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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

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

Archive for the ‘ICBC Psychological Injury Cases’ Category

$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Pain Coupled With Psychological Injury

September 26th, 2018

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

In today’s case (Evans v. Keill) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The crash caused a variety of soft tissue injuries which developed into chronic pain coupled with psychological injury.  The consequences impacted her vocationally with a poor prognosis for recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Madam Justice Matthews provided the following reasons:

[166]     I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Ms. Evans has suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, which will continue into the foreseeable future and from which she is unlikely to ever fully recover.

[167]     As a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident, Ms. Evans suffered from soft tissue injuries to her mid-back, upper back, neck and shoulder. She now has chronic pain in her neck and upper back. The pain is exacerbated by lifting and many different postures, including sitting, standing, certain neck angles and some yoga postures. It is exacerbated by physical activities where her neck or back bears weight, or involves lifting or working with her arms above a certain height. She experiences headaches and migraines. Over the course of two years after the accident the pain has gradually improved by about 60% but has plateaued at its present level. It is permanent and not likely to improve. She has been prescribed analgesics and has taken over-the-counter medications to cope with her pain.

[168]     Before the accident, Ms. Evans’ mood was good and she enjoyed being physically active and social. She hiked several times a week, sometimes with friends, and regularly did yoga. She had a career that she enjoyed and was justifiably proud of given her eligibility for further promotion and that she achieved it without graduating high school. Her injuries rendered her unable to do her job.

[169]     Due to the accident injuries, Ms. Evans suffered two major depressive episodes and somatic symptom disorder. She withdrew socially from her friends. She attempted suicide twice. She drank excessively.

[170]     Overall, Ms. Evans’ life is very different from what she enjoyed prior to the accident. However, after a significant and challenging struggle, she has reworked her life into a place where she is happy.

[171]     The most significant of the Stapley factors in this case are Ms. Evans’ age; the severity and duration of the pain; the impairment of her physical abilities; her associated loss of lifestyle; and the impairment of her relationships. Ms. Evans is relatively young. She was 34 years old at the time of the accident and she was 39 years old at trial. She faces the prospect of a lifetime of chronic pain and associated functional limitations. One of the most significant impacts of her injuries has been the impact on her ability to do her job as a produce manager, which she enjoyed and which was a source of pride…

[181]     In summary, some of the cases cited by Ms. Evans involve other injuries, such as thoracic outlet syndrome, disc herniation or facet joint arthroplasty, on top of chronic myofascial pain and psychological injuries. Most of the defendants’ cases do not include cases where a psychological condition has been diagnosed and/or the chronic pain is not as functionally disabling as that experienced by Ms. Evans. The cases which are most similar are Stapley and Montgomery.

[182]     Having considered the Stapley factors and all the above authorities, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.


PTSD Claim Succeeds For Mistaken Plaintiff Belief That Defendant Killed in Crash

August 27th, 2018

The law in British Columbia has developed to recognize that people witnessing a crash can be compensated in certain circumstances if the event causes psychological injury to them.  While PTSD is a common diagnosis the law developed using the term “nervous shock” and the following principle as been applied in BC

[17]         In order to show that the damage suffered is not too remote to be viewed as legally caused by Mr. McCauley’s negligence, Mr. Deros must show that it was foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer a mental injury from witnessing the accident. He has failed to do so…

[23]         The cases, to which I was referred, where damages for nervous shock have been awarded to witnesses of accidents who were not physically involved in the accidents, involve accidents or events which are more shocking than the accident in this case. All the cases involved accidents in which someone has died or been seriously injured: James v. Gillespie, [1995] B.C.J. No. 442 (S.C.); Arnold v. Cartwright Estate, 2007 BCSC 1602; Easton v. Ramadanovic Estate (1988), 27 B.C.L.R. (2d) 45; Stegemann v. Pasemko, 2007 BCSC 1062; James v. Gillespie, [1995] B.C.J. No. 442 (S.C.); Kwok v. British Columbia Ferry Corp. (1987), 20 B.C.L.R. (2d) 318 (S.C.).

