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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.

Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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.


$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Psychological Injuries Following Fatal Collision

September 28th, 2012

Adding to this site’s database of archives caselaw addressing psychological injuries, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages following psychological injuries following a severe motor vehicle collision.

In last week’s case (Rizzotti v. Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 head-on collision.   The crash was significant killing the driver of the offending vehicle.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered from psychological injuries following this crash including PTSD, depression and an adjustment disorder.

The Plaintiff’s injuries were aggravated in two subsequent collisions.  All three cases were heard together and damages were assessed globally.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Mr. Justice Tindale provided the following reasons:

]The plaintiff was clearly involved in a serious head-on collision in 2005. She sustained injuries of a physical nature and a psychological nature. The evidence is clear that the first accident caused the majority of the injuries to the plaintiff while the other two accidents exacerbated her condition.

[76]The medical evidence is clear that the physical injuries were caused by the accidents. The medical evidence is also clear that her psychological injuries were caused by the accidents.

[77]Dr. Anderson diagnosed the plaintiff as having ongoing depressive symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of chronic adjustment disorder with depressed mood. He also diagnosed the plaintiff with having chronic post-traumatic stress disorder in partial remission.

[78]The psychologist, Dr. Kettner, also diagnosed her with having post-traumatic stress disorder. Both doctors Anderson and Kettner had the advantage of personally interviewing the plaintiff.

[79]Dr. Levin agreed with the diagnosis of adjustment disorder with depressed mood however he did not feel that the plaintiff had post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Levin only reviewed the medical documentation and did not interview the plaintiff.

[80]I prefer the evidence of Dr. Anderson and Dr. Kettner over that of Dr. Levin as they were able to personally interview the plaintiff.

[81]The evidence in this case clearly indicates that the plaintiff suffered physical injuries which are long-standing and chronic in nature as well as a serious psychological injury.

[82]The defendants have not discharged their onus that the plaintiff failed to mitigate her losses by failing to take medication. The evidence does not disclose on a balance of probabilities that she was prescribed antidepressant medication. Also, with regard to the plaintiff declining to have injections in her hip, there is no evidence that this delayed her recovery. She also gave evidence that she was afraid of injections, which I accept

[83]The appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $110,000.00.


$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Depression and Anxiety

February 17th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for accident related anxiety and depression.

In last week’s case (Yeung v. Dowbiggen) the Plaintiff was involved in 4 separate rear-end collisions.   These spanned from 2008-2011.  Fault was admitted by the rear motorist in each of the crashes.  The Plaintiff alleged that as a result of these crashes she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While this diagnosis was ultimately rejected by the trial judge, the Court did conclude that these collisions caused depression and anxiety.  These conditions remained symptomatic at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Madam Justice Humphries gave the following reasons:

[103] Taking into consideration all of the evidence and the opinions of these three doctors, I do not accept that Ms. Yeung has post traumatic stress disorder, although she apparently has some symptoms of it.  I accept that she has a mild condition of depression and anxiety caused by these accidents, and that it did not, in any significant fashion, pre-date the accidents…

[119] Ms. Yeung is, as Dr. O’Shaughnessy said, vulnerable and emotionally young for her age, but I also accept that there is validity to Dr. Levin’s concern that she has some secondary gain from the devoted attention of her father, her boyfriend and Dr. Guest.

[120] However, it is extremely unfortunate that Ms. Yeung has suffered a series of accidents and that her recovery has been set back regularly and incrementally as a result.  Even a strong person would have difficulty dealing with a steady recurrence of similar accidents.  The effect of four sequential accidents is, according to the medical experts, cumulative, and each time she begins to start to improve and return to a better level of functioning, she has been hit again, which causes a regression in her improvement with an overall cumulative effect on her life.  While the physical symptoms are not extreme, they are still persisting and the psychological effect of the repeated events has seriously affected Ms. Yeung’s ability to enjoy life for a protracted period of time.  While it is likely she will continue to improve if she is fortunate enough not to be involved in more accidents, she has already spent four years in a state of turmoil and physical pain.

[121] Several of the cases referred to by the plaintiff are concerned with injuries with effects that are described as severe and devastating; in one case the plaintiff was competitively unemployable, in another the plaintiff could no longer work at the profession he had trained for.  In my view, the cases submitted by the defendant are of more assistance.  Considering all the evidence within the context of the cases referred to me, and considering that Ms. Yeung has undergone the effects of four accidents, I set non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.


