ICBC Law

BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

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.

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$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Onset of Symptoms in Pre Existing Scoliosis

April 21st, 2018

Reasons for judgment were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing damages for a collision causing the onset of symptoms in pre-existing asymptomatic scoliosis.

In the recent case (Cyryl v. George) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision when she was 17 years old.  Liability was admitted by the at fault motorist. The collision resulted in several injuries including pain in her previously asymptomatic spine.  The Plaintiff alleged that the collision went on to cause a chronic pain syndrome but the Court rejected this assertion.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[104]     I find, on the whole of the evidence, the plaintiff had an asymptomatic scoliosis condition as well as a 1.5 cm leg length discrepancy that became activated and aggravated by the Collision.  I find that the Collision caused the plaintiff to suffer the following injuries: several contusions, abrasions and lacerations to her face, headaches, a bitten tongue and soft tissue injuries to her jaw, neck and back. 

[105]     I also find that for approximately two months immediately following the Collision, the plaintiff continued to suffer considerable pain and discomfort in her neck, jaw and back as well as headaches.  I find that, while some pain and discomfort has persisted since then, it is not as prevalent and debilitating as the plaintiff has suggested.  Rather, I find that her pain symptoms flare up from time to time depending upon levels of activity and that she is able to tolerate her symptoms and cope well with the use of over-the-counter pain medication such as Advil.  I find that the only restrictions on the plaintiff’s activities are related to her symptom tolerance.

[106]     On the whole of the evidence, I am unable to find that the plaintiff has demonstrated a loss in cognitive function as a result of the Collision or that her ongoing symptoms have developed into Chronic Pain Syndrome…

[114]     In my view, the appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages in this case is $75,000.


BC Court of Appeal – “Costs Thrown Away” Should Routinely Be Ordered For Late Adjournments

April 17th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal finding that ‘costs thrown away’ should ordinarily be ordered against a party obtaining a late trial adjournment.

In today’s case (Bolin v. Lylick) the Plaintiff sued for damages from personal injuries.  6 weeks prior to trial she successfully applied to adjourn it after having switched lawyers.  The Court of Appeal noted there was nothing wrong with this however found that the adjournment was prejudicial to the Defendants and this should have been remedied with an order of costs thrown away.  In discussing this norm the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[19]       In these circumstances, there is no apparent reason to depart from the usual approach to costs in circumstances of a late adjournment; in other words, there is no apparent reason not to relieve the defendants from the prejudice of the late adjournment by an award of costs thrown away. It is to be remembered that even though the judge did not attribute fault to the plaintiff in the adjournment application, in asking for an adjournment the plaintiff was asking for an indulgence from the court that had adverse consequences for the defendants. I would add to the order made for the adjournment a term that the defendants are entitled to their costs of trial preparation thrown away. I would not define the degree of such wasted costs in the circumstances of this case as was done, for example in Dhillon v. Foster, 2004 BCSC 1782, to which we have been referred, and I note further, that what fits within the waste captured by the term “costs thrown away” is properly a matter for the trial court’s determination.


$200,000 and $50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessments for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

April 16th, 2018

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver REgistry, assessing damages for carbon monoxide poisoning that aggravated pre-existing brain abnormalities.

In today’s case (Edwards v. Parkinson’s Heating Ltd.) the Plaintiffs were a married couple who were exposed to carbon monoxide emissions from their living room fireplace.  The Court found that this exposure was caused by a Defendant’s negligent servicing of the fireplace.

Both Plaintiff’s had pre-existing brain abnormalities but the Court found the poisoning aggravated these.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 and $50,000 for the Plaintiffs Mr. Justice Hinkson provided the following reasons:

[466]     A summary of my key findings is as follows:

  1. Kenorah owed the plaintiffs a duty of care with respect to the 2008 reinstallation of the fireplace. Parkinson’s owed the plaintiffs duties of care with respect to both the 2008 reinstallation and the subsequent servicing of the fireplace;
  2. The standard of care for installing and servicing the fireplace required the following:

(a)   Reasonably inspect the fireplace to ensure it was:

(i)   operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications (per s. 57 of the Gas Safety Regulations); and

(ii)  was venting in a safe and proper manner (per s. 57 of the Gas Safety Regulations);

(b)   Reasonably test for CO emissions using a suitable CO detector;

(c)   Repair or remediate any defects or problems that would interfere with the safe operation and venting of the fireplace.