[24]         As set out in Devji v. District of Burnaby, 1999 BCCA 599 at para. 75, the courts have been careful to limit the circumstances in which injuries for nervous shock are awarded:

The law in this province, as formulated by Rhodes, requires that the plaintiffs, in order to succeed, must experience something more than the surprise and other emotional responses that naturally follow from learning of the death of a friend or relative. Instead, there must be something more that separates actionable responses from the understandable grief, sorrow and loss that ordinarily follow the receipt of such information. In Rhodes, Taylor and Wood JJ.A. described the requisite experience as alarming and startling (and therefore sudden and unexpected), horrifying, shocking and frightening, and Southin J.A. referred to a “fright, terror or horror”.

Reasons for judgement were published last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, noting ICBC agreed to pay damages to a Plaintiff who developed PTSD after a collision based on the mistaken belief that the Defendant was killed.  It is worth noting that this case involves a Plaintiff and Defendant who were both involved in the crash, as opposed to a bystander, but the circumstances are such that the Plaintiff did not suffer any harm from the forces of the crash themselves or concern for their well being but rather solely based on their concern for the Defendant.

In the recent case (Lutzke v. Beier) the Plaintiff was a conductor operating a train and the Defendant pulled her vehicle into the Plaintiff’s path.  A collision occurred and the Defendant accepted fault .  The Plaintiff “thought for a time that the driver had been killed and that there had been a child in the vehicle who was either killed or seriously injured.  As it turned out, Ms. Beier was not killed and there had been no one else in the vehicle.”.

The plaintiff advanced claims for various heads of damages which were ultimately not successful.  ICBC was persuaded, however, to pay damages for the PTSD the Plaintiff suffered as evidenced by the following passage in Mr. Justice Milman’s reasons for judgement:

[2]            Liability for the accident has been admitted.  It is common ground that Mr. Lutzke developed post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) as a result of the accident and that he has since recovered sufficiently to return to work full time.  Despite his return to work, however, Mr. Lutzke says that he continues to suffer from increased anxiety and remains vulnerable to a relapse of PTSD, particularly if he experiences another traumatic event.

[3]            The parties have agreed on the quantum of all but two of the heads of damages claimed.  What remains in issue is Mr. Lutzke’s entitlement to damages for: (a) future loss of income earning capacity, including future pension benefits; and (b) the cost of future care.

 


$170,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

August 22nd, 2018

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Niessen v. Emcon Services Inc.) the Plaintiff was involved in a serious highway collision in 2013.  The Defendants accepted fault.  The crash resulted in a multitude of injuries to the Plaintiff, many of which had a poor prognosis for further recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $170,000 Mr. Justice Brundrett provided the following reasons:

[212]     I am satisfied on the basis of all of the evidence that the plaintiff’s headaches, tinnitus, cognitive difficulties, sleep disruption, anxiety, and depression were caused by the motor vehicle accident on October 20, 2013. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff also sustained various musculoligamentous injuries to the neck and lower back which, though they persisted for an extended period of time, have now largely resolved. However, the tinnitus, headaches, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, and cognitive problems are ongoing and chronic.

[213]     The plaintiff’s symptoms diminished his ability to operate at the same high level in the plumbing and heating business, caused him to fail his advanced gas fitter course, and led to drastic changes in his personality and behaviour. I accept that his injuries have generally reduced the plaintiff’s enjoyment of life including his social, recreational, and employment pursuits.

[214]     The multiplicity of the plaintiff’s chronic injuries creates difficulties for treatment going forward. For instance, Dr. Prout indicated that he would be very surprised if treating the headaches removed the tinnitus. There is some possibility for treatment of the plaintiff’s depression symptoms through medication or further cognitive behavioural therapy, but I accept the consensus of medical opinion that the plaintiff’s symptoms are now well-established, and while further treatment is possible it cannot be said that such treatment will probably be effective.

[215]     The descriptions of third parties and the plaintiff’s physicians accord with the plaintiff’s own account of the pre- and post-accident changes in his personality and behaviour.  The nature of the changes in the plaintiff’s personality and behaviour are such that they have adversely impacted his work-related abilities, as well as his earning capacity in future years.

