I am persuaded a substantial award should be made under this head of damage largely because, apart from his work with C2 Imaging the plaintiff’s handyman role at home provided him with one of his main pleasures in life and in late middle age he has been deprived of that role for at least several years. I award $100,000 under this head of damages.


$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Ruptured Breast Implant, Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

September 9th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry assessing damages for numerous injuries sustained by a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

In today’s case (Starchuk v. Hannig) the Plaintiff was a customer standing in a store “when a vehicle driven by the defendant, Helmutt Hannig, crashed into it. Ms. Starchuk was pushed into the wall of the deli, breaking the drywall.”

The Plaintiff suffered a host of psychological and physical injuries including a breast implant capsular tear requiring surgical repair.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $135,000 Mr. Madam Justice Brown made the following findings:

[101]     In summary, I am satisfied that as a result of the motor vehicle accident of May 13, 2013, Ms. Starchuk has suffered soft tissue injury to her neck, shoulders, upper limbs, back, chest, and right foot; a capsular tear of her breast implant which required surgery and has left her with postoperative pain and loss of nipple sensation; chronic mechanical neck and shoulder pain; soft tissue injuries to her arms with persisting forearm and hand pain, numbness and tingling; posttraumatic stress disorder, somatic symptom disorder, chronic pain, and a mild traumatic brain injury. I accept that Ms. Starchuk:

1.       will remain at risk for a potential reduction in capacity due to her psychiatric diagnoses because of exacerbation from stress or other triggers; increased risk of developing another psychiatric diagnosis; and increased risk of developing fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome;

2.       would likely benefit from further therapy for her soft tissue injuries within the next year, but that she will be left with ongoing pain and activity restrictions related to neck, back, chest, arms and hands which will likely be permanent and enduring; and

3.       has had a good result from her breast revision surgery, but is left with pain and lack of sensation and the result is not aesthetically satisfying to her…

[103]     I have considered the cases provided to me by each of the parties. It is trite to state that no two injuries and no two plaintiffs are the same (Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146 at para. 42). Considering the factors set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, in my view the appropriate award for damages for Ms. Starchuk’s pain and suffering is $135,000.


Disputed Injury Diagnosis – Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other…

June 30th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, making the common sense finding that the debate over diagnosis is not nearly as important in a personal injury lawsuit as whether symptoms are tied to the indicent in question.

In today’s case (Tan v. Mintzler) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2012 collision and experienced chronic cognitive symptoms.  At trial a debate arose about whether the symptoms were due to a head injury from the collision or secondary to chronic pain.  The Court found the Plaintiff did indeed suffer a head injury however noted the debate was largely insignificant as whatever the diagnosis the symptoms were linked to the trauma of the collision.  In basically saying ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ Mr. Justice Groves provided the following reasons:

[54]         For the plaintiff, Drs. Weiss, Cameron, and Kaushansky gave evidence that they believed Ms. Tan had suffered an MTBI.  Dr. Weiss recommended Ms. Tan be referred to a neurologist to confirm her suspicion, a recommendation that was followed with her visit to Dr. Cameron.

[55]         One of the most significant factors in diagnosing the MTBI was Ms. Tan’s evidence that she has no recall of the Accident after hearing the initial sound of the impact.  The next thing she remembers is the policeman, Cst. Upshall, knocking on her car window.  It was also Ms. Tan’s evidence that she has a spotty memory of the events which transpired after she returned home from the hospital that day.  It was also relevant to the MTBI diagnosis that Ms. Tan was diagnosed as having a concussion at the hospital the day after the Accident and by Dr. Fong for several months after the Accident.  The doctors also relied on an MRI brain scan which showed an abnormality in the plaintiff’s left parietal lobe which Dr. Cameron testified “probably occurred” at the time of the Accident.

[56]         As I have said, Dr. Dost strongly disagreed with the MTBI diagnosis and with the methodology of the other three doctors.