$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Chronic Pain and Depression

August 24th, 2011

(Update: June 11, 2012 – With the exception of a modest decrease in the damage award for Cost of Future Care, the below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement released today)

Adding to this site’s chronic pain non-pecuniary damages archives, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain and depression.

In this week’s case (Tsalamandris v. MacDonald) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions, the first in 2004 and the second in 2006.  The Defendants admitted fault in both claims.  The Plaintiff suffered from “chronic pain and a depressive disorder which is quite debilitating“.  The cause of the Plaintiff’s disability was the main focus of trial with the Plaintiff arguing the collisions were responsible while the Defendants pointed to other explanations.

Ultimately the Court found that the the collisions were responsible for the Plaintiff’s injuries.  These were expected to be largely disabling for the duration of the Plaintiff’s career.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Griffin provided the following reasons:

[223] I therefore conclude that but for the Accidents, the plaintiff would not have suffered the chronic pain and depression she suffered following the Accidents and continuing to this day and into the future.  The plaintiff has proven that the Accidents caused her conditions of chronic pain syndrome and depression…

[332] The plaintiff had an active lifestyle prior to the Accidents, did many outdoors things with her husband and got along well with others.  The minor discomfort she experienced on occasion stemming from the 2001 accident did not interfere with her activities.

[333] The changes she has gone through since the 2004 and 2006 Accidents have been dramatic.  Her chronic pain and chronic depression mood have had a very negative impact.  She has said very hurtful things to her mother and her husband. She has not been able to properly take care of her children and she does not get the same joy out of life as she used to do…

[336] The plaintiff cites a number of cases that suggest that an award of damages for loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) in similar circumstances should be in the range of $85,000.00 to $125,000.00:  Beaudry v. Kishigweb, 2010 BCSC 915; Eccleston v. Dresen, 2009 BCSC 332; Kasidoulis v. Russo, 2010 BCSC 978; Poirier v. Aubrey, 2010 BCCA 266; Zhang v. Law, 2009 BCSC 991; and, MacKenzie v. Rogalasky, 2011 BCSC 54 (the latter cited by the defendants for other reasons).

[337] The authorities can only serve as general guidelines.

[338] Given the plaintiff’s age, the stage of her life when she was injured, as a young mother, the ongoing and severe nature of her injuries which negatively affect every aspect of her daily life and her relationships with those around her, including with her children, her husband and her parents, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for the loss of her enjoyment of life and her pain and suffering is $100,000.00.


Wage Loss Claims for Stay-At-Home Parents Intending on Returning to the Workforce

October 30th, 2010

Although stay-at-home parents are becoming less and less common many parents still take several years away from the workforce to raise their children in their infant and pre-school years.  Often times these parents intend to return to work after their children attend school on a full time basis.

When a parent in these circumstances becomes disabled from working due to the fault of another can they make a claim for loss of income in their tort action?  The answer is yes provided there is evidence establishing  a likelihood of returning to employment absent the accident related disability.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of law.

In last week’s case (Carr v. Simpson) the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted fault and further admitted that the crash injured the plaintiff but took issue with the value of her claims for various damages including for income loss.

The Plaintiff, a 39 year old mother of three at the time of the collision, was out of the workforce for several years prior to the crash.  She spent these years working as a home-maker and raising her children.  She undertook some modest employment as a house cleaner shortly prior to the crash.  Following the crash she became disabled and did not return to any work from the time of the crash to the time of trial.

The Court accepted the Plaintiff sustained serious, permanent and partly disabling injuries due to the crash.  The Plaintiff sought damages of $84,000 for lost income from the time of the crash to the time of trial.  She argued that she had planned on returning to the work force once her children became school-aged (which was around the time of the crash) but was precluded in doing so as a result of her injuries.  The Defendant disagreed arguing that the Plaintiff suffered only a modest loss of income because of her “inconsistent work history (and) lack of incentive to work because of income from other sources.

Mr. Justice Bernard sided with the Plaintiff and awarded her most of what she sought for past income loss.  In doing so the Court provide the following useful reasons addressing the reality that parents that leave the workforce to raise young children can still succeed in an income loss claim:

[132]     I reject the notion that Ms. Carr’s unemployment history during her child-rearing years made her return to the workforce less realistic or less likely. Ms. Carr did not harbour fanciful ideas about her capabilities, her income-earning potential, or her opportunities for employment. When her youngest child reached school age, Ms. Carr was relatively young, energetic, able-bodied, willing to work hard, prepared to accept modest wages in exchange for her labours, and was fortunate to have a brother who could offer her steady, secure, and reasonably well-remunerated employment.