[249]     I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he suffered headaches, tinnitus, depression, social withdrawal, sleep disruption, cognitive problems including an inability to concentrate and impaired memory, anxiety, and symptoms consistent with PTSD as a result of his motor vehicle accident. Most if not all of these symptoms are chronic. The plaintiff’s neck and back pain persisted for longer than usual, but I accept that those injuries are now resolved. There is no evidence that his headaches, depression, cognition problems, and tinnitus were pre-existing conditions. I find that, apart from the neck and back pain, it is unlikely that the plaintiff will fully recover from any of the above mentioned injuries.

[250]     I find that the plaintiff’s symptoms had a significant impact on his social, recreational, and employment-related functioning, his emotional well-being, and his enjoyment of life. His symptoms also affected his personality, work ethic, and general attitude toward life.

[251]     There has been a fair amount of discussion among the experts and between counsel as to whether the plaintiff qualifies for a diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. There is disagreement about whether he qualifies for such a diagnosis, though he certainly has lingering symptoms of a kind that are sometimes associated with a concussion.

[252]     I agree with plaintiff’s counsel that while certain diagnoses or labels may assist in the analysis, the focus remains on the plaintiff’s symptoms, their endurance, and their overall effect upon the plaintiff’s life. As noted in Bricker at para. 123:

[123] I would add, however, that in assessing Ms. Bricker’s claim for damages, the issue for the court is not so much the label or diagnosis attached to a particular condition, but rather the extent to which the condition has affected a plaintiff in his or her social, recreational and employment pursuits (see Bagnato v. Viscount, 1995 CanLII 418, [1995] B.C.J. No. 2752 at paras. 28-29, … (S.C.)).

[253]     Having regard to the precedents cited before me, the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s symptoms in this case, his age, and the guarded possibilities for improvement, I would assess general damages at $170,000.


$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic PTSD and Post Concussive Issues

April 3rd, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic issues following a concussive injury.

In today’s case (Curtiss v. The Corporation of the District of West Vancouver) the Plaintiff fell into an open meter box on a sidewalk owned by the Defendant.  The Defendant denied liability but was found negligent at trial.  The fall resulted in a concussive injury with post concussive difficulties and PTSD.  The Plaintiff was expected to have lingering symptoms into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Marchand provided the following reasons:

[92]         As a result of her fall, Ms. Curtiss suffered cuts, scrapes and/or bruising to various parts of her body, including her forehead, nose, upper lip, hands, lower legs and left inner thigh. She also experienced balance issues, dizziness and headaches.   Ms. Curtiss’ cuts, scrapes and bruises all healed within the first one to three months.  Her throbbing headaches lasted the better part of a year, and she still gets headaches when she experiences high levels of stress. She still has occasional balance problems.

[93]         Ms. Curtiss has received psychological counselling and acupuncture treatments since her fall and her condition has improved over time. She has recently returned to daily walking and working in her garden. Nevertheless, her self-reports, and the reports of those who are close to her, clearly establish that Ms. Curtiss is not the same person she was prior to her fall. She has trouble sleeping. She has become anxious and forgetful. She is less confident and self-sufficient. She is no longer able to multi-task. She is less active, occasionally walks with a cane, looks down during walks and gardens far less.

[94]         Two family physicians were involved in Ms. Curtiss’ post-accident care, Drs. Dean Brown and Brian Brodie. Based on her loss of consciousness, memory loss, headaches, dizziness, imbalance, agitation and anxiety, both diagnosed Ms. Curtiss as having suffered a concussion as a result of her fall. In his April 7, 2017 report, Dr. Brown’s prognosis was that Ms. Curtiss’ symptoms would gradually improve with a full resolution within a year or so. In his September 8, 2017 report, Dr. Brodie’s prognosis was that Ms. Curtiss was highly likely to “go on to suffer some symptoms of post traumatic disorder”.

[95]         Ms. Curtiss also submitted a report dated August 25, 2017 prepared by Registered Psychologist, Dr. William Koch. As a result of Ms. Curtiss’ vigilance to danger when walking or driving, excessive startle response, avoidance of conversations about her fall, disturbed sleep, and anxiety-related concentration deficits, Dr. Koch has concluded it is probable that Ms. Curtiss suffers a “subsyndromal” Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). Dr. Koch noted a number of positive and negative prognostic indicators in Ms. Curtiss’ case. He concluded that Ms. Curtiss’ prognosis for further improvement is “negative” unless she receives further psychological treatment. Dr. Koch recommended a further 20 hours of therapy, which Ms. Curtiss had started by the time of trial.