  1. Kenorah did not breach the standard of care with respect to the 2008 reinstallation. Parkinson’s breached the standard of care with respect to subsequent servicing of the fireplace. The breaches occurred on February 10, 2009, and November 13, 2009;
  2. As a result of Parkinson’s breach that occurred on November 13, 2009, the plaintiffs were exposed to CO in their residence, from that date until January 4, 2010, at levels above 50 ppm but less that 1000 ppm;
  3. Prior to the CO exposure, Dr. Pinel had brain abnormalities, which included hippocampal atrophy and white matter changes. He also had behavioural and cognitive problems, such as forgetfulness, fatigue, and mild depression;
  4. Prior to the CO exposure, Ms. Edwards had brain abnormalities, which included hippocampal atrophy and white matter changes. She also had anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, and cognitive problems involving verbal and visual learning.
  5. As a result of the CO exposure, both Dr. Pinel’s and Ms. Edwards’s hippocampal atrophies were accelerated. The CO exposure caused Dr. Pinel’s depression to worsen, and Ms. Edwards’s depression, anxiety, and mood disorders to worsen.

[467]     The damages awarded to the plaintiffs are as follows:

a. Non-pecuniary damages (Ms. Edwards) $  50,000.00
b. Non-pecuniary damages (Dr. Pinel) $ 200,000.00
c. Special damages $5,792.00
d. Cost of care $ 53,000.00
e. HCCRA award $ 2,624,57

BC Injury Law Blog Hits 10 Year Anniversary!

March 21st, 2018

This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the BC Injury Law Blog.

2,374 posts strong!

In the age of legal blogs this site perhaps now qualifies for an old-age pension.

Here’s to 10 more years!


What All Canadian Sports Organizations Can Learn From Ontario’s “Concussion Law”

March 15th, 2018

As detailed at my second site, combatsportslaw.com, Ontario recently passed a ‘concussion law’ which will impact all sports organizations in the Province.

While the law has no bearing outside of Ontario’s borders it’s requirements likely will prove influential instructing the standard of care when personal injury lawsuits are filed alleging negligence against sports organization that fail to take proper measures in response to athlete concussions.

The legislation requires all sports organizations (a term broadly defined) along with coaches and other key personnel involved in the oversight of amateur sport to be familiar with concussions, to implement a concussion protocol discussing when athletes must be removed from play and when concussed athletes are ok to return to play.  The law further requires these organizations to educate athletes (and in the case of minors, their parents) about the realities of concussion.

The law does not appear to have any enforcement mechanisms however that does not mean it is meaningless.

This law likely sets the framework that courts would adopt when asked whether sports organizations are negligent when athletes are concussed.  If a sports organization anywhere in Canada fails to have meaningful concussion protocols in place and further fails to follow these protocols successful litigation framed in negligence very well may follow.

If you are involved in the oversight of amateur sport becoming familiar with and following the Sport Concussion Guidelines published by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport is a wise idea.


Litigation Lender Loses Out in Loan Recovery as Unsecured Creditor

March 15th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today addressing the priority of a litigation lender recovering funds from a deceased personal injury lawyer’s practice.

In today’s case (Napora (Re)) the Responded lent money to a personal injury lawyer to help fund the lawyer’s practice.  The money was spent on disbursements; basically money spent in the prosecution of claims on items such as expert reports.

Approximately $187,000 plus interest was owed.

The lawyer died and the practice was deemed insolvent with debts of about $650,000 and with $275,000 held in the general account on behalf of the law practice.

A bank, CIBC, had a secured interest in the personal property of the law practice.   The litigation lender argued that they should have first priority in repayment of the money available.  The court disagreed and ordered that the lender is second in line after the bank.  In doing so Madam Justice Murray provided the following reasons:

14]         Mr. Napora and Mr. Brito entered into many funding agreements between late 2011 and the time of Mr. Napora’s death. These agreements are set out in documentation which is the same for each transaction:

  1.                     Letters from Mr. Napora to Mr. Brito requesting an amount of money “in disbursement funding”, which if approved would be allocated to specific files identified in most letters by file number only. These request letters are on law corporation letterhead but signed by Mr. Napora;
  2.                     Each letter has an attached promissory note, in which Mr. Napora himself promised to pay the sum sought upon receipt of payment for the files specified or within two years, whichever came first. Of note, the promissory note is not on law corporation letterhead and is signed by Mr. Napora himself.

              iii.                    The Promissory note begins: “IN CONSIDERATION of the loan from CARLOS BRITO…, the undersigned Terry l. Napora, HEREBY PROMISES TO PAY …” [underlining added];

  1.                     In most of Mr. Napora’s request letters there is a proviso which states:

I have attached a signed Promissory note for your records.