[133]     The evidence establishes that Ms. Carr, shortly before the collision, was motivated to earn some income (e.g., from housecleaning) until her youngest child was enrolled in school; thereafter, she planned to seek more fulsome employment. I do not accept the defence submission that Ms. Carr lacked the incentive and/or need to earn an income; to the contrary, since she has been unable to work because of her injuries she has, with some reluctance, turned to her mother for ongoing loans of relatively large sums of money, just to get by.

[134]     Ms. Carr became a single parent as of June 1, 2005. I find it highly likely that this new status would have impelled her to take the employment her brother offered, and to do so immediately. Her newly poor economic circumstances would have necessitated that Ms. Carr make child-care arrangements to bridge the time until her youngest child was in school in September 2005, and would have motivated her to work as many hours as she could manage as a single parent. Similarly, I am satisfied that she would have made any necessary arrangements for the care of her father.

[135]     I also find it is highly likely that Ms. Carr, as an employee of her brother, would have worked the hours and received the rates of pay assumed by Mr. Bush in his calculations. I find it is most unlikely that the seasonal aspect of the work would have reduced Ms. Carr’s overall income. Any shortage of work in the slow season would be offset by the demands of the busy season, and I am satisfied that Ms. Carr would have adjusted her life, accordingly.

[136]     While I am unable to agree with the plaintiff’s submission that in the determination of past wage loss there should be no reduction for negative contingencies, I am satisfied, for the relatively predictable period in question, the reduction must be minor.

[137]     Having regard for all the foregoing, I assess the plaintiff’s past wage loss at $75,000.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of non-pecuniary damages.  The Plaintiff sustained numerious injuries including soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, headaches and dizziness, a right hand and wrist injury which required surgery, a meniscus tear that required surgery, low back pain and depression related to chrobic pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Bernard provided the following reasons:

125]     Ms. Carr has, at age 44, many years ahead of her. As a result of the defendant’s negligence, Ms. Carr has been permanently partially disabled and left with constant and chronic pain. Since the collision, Ms. Carr has undergone two surgeries and endured considerable pain and discomfort. Ms. Carr has developed TOS and surgery is not recommended. She suffers from clinical depression related to the negative effect her injuries has had upon her, her family, and her way of life. Ms. Carr’s mental acuity and concentration has slipped. Ms. Carr’s marriage ended six months after she sustained her injuries. Her husband was unsympathetic and frustrated by her lack of desire for sex due to her discomfort. Ms. Carr has been rendered unemployable for most jobs in a competitive market. She is now unable to enjoy most leisure activities and active social pursuits with her children. She has a special fondness for horses and gardening, but meaningful participation in activities related to these interests is no longer feasible. Ms. Carr has lost much of the satisfaction from gainful employment, and the purpose and dimension it gives to life. In short, the negligence of the defendant has had a profoundly negative and lasting impact upon Ms. Carr.

[126]     I agree with the plaintiff’s position that the Djukic case is most similar of the proffered cases on its facts. I also agree with the defendant’s submission that Ms. Djukic’s pain was more severe than that of Ms. Carr; otherwise, I am persuaded that Djukic a useful reference point for the upper end of a general damages award in this case; and that Cimino is instructive in determining the lower end.

[127]     Having regard to all the foregoing, I assess Ms. Carr’s general damages at $100,000.


Chronic Pain With No Objective Signs Discussed in Injury Litigation

February 19th, 2010

One set of facts personal injury lawyers frequently encounter are Plaintiffs who sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents and continue to have chronic pain well beyond the time that the objective injuries have healed.

Pain is an inherently subjective condition and it is well accepted in peer-reviewed medical literature that pain can be present without ongoing objective physical injury.  So how do courts deal with such claims?  Without getting into the many nuances of trial outcomes a general theme in these types of cases is credibility.  If a court accepts that a Plaintiff’s claims are credible then these claims are generally accepted.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such a claim.

In today’s case (Sylte v. Rodriguez) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision in Port Coquitlam, BC.  The Defendant failed to yield the right of way to the Plaintiff when he made a left hand turn in front of her.  The issue of fault was admitted leaving the Court to deal with the value of the Plaintiff’s injury claim.