[57]         The reality is that there is little disagreement regarding the symptoms Ms. Tan experiences and the psychological difficulties she is struggling with.  The distinction between whether Ms. Tan’s psychological injuries and cognitive difficulties were caused by an MTBI or by Ms. Tan’s chronic pain and sleep disturbances is relevant only to the quantum of general damages and to Ms. Tan’s prognosis going forward.

In going on to assess non-pecuniary damages at $210,000 the Court provided the following reasons:

[73]         Ms. Tan is 56 years of age.  I have found that she suffered an MTBI during the accident and that she suffers from depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD.  She has no residual capacity to work and is unemployable due to the cognitive issues caused by the accident, including her mood swings, poor stamina, and memory issues.  I have also found that Ms. Tan suffers from chronic pain on her left hand side and in her face and jaw.  The prognoses for Ms. Tan’s physical and psychological conditions were generally guarded or poor with the exception of the pain in her face and jaw, which may lessen with treatment.  I do note that several experts indicated that Ms. Tan may see some improvement with psychological treatment.

[74]         I also accept that the plaintiff’s personal and intimate relationships have been affected.  She now socializes very little and her relationship with her husband has deteriorated as a result of the injuries caused by the accident.  She is fearful of travel by car and has not driven since the accident.

[75]         Finally, I accept that the plaintiff’s ability to maintain her home, including her ability to cook, garden, and do laundry, has been impaired as a result of the accident.  She has and will continue to suffer some loss of housekeeping capacity.  However, Ms. Tan continues to be able to do some light housekeeping and has been able to manage the family home while her husband has been away for extended periods with only minimal assistance from her daughter.  I have therefore chosen to address this head of loss as part of the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages, rather than as a separate claim; Johal v. Radek, 2016 BCSC 454 at paras. 59-60….

[89]         Having regard to the findings I made and the authorities reviewed, I consider that an award of $210,000 properly compensates Ms. Tan for her non-pecuniary losses.  This award also includes and recognizes that Ms. Tan has and will continue to suffer some diminution in her housekeeping capacity.


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck and Back Injuries

June 23rd, 2016

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $90,000 for chronic injuries sustained in a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Lu v. Huang) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 rear-end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff’s injuries included chronic back and neck pain, headaches with psychological consequences.  The prognosis was poor with symptoms expected to continue into the future and remain partially disabling.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Blok provided the following reasons:

[156]     I found Ms. Lu to be a credible witness who did not exaggerate her symptoms.  The symptoms she reported in her testimony were consistent with the findings and observations of her physicians as well as the observations of her co-workers and husband.

[157]     The car accident was one of considerable force.  The damage to the defendants’ vehicle, as shown in the photographs, was considerable.  Although the evidence was that the defendants’ vehicle was subsequently written off, as I have observed before in other cases this in itself does not really convey much in the way of helpful information without also knowing the value of the car or the estimated value of the repairs.  Having said that, however, I am satisfied that the crumpled front end and hood of the defendants’ car, as shown in the photographs, is strongly suggestive of an impact of considerable force.

[158]     The plaintiff’s injuries were not really disputed.  I find them to be as follows:

a)    injuries to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas of her spine;

b)    a disc protrusion in her lumbar spine; and

c)     bruising to her upper chest.

[159]     I find that those injuries were caused by the accident.

[160]     I also find that as a result of those injuries the plaintiff has suffered:

a)    debilitating neck and back pain, nausea and dizziness for the first two weeks after the accident;

b)    ongoing constant cervical and lumbar pain from the time of the accident to the present;

c)     occasional numbness in her fingers and legs;

d)    constant or near-constant headaches; and

e)    problems with mood, including depression, irritability and shortness of temper.

[161]     Ms. Lu’s injuries left her unable to work for about two weeks, and after that limited her to part-time work (three days a week) for over a year.  They have also left her unable to sit for longer than about 45 minutes.  She is less productive at work and feels exhausted after a work day.  Her injuries have also affected other areas of her life in that her sleep is less restful, she cannot do household work, her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected and she cannot participate in family or social activities that involve any amount of physical activity.

