BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia personal injury 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 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 Rib Injury Cases’ Category

$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Multiple, Disabling Orthopaedic Injuries

February 29th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for multiple, complex, orthopaedic injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision.

In last week’s case (Tompkins v. Bruce) the Plaintiff was injured in a serious 2006 collision which was caused when the Defendant, who had been drinking and was driving while over the legal limit, crossed the centre line and collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle. ¬†The Defendant was found fully at fault for the crash.

The Plaintiff suffered multiple injuries including rib fractures with a collapsed lung, a left hip fracture, a fractured femur and a fractured patella.  These injuries required surgical intervention.  The Plaintiff had a total hip replacement and likely needed a total knee replacement in the future.

The Plaintiff was a plumber and gas fitter and was rendered totally, permanently disabled from his own occupation.  He was left with a minimal residual earning capacity.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $200,000 Mr. Justice Curtis provided the following reasons:

[47] Wayne Tompkins was 50 years old, living in Pemberton and happily employed as a tradesman when the June 3, 2006 collision occurred.  As a result of the injuries suffered by Mr. Tompkins which were caused by the negligent and criminally irresponsible driving of Tawnya Ley Bruce, Mr. Tompkins’ life has been permanently and very significantly altered.

[48] He has lost his ability to work in his trade at employment he enjoyed.  He has lost a great deal of his mobility and cannot enjoy activities such as skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, slow pitch, tennis and similar activities as he once did.  He cannot stand or sit for long periods of time.  His mood is depressed and his anger harms his relationship with other people ? particularly in the case of Nancy Larkin, his romantic partner after the accident who left him largely because of his anger and irritability.  In addition, Mr. Tompkins now faces the prospect of further surgeries, such as two knee replacements, another hip replacement, the prospect that the condition of his knees and hip may get worse ? and that each surgery comes with a risk of loss of function, dangerous embolisms, scar tissue, long recovery periods and possible poor results.

[49] On the other hand, Mr. Tompkins is an intelligent man whose depression and anger can quite likely be treated and improved.¬† He now has his own home in Chilliwack where he lives with his dog close to his sons and grandson.¬† He is capable of driving his car, at least as far as Chilliwack to Whistler.¬† There is a good chance that continued physical training will maintain his strength and may well improve his mobility and flexibility ? he has been capable of walking without a cane in the past, and even of lifting Nancy Larkin who weighs 115 pounds from her wheelchair into a car and it is not unlikely that his condition may again reach that level.¬† He did own and operate a boat after the accident and could again, and fishing is still possible.¬† While his trade work as he once did it is no longer open to him, there is the possibility he may find rewarding employment in some other field…

[53] Mr. Tompkins has been particularly unfortunate in having three major joints ? both knees and his left hip damaged in the collision.  Those injuries are permanent and the condition of those joints likely to get worse.  Considering that and his altered mood and other injuries, I find the sum of $200,000 a fair and reasonable amount for non pecuniary damages.


The Law of Indivisible Injury Compensation Concisely Summarized

November 21st, 2011

If two or more events cause a single “indivisible injury” a Defendant who in part contributes to the injury can be held accountable for the entire loss. ¬†This legal principle was concisely summarized in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.

In last week’s case (Estable v. New) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 motor vehicle collision. ¬†She suffered previous and subsequent trauma. ¬†The Court found that while not the sole cause, the collision was a cause of the Plaintiff’s various soft tissue injuries. ¬†The Plaintiff was compensated for these and in doing so Madam Justice Gropper provided the following short and helpful summary of the law of indivisible injury compensation:

[53] Divisible injuries are those which are capable of being separated out, such as injuries to different body parts or injuries to which the defendant has not contributed: Bradley, at para. 20; see also Athey, at paras. 22-25. Whether damage derived from multiple sources is divisible for the purpose of determining the extent of the liability of one defendant is a question of fact: Hutchings v. Dow, 2007 BCCA 148 at para. 13.

[54] If the injuries are divisible, the devaluation approach from Long v. Thiessen (1968), 65 W.W.R. 577 at 591 (B.C.C.A) is the appropriate method for determining the amount of damages that can be attributed to the defendant. This was discussed in Bradley at para. 33:

[33] The approach to apportionment in Long v. Thiessen is therefore no longer applicable to indivisible injuries. The reason is that Long v. Thiessen pre-supposes divisibility: Long requires courts to take a single injury and divide it up into constituent causes or points in time, and assess damages twice; once on the day before the second tort, and once at trial. Each defendant is responsible only for their share of the injury and the plaintiff can recover only the appropriate portion from each tortfeasor.

[emphasis in original]

[55] Indivisible injuries are those that cannot be separated, such as aggravation or exacerbation of an earlier injury, an injury to the same area of the body, or global symptoms that are impossible to separate: Bradley, at para. 20; see also Athey, at paras. 22-25.

[56] If the injuries are indivisible, the court must apply the ‚Äúbut for‚ÄĚ test in respect of the defendant‚Äôs act. Even though there may be several tortuous or non-tortuous causes of injury, so long as the defendant‚Äôs act is¬†a cause, the defendant is fully liable for that damage:¬†Bradley, at paras. 32-37; see also¬†Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7 at paras. 19-23.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 the Court made the following findings with¬†respect¬†to her injuries:

[60] I find that Ms. Estable’s remaining complaints were aggravated or exacerbated by the October 2003 injuries. These complaints include: pain in her neck, pain in her left and low back, and pain in her left anterior shoulder. They also include the injury to her sternum, although I find, based on the medical evidence, that this injury was a soft tissue injury and not a fracture.

[61] Applying the principles from¬†Bradley, Ms. Estable has a claim against Mr. New for these complaints because they are indivisible; Mr. New‚Äôs negligence aggravated or exacerbated those injuries. While the post accident injury producing events may also have had a similar effect, Ms. Estable can recover her damages entirely from Mr. New. There may be other tortfeasers who are jointly liable, but Mr. New‚Äôs right to apportionment among them does not affect Ms. Estable‚Äôs right to claim the entire amount from him…

[77] Applying the enumerated factors, Ms. Estable is now 56 years old. She suffered soft tissue injuries of the cervical and lumbar spine and to the left shoulder. She suffered a chest contusion and the possibility of sternal fractures or rib fractures. Her injuries have caused her to change her lifestyle; she is unable to engage in performance art or yoga…

[81] I assess Ms. Estable’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000.


 

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