Mr. Justice Sewell awarded the Plaintiff just over $114,000 in total damages for her injuries and losses.  The award included $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Sewell discussed the subjective but real nature of the Plaintiff’s ongoing lower back pain due to soft tissue injuries.  The highlights of the Court’s discussion were as follows:

[12] Ms. Sylte continues to suffer from left side back pain around her sacroiliac joint area.  In Dr. Shu’s opinion this pain is caused by the initial car accident of September 15, 2005, but is definitely aggravated by the second accident.  Dr. Shu does not expect a complete recovery as the pain has been on-going since 2005.  He thinks that Ms. Sylte will experience on-going back pain for the foreseeable future.

[13] I also heard evidence and was provided with medical reports from Dr. Stone and Dr. Duncan McPherson.  I do not think it is necessary to refer to their evidence in any detail.  In this case, the consensus of medical opinion is that Ms. Sylte is suffering from low back pain in the left sacroiliac area.  The doctors also all agree that there is no objective evidence of underlying injury causing this pain.  They are all of the view that as the pain has persisted since June 2005 it will in all likelihood continue to persist for the foreseeable future.

[14] Dr. McPherson’s initial opinion was that there was no objective evidence of disability.  However in cross examination at trial he did agree that he thought Ms. Sylte still had back pain as of the date of his examination in 2006.  I did not take him to be disagreeing with Dr. Shu’s opinion that Ms. Sylte will probably continue to suffer from ongoing back pain for the foreseeable future.  However, I do not think that Dr. Shu considered that Ms. Sylte suffers from any significant disability as a result of her injuries.

[15] The conclusion I have reached is that any restriction on Ms. Sylte’s activities is caused by pain rather than physical limitation.  The pain is however very real to Ms Sylte and the functional effect of that pain is that Ms. Sylte no longer feels able to do all the things she did before the accident.

[16] Based on the evidence before me I conclude that Ms. Sylte suffered a soft-tissue injury to her lower back in the motor vehicle accident which continues to cause her chronic pain in her lower back area.  I also conclude that she developed depressive symptoms which she would not have developed had the accident not occurred…

[18] Ms. Sylte is 51 years old.  She testified that prior to the first motor vehicle accident she was an active, energetic individual.  She enjoyed playing mixed softball, golf and skiing.  She was employed as a nurse’s aide at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.  She was a single mother whose adult son, Josh, lived with her.

[19] Ms. Sylte said that as a result of the pain which she is now experiencing she is no longer able to play softball and can golf only very occasionally.  She simply finds these activities too painful to pursue.  In addition she no longer skis.  She indicated that Josh is now required to do many of the more physically demanding tasks around the house.  She also indicated that she finds it difficult to drive long distances and that her general quality of life has deteriorated significantly as a result of her pain.  She indicated that this pain is about 4 out of 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable.

[20] Josh gave evidence at the trial.  He generally corroborated the drop in Ms. Sylte’s activity level since the motor vehicle accident.  He also indicated that his mother had become much less social after the accident.  Josh, who is now 31, does much of the heavy work around the house.

[21] Ms. Sylte has suffered a significant impact on her social and recreational life as a result of the injuries she suffered in the accident.  The evidence before me is that these symptoms will be permanent.  I note that Ms. Sylte is no longer able to play softball, participate in golf in any meaningful way or pursue skiing.  She is in more or less constant discomfort from the injuries she has suffered.  As I have found, she is genuinely experiencing the pain which, I have no doubt, has some psychological component.

[22] I have concluded that there should be a substantial award for non-pecuniary damages in this case.  I was referred to in a number of cases which seem to establish a range of approximately $35,000 to $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages for plaintiffs who suffer permanent pain symptoms without significant physical disability.  In my view, an appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $45,000.


$95,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Pain and PTSD – Dr. Sovio Scrutinized

December 23rd, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $300,000 in total damages as a result of injuries and loss sustained in 2 BC Car Crashes.

In today’s case (Roberts v. Scribner) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions, the first in 2005, the second in 2006.  She was not at fault for either crash.  The trial focused solely on the issue of the value of the Plaintiff’s ICBC Injury Claims.

The Plaintiff’s injuries affected her neck, mid back, low back, left shoulder collar bone and caused headaches.  She also suffered from depression and PTSD.