[162]     I accept the evidence of Dr. Robinson that Ms. Lu will probably continue to suffer from headaches indefinitely.  As for her cervical and lumbar spine pain, I note that it has already continued years beyond the time Dr. Murray felt Ms. Lu would start to see some improvement.  Even the defence specialist, Dr. Lapp, said the Ms. Lu’s prognosis was guarded, though he felt she would experience “very slow further improvement”.  Dr. Frobb was less positive; he felt her present condition likely “represents a status of maximal medical improvement”.  From all of the medical evidence I conclude that Ms. Lu’s symptoms are likely to continue in the long term and there is only a small prospect that her symptoms will improve to any substantial degree.

[163]     Finally, I accept the opinion of Dr. Murray that Ms. Lu’s lumbar disc protrusion puts her at risk for further episodes of back pain, and that she should avoid activities involving heavy lifting, carrying or forward bending…

[171]     I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $90,000.


$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Pain and Somatic Symptom Disorder

April 11th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $95,000 for a plaintiff suffering from chronic pain and a somatic symptom disorder following a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Dabu v. Schwab) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 collision the Defendant admitted fault for.  The Plaintiff injured her neck back and shoulder and developed chronic pain syndrome along with a somatic symptom disorder with a relatively poor prognosis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $95,000 Mr. Justice Steeves provided the following reasons:

[51]         Overall, there are findings of physical limitations and an undisputed psychological disorder that are related to the 2011 accident. These continue and they affect the life and work of the plaintiff. I note that Dr. Shane opines that the prognosis is that the plaintiff’s psychological functioning will remain stable. From his previous comments about the persistence of somatic symptom disorder and chronic pain syndrome I take his meaning to be that these conditions will continue. This is generally consistent with the prognosis given by Dr. Misri that the prognosis is poor, if not guarded (based on different diagnoses). There is also evidence that the plaintiff’s symptoms are slowly improving and her specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation believes she can increase her activities and she should do so…

[53]         In the subject case the plaintiff has managed to work full time and this brings her considerable satisfaction and contributes positively to her emotional well-being. However, she is not able to work at the same level as before the accident and her home life has become reduced in a significant way so she can recover from and rest for work. She also has limitations in what she can now do at work. This is discussed in more detail below under loss of future earning capacity. As a matter of non-pecuniary damages it is enough to say that the plaintiff has not lost the enjoyment that her work gives to her but there has been a related loss because of the limitations her pain and suffering have placed on her home life.

[54]         As above, the defendant relies on prior decisions for her position that the range for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $40-50,000. For example, in the Matias decision non-pecuniary damages were assessed at $50,000. However, in that case bilateral frozen shoulders were found to be very significant for the plaintiff’s disability but they were found to be unrelated to the accident in dispute. In Chen, a decision from 2004 where non-pecuniary damages of $35,000 were awarded, there were soft tissue injuries somewhat similar analogous to the ones in the subject case but the psychological diagnoses related to pain were absent. The Rabiee judgment can be similarly distinguished.

[55]         With respect to the authorities relied on by the plaintiff for her range of $128,000 to $135,000, in Poirier an award of $100,000 for non-pecuniary damages was given but the plaintiff’s condition was likely permanent and the prospect for improvement was guarded. In Hosseinzadeh there was significant pain to the point of rendering the plaintiff immobile for days at a time (at para. 103) and damages of $125,000 were awarded. Damages of $130,000 were given for non-pecuniary damages in S.R., where the trial judge accepted an expert opinion that the plaintiff would not fully recover to her former self despite completion of a pain program (at para. 169) and her ability to participate in one of her most passionate goals in life, her faith, was limited (at para. 172). Finally, in Morlan, the plaintiff could no longer work in her pre-accident work which brought her considerable satisfaction. The Court of Appeal considered non-pecuniary damages of $125,000 to be generous but not excessive.

[56]         In the subject case the plaintiff’s own expert believes she can increase her activities at home and at work and she continues in her work which brings her considerable satisfaction and enjoyment.

[57]         With the above in mind I conclude that an appropriate amount of non-pecuniary damages in this case is $95,000.00.