I undertake to meet the obligations set out in the note of paying out the disbursements and interest related to each matter as payment is received on each matter, or within two years, whichever comes first.

[15]         Due to a clerical error the undertaking is missing in some of the request letters, but given that it was one of the terms of the funding arrangement from the beginning, I do not attribute any significance to its occasional omission.

[16]         The word “loan” was used in the Promissory note. Nowhere in the documentation is the word “trust”. As both Mr. Brito and Mr. Napora are lawyers and Mr. Brito was a banker before becoming a lawyer I attach some significance to that.

[17]         All of the above point to a loan for a specific purpose. Money was requested for a specific purpose and it was given.

[18]         After considering all of the evidence and all of the submissions I am satisfied that there was no trust relationship between Mr. Brito and Mr. Napora.

[23]         I am satisfied that CIBC, as the only secured creditor, has priority over Mr. Brito to the funds held by the custodian for the Napora Law Corporation.


Injury Claim Succeeds Despite 4 Year Gap in Treatment by “Germaphobe” Plaintiff

March 13th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for injuries sustained in a vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Moody v. Hejdanek) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision that the Defendant admitted fault for.  The crash was significant resulting in the Plaintiff’s vehicle being written off and the Defendant’s vehicle sustained over $17,000 in damage.  THe Plaintiff sought medical attention shortly after the crash but by March of 2013 stopped treatment and did not see a doctor again until 2017 for medico-legal purposes.

Despite this gap the Court accepted the Plaintiff suffered a compensable level of lingering injury and assessed non-pecuniary damages at $55,000.  In reaching this quantum Mr. Justice Steeves provided the following reasons:

[51]         The plaintiff testified that immediately after the accident he felt pain in the middle of his back and in his shoulders. This continued into the evening and night. He did not return to work on the day of the accident and he told Dr. Robinson that he was off work for a “couple of days.” He attended at a walk-in clinic on January 15 and January 23, 2013. He was prescribed pain medication but he told Dr. Robinson that he doubted that he took it. He had four massage treatments in March 2013. Dr. Winston stated that there were no references to headaches in the record he saw from the walk-in clinic or massage therapist…

[54]         Nonetheless, the fact that there are no records of medical assessment or treatment of the plaintiff for his injuries from the March 2013 accident until he obtained expert evidence for his trial is significant. He saw Dr. Robinson, an expert in neurology and headaches, in May 2017 and Dr. Stewart, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation medicine, in September 2017. He also saw Dr. Winston in October 2017. Typically, in this type of litigation, there is information, sometimes extensive information and chart entries, from a plaintiff’s family physician. In the subject case, this evidence is absent.

[55]         This situation creates a number of complications for the plaintiff. First, it requires the doctors that he saw in 2017 to make judgments about the medical consequences of the 2013 accident with limited medical information about his history. The primary, or only, source of information available to the doctors for the 2013 to 2017 period is the account of the plaintiff four years after the fact. For example, Dr. Robinson stated in his May 2017 report that “[e]ver since the accident [the plaintiff] has had headache, neck, shoulder and upper back pain.” The only way that this could be known is from what the plaintiff told Dr. Robinson. This is not so much a credibility issue as a problem establishing continuity of medical history.

[56]         I conclude that the absence of contemporaneous medical information about the plaintiff between 2013 and 2017 raises an issue of the weight that is to be given to the plaintiff’s expert evidence.

[57]         A further conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the absence of medical information between 2013 and 2017 is that there were minimal injuries caused by that accident. Accepting that the plaintiff talked to his golf clients who had medical training, his own evidence is that none of them suggested making an appointment for an examination or treatment. It cannot be the case, as urged by the plaintiff, that conversations on the golf course with people with medical training is the same as seeing those people in their offices and undergoing an examination. Put another way, even on the evidence of the plaintiff, these medical professionals did not think it necessary for him to be examined in their office.

[58]         As partial explanation for this, the plaintiff says he has an aversion to doctors and he is a “germaphobe.” I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he is uncomfortable seeing doctors but he has seen them for other reasons in the past (for example, an abscessed tooth). He also saw three specialists and underwent a functional evaluation for this litigation without any recorded problems. He apparently did not take pain medication prescribed when he attended at a walk-in clinic in January 2013 but he currently takes Advil for pain. I conclude that the plaintiff would have sought out further medical attention after March 2013 if the injuries he suffered from the 2013 accident had been serious enough, as any sensible person would do.