In assessing non-pecuniary loss (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $95,000 Madam Justice Bruce made the following findings about the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[173] I am satisfied that the soft tissues injuries Ms. Roberts suffered to her back, and to a lesser extent, her neck, have caused her substantial pain and disability since November 2005 when the first accident occurred. After the second accident she further aggravated her physical injuries, which developed into a chronic pain condition. In addition, Ms. Roberts’ psychological illnesses have aggravated her physical pain and suffering and have clearly contributed to the cycle of continuing pain. I note parenthetically that there is no dispute that Ms. Roberts’ PTSD symptoms and depression stem from the trauma of the accidents. Even the defence specialist, Dr. Smith, was of this view. At p. 5 of his report Dr. Smith says:

The most common sequel of motor vehicle accidents, particularly rear-end-type accidents, is the development of soft tissue injuries. If the soft tissue injury pain goes on for a number of months, individuals develop poor sleep and then are at risk for depression. I believe this is exactly what has happened with Ms. Roberts as a result of the two accidents.

[174] All of the specialists who examined Ms. Roberts have guarded prognosis for her complete recovery from the soft tissue injuries given the length of time they have persisted despite her tremendous efforts to rehabilitate herself. While Dr. Shah opined that some improvement could be expected in the future, he was unable to say at what point this might occur and to what extent Ms. Roberts’ condition would improve. Certainly there is some hope that different therapies may assist Ms. Roberts; however, her physical condition has plateaued since mid 2006 and she has not improved substantially since that time…

[177] The injuries caused by the accidents have also adversely affected Ms. Roberts’ ability to enjoy the recreational activities she loved to do before the collisions. She has attempted to return to snowboarding, but has not been able to tolerate more than one or two hours before the pain makes her stop for the day. Ms. Roberts has given up competitive horseback riding and the other sports she enjoyed before the accidents. Hiking and camping are also activities that she now finds too difficult to do because of the back pain she experiences when walking on an incline and sleeping on the ground. The physical and psychological injuries have also affected her social life; she is not able to sit for long periods at friends’ homes or in a movie theatre and thus spends most of her time at home seeking out a comfortable position. Her sleeplessness has affected her relationship with Mr. Harvey. They now have to sleep in separate rooms.

[178] Ms. Roberts has also undergone a complete personality change due to the injuries caused by the accident. The collateral witnesses testified about how fun- loving and comical Ms. Roberts was before the accidents and how depressed, sad and serious she has become since these events occurred. She does not enjoy life anymore and appears to function physically like a far older woman, moving slowly and stiffly and constantly attempting to find a comfortable position.

[179] Mr. Pakulak tested Ms. Roberts’ functional capacity overall, and in respect of several different movements that may be required for work, household chores, and recreational activities. There is no doubt that Ms. Roberts in many respects is functioning at a high level. However, it is also apparent that she has a reduced capacity in several functions, some of which are critical in her line of work. While the fact that she is unable to lift over 30 lbs does not render her disabled from performing the work of a graphic designer, Ms. Roberts’ reduced capacity for sitting and other movements related to working at a computer desk adversely affect her ability to carry out these duties efficiently and over an extended period. It is also important to consider that while Ms. Roberts may appear to be able bodied compared to many people, it is the changes in her life that are relevant to an assessment of damages. Before the accidents, Ms. Roberts was a youthful, extremely fit and active woman who had no difficulty whatsoever managing a full-time job, a busy social life, and an active recreational and exercise program. The functional limitations that now govern Ms. Roberts’ activities clearly represent a substantial change for her. Thus the impact on her ability to enjoy life cannot be underestimated. Moreover, in light of the guarded medical prognosis for her complete recovery, it is likely that these functional restrictions may, to some extent, continue to govern her life for the foreseeable future….

[181] Turning to the issue of quantum, it is well established that each case must be decided on its own facts. The authorities cited by the parties are useful as a guide in regard  to quantum; however, each particular case has unique factors that must be considered when awarding damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. In this regard, I found the authorities cited by Ms. Roberts, and in particular, the circumstances in Gosal, more closely mirror the facts in this case than the authorities cited by the defendants. Given my conclusions regarding the nature of Ms. Roberts’ injuries, the impact these injuries have had on her life, the length of time she has continued to suffer, and the guarded prognosis for her complete recovery, I find an award of $95,000 is appropriate in the circumstances.