[96]         In cross-examination, Dr. Koch agreed with a list of further positive prognostic indicators put to him by counsel for the District. Specifically, Dr. Koch agreed that the following were positive prognostic indicators: Ms. Curtiss was open to treatment; Ms. Curtiss had returned to treatment; Ms. Curtiss reported benefitting from treatment; Ms. Curtiss had returned to daily walking; and Ms. Curtiss would soon no longer be involved in litigation. On the last point, Dr. Koch indicated that while litigation stress may soon stop, “other stressors may pop up.”

[97]         Based on all of the evidence, I accept that Ms. Curtiss’ life has been significantly adversely affected by her fall. Though her cuts, scrapes and bruises healed relatively quickly, her post-concussion symptoms and subsyndromal PTSD have persisted. While I have optimism for further improvement, given the length of time her symptoms have persisted, the efforts she has already put into her recovery and her age, I doubt that Ms. Curtiss will ever fully return to her pre-accident condition…

[109]     The cases cited by counsel support an award of non-pecuniary damages within the range suggested by Ms. Curtiss of $75,000 to $90,000. In my view, an award of $85,000 will adequately compensate Ms. Curtiss for the profound impact her fall has had on her physical and emotional wellbeing. Before her fall, Ms. Curtiss was an exceptionally happy, active and productive 74-year-old woman. The accident, however, caused a significant decline in her performance at work, her level of activity, her confidence in herself, and the joy in her life. As I have stated, in my view, though Ms. Curtiss will continue to make improvements, she will not fully return to her pre-accident condition.


Chronic Pain and Depression With Guarded Prognosis Leads to $180,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

October 18th, 2017

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

In the recent case (Ali v. Padam) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle struck by a commercial van.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  The crash resulted in chronic physical and psychological injuries with a poor prognosis for substantial recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $180,000 Mr. Justice Blok provided the following reasons:

[230]     From the evidence at trial I conclude that in the immediate aftermath of the accident Ms. Ali had pain in her right chest, right wrist, right shoulder and her back.  The other areas resolved reasonably soon but the back pain gradually increased to the point, three months post-accident, of periods of very severe pain.  This pain worsened and she began to have symptoms in her left leg.  She could not walk or stand for any extended length of time.  She soldiered on at work but avoided lifting or bending, and by the end of the work day she was exhausted.

[231]     Ms. Ali’s left leg symptoms became worse.  She was now dragging her leg as she walked.  Her back pain became worse as well.  She had disc decompression surgery, focused on her leg symptoms, in June 2014.  Her left leg symptoms improved although her back pain remained.

[232]     Ms. Ali fell into depression, and was ultimately diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  She has anxiety and nightmares and in that respect has been diagnosed with PTSD.  Her chronic pain and depression combine and aggravate one another.  She does little in the way of activities with her son aside from walking him to and from school.  She is at least somewhat dependent on others for such things as bathing, dressing and going to the toilet.

[233]     As noted earlier, Ms. Ali’s reports of her physical difficulties are, to some extent, at odds with her actual level of functioning, particularly as shown in surveillance video.  I do not suspect she is being untruthful, but instead I conclude that she sees herself as more disabled than she actually is.

[234]     Formerly a cheerful and active person, Ms. Ali has isolated herself from her loved ones.  She is irritable and ill-tempered.  Her relationship with her husband is poor.  She feels a sense of worthlessness and has had thoughts of suicide.  She does, however, have some good days when she is happy.

[235]     In brief, as a result of the accident Ms. Ali has chronic pain, PTSD and major depressive disorder that combine in a debilitating fashion and have severely affected all aspects of her life.  Although there is a consensus amongst the medical professionals that Ms. Ali should have and participate in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary rehabilitation program, those professionals essentially agree that her prognosis for recovery is “guarded” and her prognosis for a substantial recovery is poor.