[59]         According to the defendant, the lack of medical attention at the time of the January 2013 accident means that the plaintiff did not take reasonable steps to mitigate his injuries. There is a logic to that submission but, as above, I conclude that the situation is one of weight to be given to the plaintiff’s expert evidence rather than of mitigation.

[60]         Turning more specifically to the expert evidence, Dr. Robinson has opined that the plaintiff’s history is “… consistent with a diagnosis of chronic posttraumatic headache related to soft tissue injury to the neck (whiplash) sustained in the January 6, 2013 motor vehicle accident.” Similarly, Dr. Stewart reviewed the plaintiff’s history and stated in her report of September 6, 2017 that, “[b]ased on this history it is my opinion that he sustained soft tissue injury to his neck and back in the collision.”

[61]         For his part, Dr. Winston certainly disputes that the plaintiff has any ongoing impairment. However, he does not opine on the specific issue of causation. He notes the initial medical treatment at the walk-in clinic and he apparently had the chart from the physiotherapist available to him. The latter was two months after the accident, in March 2013, and there is no reference on the chart to headaches. He notes that the plaintiff “never sought medical attention again” after March 2013 and he does not believe there was impairment after that. Dr. Winston does not state it expressly, but I take his opinion to be that there was an accident and it did cause some mild soft-tissue injury. However, there was no impairment to speak off after March 2013.

[62]         From these opinions, I conclude that the plaintiff did suffer a soft-tissue injury to his neck from the January 2013 accident, as described by Dr. Robinson. I conclude that headaches are included in this assessment. As above, Dr. Winston’s opinion is broadly consistent with this at least on the initial causation issue (but he is very skeptical about any ongoing impairment). In her opinion, Dr. Stewart includes an injury to the back but in cross-examination, she agreed this was possible but not probable. It is also not the opinion of Dr. Robinson. I do accept the opinion of Dr. Robinson that “[c]hronic insomnia is probably a factor in the persistence and severity of his posttraumatic headaches”…

[73]         Overall, I conclude that non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $55,000 are appropriate in this case.


What Will ICBC’s “Minor” Injury Caps Look Like?

February 20th, 2018

As previously discussed, ICBC and the insurance lobby are on the cusp of persuading the BC Government to pass laws capping ‘minor’ injuries and reducing judicial remedies for those caught by the cap.

Assuming the insurance lobby get their way what will ‘minor’ injury caps look like?  The details are incomplete but this is what is known right now.

Who gets stuck with a cap?

If you are injured by the negligence of a distracted, impaired or otherwise careless driver you are having your judicial rights for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) substituted with a government created artificial cap.  In a bizarre twist the Government is proposing to increase the benefits available to the careless driver if they are also injured at the cost of stripping some of the faultless party’s rights.

How much is the minor injury cap?

It is proposed that the cap will be set at $5,500.

How much of a reduction is this from my current legal rights?

A cap already exists across all of Canada (BC included) for non-pecuniary damages in negligence cases.  This cap was set by the Supreme Court of Canada in the late 1970’s at $100,000 and is indexed for inflation.  In today’s dollars non-pecuniary damages can be assessed up to, approximately, $370,000.

What is a “minor” injury?

I put the word “minor” in quotations because the definition will likely capture many claims most people would never consider to be minor.  It is not a medical term, rather, it is a phrase invented by the insurance industry.

The Government has been silent on the exact definition they will use however BC’s Attorney General has stated that the defininon will include “sprains, strains, mild whiplash, cuts, bruises and anxiety and stress“.  These all sound minor but the devil is in the details.  What if injuries become chronic problems?

ICBC hints that chronic injuries can get out of the cap however there’s a catch.  Not only will the injuries need to be chronic but also significantly disabling.  ICBC notes that “if the injury impacts your life for more than 12 months – for example, you’re still not able to go to work or school, have to modify your work hours or duties, or you’re unable to care for yourself – it will no longer be considered minor.”.

So, if ICBC gets their way “minor” will include injuries which can totally disable you for over 11 months.  They will also include permanent injuries so long as you can continue to “go to work or school“.

Who decides if my injury is “minor”?

The Government has been silent on this other than stating  “a medical professional” will decide if your injury is “minor“.  It is unclear exactly who this medical professional will be.

Is ICBC Foolproof in Designating Injuries as “minor”?

Of course not.  In ICBC’s own words they consider many injuries minor that are, in reality, complex and costly.

What if I want to challenge the designation?

The BC Government has noted that disputes over “the classification of an injury” will be funneled to the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.