An interesting side note to this judgement was the Court’s critical commentary of Dr. Sovio.  ICBC hired this doctor to conduct an ‘independent medical examination‘ of the Plaintiff.  As I’ve previously pointed out there are a handful of doctors who do a lot of these independent examinations for ICBC and it is not unusual for some of the reports generated by some of these physicians to contradict the opinions of treating doctors.  That indeed was the case in today’s judgement and Madam Justice Bruce pointed this out and gave ‘little weight‘ to Dr. Sovio’s opinions.  The Court made the following critical comments:

[131] Bearing in mind the anomaly of Dr. Sovio’s report, his lack of independent recollection of the interview, and the failure to cross examine Ms. Roberts on what is recorded in his report, I find little weight can be placed on his recorded history of her complaints and symptoms. It is also important to note that Dr. Sovio did not record Ms. Roberts’ exact words. Thus there may be errors of interpretation in his assessment of her pain levels, as well as her history of past and current symptoms…

While Dr. Sovio has come to a conclusion that Ms. Roberts is no longer suffering from her soft tissue injuries, I find his opinion is clearly inconsistent with the considered opinions of a variety of different specialists. As such, I find little weight should be placed on his assessment.


$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Pain and PTSD

October 13th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding damages for injuries and loss as a result of a 2007 BC Car Crash to a previously disabled Plaintiff.

In today’s case (Viner-Smith v. Kiing) the Plaintiff was previously disabled with depression and other medical issues.  In 2007 he was involved in a rear-end car crash.  The Crash caused various physical injuries and exacerbated his pre-existing depression.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $80,000 Mr. Justice Holmes summarized the accident related injuries as follows:

[51] The plaintiff now suffers from the complex interaction of a combination of chronic pain, major depressive disorder, and PTSD.  The chronic pain syndrome and PTSD are a result of the motor vehicle accident.  A depressive disorder was present before the accident but in my view was increased or exacerbated from the effect of the accident.   The combination of conditions can have the effect that a worsening of the symptoms of any one may cause another to worsen.

[52] The combination of these disorders is notoriously difficult to treat pharmacologically.  Dr. Passey’s prognosis for the plaintiff “…remains poor for a full recovery and I am pessimistic about any future significant improvements” and “even with further treatment it is most likely that he will have a restricted lifestyle, diminished ability to enjoy life and a restricted capacity for any type of competitive employability for the foreseeable future.”

[53] The plaintiff therefore sustained soft tissue injury in the accident and he suffered significantly in the immediate post accident period with diminishing pain over three or four months.  He also suffered an increase or exacerbation of the psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression and agoraphobia which he had experienced pre-accident but to a lesser degree.

[54] The plaintiff’s pre-accident depression involved passive thoughts of suicide but post accident they escalated to active ideation, with the plaintiff researching methods to commit suicide although not following through because of the effect he believed it would have on his family.  The symptoms of agoraphobia in not leaving his home, answering the phone, getting the mail, and becoming isolated and reclusive, appear to have increased from sporadic and partial pre-accident to the plaintiff tending toward being totally reclusive and isolated after the accident.  The plaintiff even stopped filling out the monthly forms required to receive the funding for his son’s autism program and the government cut off payment.

[55] There is a good deal of evidence in the Odyssey documentation,  the records of Dr. Applegarth, and the testimony of his wife and friends,  that the plaintiffs depression and anxiety conditions existed prior to the accident.  The accident injuries ended the ability of the plaintiff to continue with the Odyssey program, however it may well not have succeeded in any event and the plaintiff was very unhappy with Odyssey before the accident and on the verge of withdrawing.

[56] The surgery for the CSDC has not occurred although available since 2004.  There was no firm commitment made to undergo the surgery and until it was successfully completed the plaintiff would not be returning to work.

[57] The plaintiff had not worked for 6 years at the time of the accident, including an unsuccessful attempt in 2003 doing only non-driving dispatch work.  Statistically persons who have not worked for two years are unlikely to return to employment.

[58] The health of the plaintiff prior to the motor vehicle accident was certainly impaired and he had significant disability.  The plaintiff was particularly vulnerable to both psychological and physical injury and both were caused by the defendant.  The plaintiff at the time of the accident was engaged in a tangible program directed toward an ultimate return to employment, however the result was problematical and uncertain.  There is no doubt however the effect of injuries the plaintiff sustained in the accident did interfere with his ability to rehabilitate himself and did constitute a set back to him.