[237]     I conclude that the plaintiff’s cases, in particular Sebaa and Pololos, were broadly similar to the present.  In both cases non-pecuniary damages of $180,000 were awarded.  Accordingly, I conclude that $180,000 is a proper assessment of non-pecuniary damages in this case.


$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries with Anxiety and Depression

July 5th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Ponsart v. Kong) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 collisions for which the Defendants were responsible.  These resulted in chronic soft tissue injuries to her neck and back with some psychological overlay.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Butler made the following findings and provided these reasons:

[76]         With these conclusions in mind, I make the following specific findings about the nature and extent of Ms. Ponsart’s injuries and symptoms:

·       She suffered a Grade II strain of her neck and low back in the First Accident. At the time of the First Accident, she had recovered from the injuries suffered in the May 2011 accident. The pain in her thoracic spine around that time was primarily caused by breast enlargement that was alleviated by the surgery in 2013.

·       The First Accident also caused the plaintiff to experience significant anxiety and depression, which affected her ability to take part in work and leisure activities. Nevertheless, as her physical condition improved, she was able to take part in many activities. By 2013, she was doing strenuous training. While she functioned marginally at times, that was primarily a result of her psychological condition.

·       Her anxious nature predisposed her to experiencing anxiety and depression. However, there is no evidence suggesting that she would have experienced the emotional problems she faced without the First Accident.

·       The plaintiff was functioning reasonably well before the Second Accident, although she was still experiencing some neck and low back pain. Her emotional condition had improved from the summer of 2014.

·       The Second Accident aggravated the plaintiff’s soft tissue strain to the cervical and lumbar spine. The injury was not as serious as what she experienced in the First Accident, although she was partially disabled for two to three months. The Second Accident had a significant impact on her emotional well-being. It caused additional anxiety and depression, although not to the extent of a major depressive disorder.

·       By the time of the Third Accident, the plaintiff’s physical condition was manageable, although she was still experiencing minor neck and low back pain, which by that time had become chronic.

·       The Third Accident caused a further aggravation of the injuries from the two prior accidents. It had a significant impact on her, both physically and emotionally because of her increased headaches. She now suffers from chronic headaches including severe migraines. The exacerbation of her neck and back symptoms lasted for approximately six months before returning to the pre-accident status.

·       As a result of the accidents, the plaintiff is left with a minor degree of chronic neck and low back pain. She is able to manage all tasks of daily living and most of her recreational pursuits most of the time. However, because of the accidents, she is more susceptible to anxiety and depression than she was before the First Accident.

·       As will be evident from these conclusions, much of the plaintiff’s suffering was emotional. As I have described, there is no doubt it was caused by the First and Second Accidents.

[84]         As I have described, a major component of the plaintiff’s injury is emotional or mental. As the Supreme Court of Canada recently affirmed in Saadati v. Moorhead, 2017 SCC 28, such losses are compensable where, quoting Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27, they are “’serious and prolonged and rise above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears’ that come with living in civil society”. The plaintiff has clearly met the burden of proving serious and prolonged disturbance to her emotional well-being arising from the injuries in the First and Second Accidents.

[85]         When I consider the facts I have found about the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary loss is $85,000. This award does not include any amount for two discrete injuries or symptoms: the exacerbation of the plaintiff’s neck and shoulder pain that occurred in the six-month period after the Third Accident; and the headache symptoms that the plaintiff suffered after that accident.


Supreme Court of Canada – Mental Injury Compensable Without “Recognized Psychiatric Condition”

June 2nd, 2017

Important reasons for judgement were published today by the Supreme Court of Canada discussing the legal threshold in lawsuits seeking damages for mental injuries caused by the negligence of others.

In today’s case (Saadati v. Moorhead)  the Plaintiff was involved in a collision and sued for damages alleging brain injury.  The trial judge rejected this claim but found that the Plaintiff “was a “changed man” after the accident” and awarded $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a psychological injury.  The BC Court of Appeal overturned the judgement and dismissed the claim finding the test of proving “a recognizable psychiatric (or psychological) condition” was not met.

The Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the trial award noting the Court of Appeal was in error and that a recognized psychiatric condition is not a pre-requisite to compensation for mental injury.  In reaching this conclusion Canada’s highest court provided the following reasons addressing compensable mental injury in negligence litigation:

[35]                          In short, no cogent basis has been offered to this Court for erecting distinct rules which operate to preclude liability in cases of mental injury, but not in cases of physical injury. Indeed, there is good reason to recognize the law of negligence as already according each of these different forms of personal injury — mental and physical — identical treatment. As the Court observed in Mustapha (at para. 8), the distinction between physical and mental injury is “elusive and arguably artificial in the context of tort”. Continuing (and citing Page v. Smith, at p. 188), the Court explained that, “[i]n an age when medical knowledge is expanding fast, and psychiatric knowledge with it, it would not be sensible to commit the law to a distinction between physical and psychiatric injury, which may . . . soon be altogether outmoded. Nothing will be gained by treating them as different ‘kinds’ of personal injury, so as to require the application of different tests in law” (emphasis in original; see also S. Deakin, A. Johnston and B. Markesinis, Markesinis and Deakin’s Tort Law (7th ed. 2013), at p. 124). This is entirely consistent with the Court’s longstanding view, expressed over a century ago, by Fitzpatrick C.J. in Toronto Railway, at pp. 269-70:

It would appear somewhat difficult to distinguish between the injury caused to the human frame by the impact and that resulting to the nervous system in consequence of the shock . . . . The nature of the mysterious relation which exists between the nervous system and the passive tissues of the human body has been the subject of much learned speculation, but I am not aware that the extent to which the one acts and reacts upon the other has yet been definitely ascertained. . . . I cannot find the line of demarcation between the damage resulting to the human [body] . . . and that which may flow from the disturbance of the nervous system . . . . The latter may well be the result of a derangement of the relation existing between the bones, the sinews, the arteries and the nerves. In any event the resultant effect is the same. The victim is incapacitated . . . .

Or, as Davies J. (as he then was) added in Toronto Railways (at p. 275), “[t]he nervous system is just as much a part of man’s physical being as the muscular or other parts”. In a similar vein, Lord Macmillan, in Bourhill v. Young (at p. 103), said “[t]he distinction between mental shock and bodily injury was never a scientific one, for mental shock is presumably in all cases the result of, or at least accompanied by, some physical disturbance in the sufferer’s system.”

[36]                          It follows that requiring claimants who allege one form of personal injury (mental) to prove that their condition meets the threshold of “recognizable psychiatric illness”, while not imposing a corresponding requirement upon claimants alleging another form of personal injury (physical) to show that their condition carries a certain classificatory label, is inconsistent with prior statements of this Court, among others. It accords unequal — that is, less — protection to victims of mental injury. And it does so for no principled reason (Beever, at p. 410).  I would not endorse it.

[37]                          None of this is to suggest that mental injury is always as readily demonstrable as physical injury. While allegations of injury to muscular tissue may sometimes pose challenges to triers of fact, many physical conditions such as lacerations and broken bones are objectively verifiable. Mental injury, however, will often not be as readily apparent. Further, and as Mustapha makes clear, mental injury is not proven by the existence of mere psychological upset. While, therefore, tort law protects persons from negligent interference with their mental health, there is no legally cognizable right to happiness. Claimants must, therefore, show much more — that the disturbance suffered by the claimant is “serious and prolonged and rise[s] above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears” that come with living in civil society (Mustapha, at para. 9). To be clear, this does not denote distinct legal treatment of mental injury relative to physical injury; rather, it goes to the prior legal question of what constitutes “mental injury”. Ultimately, the claimant’s task in establishing a mental injury is to show the requisite degree of disturbance (although not, as the respondents say, to show its classification as a recognized psychiatric illness).