This means that if ICBC (or whatever ‘medical professional’ the government designates as the decision maker) says you have minor injuries you will not be able to have this challenged in court.  Instead you will be forced into a tribunal system.  The tribunal is not presently equipped to handle cases of medical complexity.  They currently only deal with strata fee disputes and very minor small claims.

As of now this Tribunal does not allow people to be represented by lawyers with s. 20 of the law creating the tribunal stating that the default position for hearings is that “the parties are to represent themselves“.

The Tribunal also does not have the ability to make binding judgements in Small Claims cases with s. 56.1 of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act allowing a losing litigant to simply ‘object’ to the result.  The law states that “A party that is given notice of a final decision in relation to a tribunal small claim may make a notice of objection…..If a party makes a notice of objection under this section the final decision is not binding on any party“.

The above are just a few of the shortcomings the BC Government will have to overhaul if they stick to their plan to funnel ‘minor’ injury claims to the Tribunal.

When will the cap come into force?

The BC Government is proposing that people injured by negligent drivers on or after April 1, 2019 will be caught by the cap.

Can I do anything about this?

Yes.  It is not too late to take action and tell the government ‘no to caps’ if you think this is a bad idea.


Government Plans to Strip Rights for Insurance Company Profits; ICBC Targeting Psychological Injury

February 6th, 2018

Today the BC Government held a press conference where widespread changes targeting the rights of British Columbians to save ICBC money were announced.

In short the Government is creating an artificial cap on what they call ‘minor’ injuries.  As previously discussed even ICBC admits that the term minor injury catches injuries that are ‘complex and costly’.  The pain and suffering cap will be set at $5,500 and is set to kick in in April 2019.

The Government did not provide a full definition of what they call ‘minor’ but ICBC is already noting that in addition to soft tissue injuries that can disable you for up to a year the cap will also target psychological injuries with the insurer publishing a press release saying mental health issues such as ‘anxiety‘ will be caught by the cap.

The Government stated that “a medical professional” will decide if your injury is “minor“.  It is unclear exactly who this medical professional will be.  If you wish to dispute this designation the government is limiting your rights here as well.  The press release notes that certain ICBC claims will be forced to be adjudicated, not by the courts, but by the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.  Disputes over “the classification of an injury” will be funneled this way.

As of now this Tribunal does not allow people to be represented by lawyers with s. 20 of the law creating the tribunal stating that the default position for hearings is that “the parties are to represent themselves“.

Lastly, if you wish to not have your rights stripped by caps the Government is asking that the victim of bad drivers, not the bad drivers themselves, pay more stating that “Drivers will have an option to purchase additional coverage for a higher limit in pain and suffering compensation. The limit will be set at $75,000 and will cost approximately $1,300 a year, on top of the cost of their basic and other optional insurance. Charging for this optional coverage means the customers who stand to benefit from increased coverage will pay for it, rather than every B.C. driver.

You read that right – if you don’t want your rights stripped you need to pay $1,300 more per year, not the distracted and impaired drivers on our roads!

As Yogi Berra said, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!  If the above strikes you as unfair please  contact your MLA and tell the government plainly and clearly ‘no to caps’.


ICBC Admits Lobbied “Minor” Injury Caps Will Impact “Complex and Costly” Claims

January 28th, 2018

As discussed last month, after years of record profits ICBC is experiencing a bout of financial hardship.  In turn the government is considering stripping your rights if you are injured by a distracted or impaired driver.  Stripping judicial rights to save bad drivers and ICBC money.  A poor trade-off.

Today ICBC published a press release noting they “are working hard alongside government to take the steps necessary to bring about long-term solutions which will put ICBC back on a stable financial footing, one that will create a sustainable auto insurance system for B.C.”

The “work” is persuading government to pass a law placing a cap on what they call ‘minor’ injury claims.

ICBC’s own press release, however, advanced the best argument why caps are a defective idea that target seriously injured victims.

In ICBC’s own words

older claims – some dating as far back as 2010 – which were initially presented as minor injury claims have since emerged as more complex and costly, large loss claims. Over the past 12 months, we have experienced an unprecedented 80 per cent growth in large loss claims which have an average cost of $450,000 per claim.

I could not make the argument better myself.   You can be injured by a bad driver and suffer “complex and costly” injury that initially presents as minor.  ICBC knows a “caps” law will catch claims worth hundreds of thousands dollars and instead result in victims receiving pennies on the dollar for long term pain and disability.  They want victims to shoulder the shortfall so bad drivers and the insurance industry can benefit.

If this seems unfair to you contact your MLA and tell the government plainly and clearly ‘no to caps’.