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Partially Disabling Chronic Pain

March 9th, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain following a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Swieczko v. Nehme) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision in 2011.  The Plaintiff committed to the intersection on a green light but could not turn due to oncoming traffic.  The Plaintiff waited until the light turned a stale yellow and began the turn.  The Defendant, who was in the oncoming curb lane, came through on what was likely a red light and the vehicles collided.  The Court found the Defendant fully liable for the collision.

The Plaintiff sustained  soft tissue injuries which resulted in chronic symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Madam Justice Koenigsberg provided the following reasons:

[40]         Mr. Swieczko suffered significant soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident.  The clear medical evidence from the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G.M. McKensie, is that Mr. Swieczko’s soft tissue injuries are now chronic and permanent, presenting as moderate to severe pain in the neck, mid-back and lower back with persistent flare-ups as a result of overtime work, attempts at physically interacting with his growing one-year-old daughter and attempts to reintegrate previously enjoyed recreational activities.  His prognosis is poor.  Dr. McKensie testified that while there are some positive prognostic indicators, such as the likelihood that his function will improve with an appropriate pain/activity program; these are outweighed by the negative indicators, such as length of time Mr. Swieczko has experienced pain and the fact that his body has become sensitized to it.

[41]         Dr. Ashleigh Stelzer-Chilton, Mr. Swieczko’s general practitioner, testified that Mr. Swieczko will never return to his pre-accident baseline.  She believes he can improve his function and in that sense she hopes for a decrease in his pain with some activities.

[42]         Mr. Swieczko was 27 years old at the time of the Accident.  He is now 31.  He has been engaged in the video game industry for close to nine years.  He began as a “quality assurance” tester.  This is a sedentary job, essentially playing games to ferret out problems before the games are released to the public.  It requires concentration and repetitive tasks.  It was described as being a form of detective work.  The work often requires overtime as projects reach launching time; that is, 10-to 16-hour days.  This career is generally somewhat insecure, as most of the employment is on contract.  Mr. Swieczko has been laid off and re-hired several times.

[43]         Mr. Swieczko’s ambition has been to be a game designer and currently he has landed his dream job.  Mr. Swieczko is obviously a talented, hard-working, ambitious young man.  He appears to have an above average ability to get re-hired as needed at his places of employment and lately has been promoted.  However, all of the medical evidence indicates that he will have difficulty maintaining and progressing in his career to the extent that it relies on individuals having the stamina to intermittently work long days.  Mr. Swieczko has on occasion been unable to work the required overtime and when he has done so, he can only do it for a day or so without resorting to strong pain medication such as Tylenol 3s.  Further, Mr. Swieczko has been at risk in the past of medicating himself with alcohol, although he appears at this point to have that risk under control.

[44]         Mr. Swieczko and his partner, Ms. Philips, have a child who is just over one year old now.  While providing both of them a great deal of joy, this has resulted in two complicating factors because each is suffering from chronic pain from the Accident.  The first is that, given Mr. Swieczko’s demanding career, which requires that he must utilize (at this point) all of his stamina to maintain, he has become more limited in what time and activity he can devote to his daughter.  However, the evidence is clear that Ms. Philips has been and still is unable to do several necessary tasks associated with housekeeping and child care – such as physically lifting and holding their child.  Thus, up to now Mr. Swieczko has shouldered more of those tasks than he would have, which apparently limits the downtime his neck and back need to recover from strain.  This in turn has required more pain medication and led to frustration.

[45]         It must be recognized that this state of affairs is costing Mr. Swieczko psychologically.  He is far less able to socialize and enjoy family get-togethers – or physical activity that he enjoyed before the Accident.  Thus, Mr. Swieczko is struggling with frustration and emotional despondency from time to time as he contemplates the immediate future, wherein he may not be able to be an active participant in his daughter’s physical recreational life.  It was clear from Mr. Swieczko’s evidence that he was taken aback by receiving his poor prognosis in relation to living relatively pain-free and being able to do what he did before.  In particular, he had ambitions of participating in such physical activities as karate with his daughter as she matures.  He is now very unlikely to be able to do this…

The most significant factor in this case making the assessment of general damages suggested by the plaintiff more appropriate than that suggested by the defendant is the severity and chronicity of pain, which combines with Mr. Swieczko’s increasing emotional struggle over the impairments to his family, marital and social relationships.  Adding to this is Mr. Swieczko’s stoicism, which, in this case, has meant he has and continues to work longer and harder to achieve his career goals, but at a significant cost in pain and resort to strong medications.

