August 15th, 2016
Adding to this site’s soft tissue injury non-pecuniary damage database, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries with associated headaches.
In this week’s case (Picton v. Fredericks) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 vehicle collision that the Defendant admitted responsibility for. The Plaintiff suffered various injuries which were ongoing at the time of trial and expected to linger into the future. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Williams made the following findings:
 I conclude that Ms. Picton did sustain injuries in the course of the motor vehicle accident and that substantial discomfort has persisted for her. I am not minded to accept that all of the discomfort and all of the lost time is attributable to the accident. I also conclude that, while there was not insignificant discomfort, its effect upon her ability to do her usual activities and to engage in physical activities was significant but not to the extent she seemed to suggest. For example, I am inclined to accept that, from time to time, she engaged in activities such as golfing and snowboarding. I also believe that she continued to pursue her fitness regime, although in a somewhat diminished way.
 I am satisfied that Ms. Picton sustained soft tissue injuries in the accident, resulting in neck, shoulder, and back pain and headaches. The neck, shoulder, and back pain have not resolved but continue, albeit less intensely. I am satisfied that she continues to deal with headaches; the frequency may not be as great as she contends, but I accept that she does occasionally experience very significant discomfort from those headaches. I also accept the evidence before me that the Botox treatments she receives are substantially effective in enabling her to deal with the discomfort of those headaches…
 In summary, I conclude that Ms. Picton has suffered pain and discomfort from the accident, that it has impacted upon various aspects of her life, and that those effects continue. I am also satisfied that the ongoing Botox treatment is a meaningful contributor to mitigating the discomfort she experiences. I accept that the effects of the accident impacted upon her work and social life.
 That said, I also recognize that there were other factors at play, including the psychological distress that she has experienced separate and apart from the accident. I find no basis to attribute that to the defendant’s conduct, and, accordingly, the effect of that cannot be included in the analysis of what award of damages will properly compensate the plaintiff for her pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life as resulting from the defendant’s negligence…
 As stated above, my conclusion is that the injuries resulting from the accident had a moderately serious impact upon Ms. Picton’s life. She has experienced pain and suffering, and her enjoyment of life has been compromised in a number of ways. I also conclude that the effects of the collision are not the sole cause for her difficulties; her pre-existing psychological problems have had a real role in causing those. Ms. Picton’s situation is in keeping with the “crumbling skull” rule as noted in Athey v. Leonati,  3 SCR 458, at paras. 34–35. The damages that this Court awards must reflect that distinction. The defendant should not be required to compensate Ms. Picton for effects she would have experienced anyway.
 As well, my award is informed by my view that she has, fortunately, by availing herself of the Botox treatment program, been able to find a way to substantially overcome the discomfort of headache. I intend to provide an award of damages for her future care that will provide for that relief, going forward. Accordingly, I expect that her discomfort will be quite significantly relieved.
 In the result, I find that a fit and appropriate award of damages under this head is $85,000.