[59] I agree with the assessment of Dr. Pullyblank that the prospects for the plaintiff’s return to work as a bus driver were low before the accident but lower still after.  The major effect of PTSD is that the plaintiff is eliminated from employment driving a bus or related occupations as that might trigger his fear of driving, accidents, injury and death.

[60] The plaintiff, because of the increased level of his depression and anxiety post accident, and his chronic pain and PTSD, has suffered a further impact on his already impaired quality of life.  The loss of hope of returning to employment as a bus driver, which he loved, and the lessening of his chances generally for remunerative employment, will impact his enjoyment of life…

[65] I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary general damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities at $80,000.

In addition to assessment for pain and suffering for chronic pain and PTSD imposed on pre-existing depression this case is also worth reviewing for the court’s award of damages for wage loss for a previously disabled plaintiff.  In today’s case it was accepted that the accident caused no past wage loss and that given the Plaintiff’s pre-accident absence from the workforce it was ‘statistically unlikely’ that he would return to the work force even if the accident did not happen.  Despite this, Mr. Justice Holmes awarded the Plaintiff $50,000 for diminished earning capacity.  The court’s key discussion in coming to this figure is reproduced below:

[67]         The plaintiff does not seek past income loss and that is because there has been none.  He remains on disability insurance from his original employment.  Regardless of the motor vehicle accident it was problematic whether the plaintiff would have completed his rehabilitation program with Odyssey, pursued conditioning, lost weight, underwent successful surgery for his ear problem and hernia, and been successful in dealing with his depression, agoraphobia, gout and other health problems.

[68]         I am of the view that on the whole of the evidence there was only a minimal chance, absent the motor vehicle accident, that the plaintiff would have successfully achieved rehabilitation through the Odyssey program, successfully resolved his ear problem with surgery, and overcome his other medical and psychological conditions that would perhaps then have allowed him to attempt a return to his job as a bus driver after a six year absence.

[69]         On the evidence, I accept the injuries resulting from the motor vehicle accident give rise to only a minimal change from the plaintiff’s pre-accident earning capacity.  That change is that as a result of the effects of PTSD he will no longer be capable of employment as a bus driver or in any related work which will trigger his PTSD symptoms.

[70]         The reality however is that both prior to, and after, the motor vehicle accident the plaintiff presented to any prospective employer as a person:

·       who had not worked for six years

·       that was physically deconditioned

·       who could not sustain physical activity for prolonged periods

·       who suffered SCDS which triggered dizziness, balance problems, and headaches at random and on physical activity

·       suffered episodic bouts of depression and suicidal ideation

·       suffered diverse anxiety and agoraphobia feelings

·       and personally doubted his own ability to return to work.

[71]         The plaintiff pre-accident did not pursue any job opportunity although with training or further education had many options open to him, most of which still remain after the motor vehicle accident.

[72]         The PTSD has however further reduced the plaintiff’s pre accident ability to earn income and I assess the further diminution in the plaintiffs earning capacity attributable to the effect of the injury from the motor vehicle accident at $50,000.


"Moderate to Severe" Soft Tissue Injury Non-Pecuniary Damages Assessed at $55,000

September 4th, 2009

Reasons for judgment were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff approximately $85,000 in total damages from a 2004 BC Car Crash.

This case (BMM v. MLV) contains lengthy reasons that largely deal with the Plaintiff’s pre and post accident psychological difficulties.  Ultimately the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim that her pre-existing depression was affected by the accident.  Madam Justice Ballance concluded that “the evidence does not show that the Plaintiff’s pain and discomfort from her physical injuries caused by the Accident, exacerbated, compounded or intensified her Depression.”  Paragraphs 159-190 contain the Court’s reasoning behind this conclusion and are worth reviewing for anyone interested in seeing how BC Courts can deal with a claim that pre-existing psychological injuries are aggravated by a collision.

The Court did find, however, that the Plaintiff suffered “moderate to severe” soft tissue injuries and assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $55,000.  In reaching this figure Madam Justice Ballance summarized her findings and engaged in the following analysis:

[199] The plaintiff experienced moderate to severe soft tissue injuries to her neck and back as a result of the Accident. Although her shoulders were also implicated and she had initial sleep disturbance and was plagued with low-grade headaches that occasionally developed into migraine-like discomfort, the primary area of injury was her low back and her related left hip discomfort. I accept that during their acute phase, these injuries caused persistent and sometimes severe discomfort and pain to the plaintiff, and disabled her from attending work. Following her leave from work in 2005 and her intensive physiotherapy program, her symptoms improved significantly. She continued to be susceptible to flare-ups of her symptoms throughout the summer of 2005. Her discomfort prompted the plaintiff to attend a program at the CBI which she found considerably beneficial in improving her soft tissue injuries.