[38]                          Nor should any of this be taken as suggesting that expert evidence cannot assist in determining whether or not a mental injury has been shown. In assessing whether the claimant has succeeded, it will often be important to consider, for example, how seriously the claimant’s cognitive functions and participation in daily activities were impaired, the length of such impairment and the nature and effect of any treatment (Mulheron, at p. 109). To the extent that claimants do not adduce relevant expert evidence to assist triers of fact in applying these and any other relevant considerations, they run a risk of being found to have fallen short. As Thomas J. observed in van Soest (at para. 103), “[c]ourts can be informed by the expert opinion of modern medical knowledge”, “without needing to address the question whether the mental suffering is a recognisable psychiatric illness or not”. To be clear, however: while relevant expert evidence will often be helpful in determining whether the claimant has proven a mental injury, it is not required as a matter of law. Where a psychiatric diagnosis is unavailable, it remains open to a trier of fact to find on other evidence adduced by the claimant that he or she has proven on a balance of probabilities the occurrence of mental injury. And, of course, it also remains open to the defendant, in rebutting a claim, to call expert evidence establishing that the accident cannot have caused any mental injury, or at least any mental injury known to psychiatry. While, for the reasons I have given, the lack of a diagnosis cannot on its own be dispositive, it is something that the trier of fact can choose to weigh against evidence supporting the existence of a mental injury.


$120,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Pain with Somatization Issues

May 2nd, 2017

Adding to this site’s archived postings of ICBC chronic pain cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain in a Plaintiff pre-disposed to somatization.

In the recent case (Alafianpour-Esfahani v. Jolliffe) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  The Plaintiff alleged brain injury altogether this claim was not proven at trial.  The court found the plaintiff was pre-disposed to somatization and suffered from a chronic pain disorder following the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $120,000 Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[123]     In light of the following factors, I find Ms. Alafianpour-Esfahani is entitled to $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages:

a)    the accident caused soft tissue injuries to her neck, back and shoulder that resulted in headaches and developed (in combination with her predisposition to somatization) into chronic pain;

b)    she has not likely reached maximum medical improvement of her physical symptoms, but any further improvement depends upon the success of addressing the reactivity of her nervous system, which will be challenging;

c)     her physical symptoms have been prolonged because of her psychiatric condition characterization by a vulnerability to somatization and pathological nervous system reactivity;

d)    her prognosis for improving her condition by following a thorough program of desensitization is fair, but that is tempered by the chronicity of her condition because it has been left untreated fro 3 ½ years;

e)    the accident has negatively impacted all aspects of her life, including her relationship with her family, her social interaction, her ability to work, her recreational activities, her ability to maintain her home and yard, her ability to cook for family and friends; her ability to provide emotional support to her children, especially her daughter and her ability to travel.


$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 Fibromyalgia and Somtatic Disorder

December 28th, 2016

(The below judgement was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal)

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychiatric injuries caused by a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Kim v. Lin) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision the Defendants admitted fault for. She suffered soft tissue injuries and eventually developed fibromyalgia and a somatic disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $175,000 Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:

[128]     I am satisfied, based on all of the evidence that I accept, that Ms. Kim has suffered soft tissue injuries to her back and SI joints as a result of the Accident, which have caused her considerable pain and discomfort. I am also satisfied that as a result of a combination of Ms. Kim’s physical pain and her personal circumstances, Ms. Kim developed the psychiatric disorders diagnosed by Dr. Shane and the fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome diagnosed by Dr. Krassioukov.

[129]     I find that Ms. Kim would not have developed the psychiatric and somatic disorders diagnosed by Drs. Shane and Krassioukov but for the injuries she suffered in the Accident. I therefore find that there is a substantial connection between the tortious conduct of the defendants and the damages and injuries from which Ms. Kim suffers.

[130]     I also find that there is no credible evidence that at the time of the Accident Ms. Kim was suffering from a pre-existing condition that would have had an adverse effect on her future health or capacity. I therefore find that there is no basis for making any deduction from her damages based on any substantial possibility that her health or capacity would have declined in any event…

[152]     In this case, I am satisfied that Ms. Kim’s disability is permanent, in the sense that it is more probable than not that she will continue to suffer from the injuries caused by the Accident for the foreseeable future. Ms. Kim has, however, not suffered any degree of cognitive impairment. The evidence does indicate that there has been some improvement in her overall condition since she moved to Nanaimo and that she has benefitted from counselling with Miyoung Cho, a Korean-speaking psychologist.

[153]     Taking all of the circumstances into account, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $175,000.