[52]         I assess his non-pecuniary damages at $90,000.


$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic C5/6 Disc Herniation

January 21st, 2016

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic disc injury sustained in a collision.

In today’s case (Arletto v. Kin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 head on collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained a variety of injuries the most serous of which was a disc herniation in his neck which caused chronic symptoms which adversely affected his career as a longshoreman.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

[30]         The overwhelming medical opinions and testimony lead to the conclusion that the plaintiff did not have a pre-existing degenerative condition of the cervical spine. He was very healthy and had not been to a doctor in years.

[31]         Dr. Chin stated that there was a risk of further progression of the disc protrusion resulting in worsening symptoms in the future due to repeat injury or trauma. He considered that Arletto was vulnerable to this risk given the nature of his occupation and the fact of disease progression in the absence of additional trauma. Non-surgical management was recommended for now but the possibility of surgery in the future was not ruled out. Dr. Loomer thought that surgery could be a therapeutic consideration if Arletto’s symptoms became intolerable.

[32]         Dr. Nguyen also thought that there was an increased risk of progression of the disc protrusion with the plaintiff’s work. He recommended on-site ergonomic assessment but did not realize that Arletto changes his lift truck daily such that adaptation for individual ergonomics is not practical. He concluded that repetitive neck movement placed Arletto at risk for progression not only of disc herniation, but also arm weakness and worsening neck pain. In cross-examination, Dr. Nguyen said that Arletto was not a candidate for surgery now but that he could be in the future if the pain symptoms were accompanied by weakness or sensory loss.

[33]         Dr. Stancer said that the whooshing sounds that the plaintiff experiences in his left ear are not treatable. The symptoms had not improved over time and are likely to continue indefinitely. The same was said for the headaches with the expectation that they would continue in the same pattern with resultant sleep disruption…

[35]         It is now over five years since the accident. Only the soft tissue injury to the lower back has healed. The plaintiff has continued to work despite shifting pain and other symptoms. There appears no resolution to symptoms from his ongoing injuries. He has lost whatever enjoyment he had from what had already been a limited social life. He continues to look after his personal needs, in keeping with his non-malingering attitude. He has been perseverant and dedicated. As stated by Dr. Stancer, Arletto has coped surprisingly well in the face of continuing pain and uncertainty about his future…

[44]         The plaintiff’s situation is unique. The comparison cases are helpful but only indicators of how others’ pain and suffering were dealt with.

[45]         Arletto was 47 years old at the time of the accident. He had worked his way up to a full time union job as a longshoreman driving a forklift truck and enjoyed some seniority in that position. He was single but with strong family ties and had looked after his sister. He was driving his nephew to a game when the accident occurred. He was known to be private and reserved but enjoyed the collegiality of the union hall. He was healthy and had never been to a massage or physiotherapist.

[46]         Arletto is now 52 years old. He suffers from permanent pain in his neck and shoulder blade and has numbness and tingling down his left arm and into his fingers. He suffered a left-sided disc protrusion at C5/6 with associated annular tear in the accident. The protrusion has impinged the nerve and spinal cord, causing increased pain. He has undergone trigger point injections and two nerve root blocks to relieve the pain with only temporary relief. He has tinnitus and vertigo as a result of the accident. He suffers headaches about three times per week that interrupt sleep. He takes pain medication as required but not often because it interferes with work. A lower back soft tissue injury resolved after just less than two and a half years. Work aggravates his pain. His work has been permanently affected to the point that he has reduced working hours, given up hope of improving his union rating by becoming a crane operator, and planned for an earlier retirement. His family and other relationships have suffered and he cannot tolerate crowds or a noisy family dinner.

[47]         An appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $110,000.