[200] I find that by the end of 2005, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms had largely settled, but had not resolved entirely. She was not restored to her pre-Accident condition at that time. I am satisfied that after that stage, the plaintiff experienced intermittent low back symptoms and associated pain throughout 2006 and continuing forward. Those episodes were infrequent but sufficiently bothersome to prompt her to obtain treatment from Dr. Weiss in late 2007 and endure two excruciating injections. I think that the plaintiff will probably experience intermittent bouts of low back discomfort caused by the Accident into the foreseeable future. The evidence indicates that those episodes will continue to be infrequent and rather mild in nature.

[201] I accept that the physical symptoms caused by the Accident brought about unwelcome and disruptive changes to the plaintiff’s enjoyment and quality of her life, especially during the first twelve months after the Accident. She was no longer the fun-loving and enthusiastic person familiar to her son, sister and co-workers. In time, she was able to gradually reintroduce and enjoy certain pursuits such as walking and some gardening, and bike-riding using her electric bike. I have found it challenging to attempt to parse out the changes in the plaintiff’s personality and life which can be said to be attributable to her physical injuries from the Accident, from those associated with her ongoing and severe bouts of Depression, which adversely affected her life but are unconnected to the Accident. I conclude that the enjoyment of certain of her activities was negatively affected at times by her low mood. Even the plaintiff agreed that her gardening could be affected by her mood. While I accept that in the first year or so following the Accident, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms made it uncomfortable for her to attend the usual family functions and pursue her normal community and political interests, I find that her sustained withdrawal from those endeavours and detachment from her sister and other extended family, are due to the plaintiff’s psychological state unrelated to the Accident….

204] Having reviewed the authorities provided by the parties, and considered the totality of the evidence pertaining to the plaintiff’s specific circumstances, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $55,000. A deduction of 5% is to be taken to reflect the measurable risk that her low back symptoms would have manifested without the Accident.


More on BC Personal Injury Law and the Duty to Mitigate

June 17th, 2009

A plaintiff who fails to take reasonable steps to minimize their losses and injuries after a car accident risks having their claim reduced accordingly for this ‘failure to mitigate’.

I’ve written about this before and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this principle in action.

In today’s case (Latuszek v. Bel-Air Taxi 1992 Ltd.) the Plaintiff was involved in a serious intersection crash in the lower mainland.  The Defendant died in the collision and the Plaintiff suffered serious injuries.

These injuries included Depression, PTSD and Chronic Pain.  The Court valued the non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) for these injuries at $100,000 but then reduced the award by $40,000 due to the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate.

Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein summarized and applied the law as follows:

[84] Prior to setting non-pecuniary damages, I will address the duty to mitigate.

[85] There is a duty at law to take reasonable steps to minimize your loss, particularly where, as here, conservative treatments have been recommended.  Because of the nature of the plaintiff’s work, as a professional driver transporting fuel, he has limited his medication to Tylenol Extra Strength or Tylenol 8 Hour.  Dr. Jaworski recommended exercises in the pool and gym and brisk walking.  Mr. Latuszek says he swam once in a while, but he did not go to the gym or do brisk walking.  Dr. Jaworski suggested that brisk walking may be contraindicated now that he knows that Mr. Latuszek has a torn medial meniscus.  Mr. Latuszek does very little regular exercise of any kind, except once or twice a week.  He did not try yoga, massage therapy, relaxation therapy or the medications as recommended by his psychiatrist.  He has not taken holidays in the past two years to try the anti?depressant medication, yet he understands that such medication as well as exercise, may improve, if not cure, his symptoms.  The plaintiff has not prioritized his recovery.

[86] In light of the authorities presented by the parties, I conclude that general damages, having regard to the injuries suffered by Mr. Latuszek and the continued problems in that regard, including depression, PTSD, and chronic pain, should be set at $100,000.  There will be a reduction of $40,000 for failure to mitigate.  Therefore, I award $60,000 as general damages.