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.

Posts Tagged ‘erik magraken’

Examinations For Discovery and Your BC Injury Claim – A Video Introduction

March 23rd, 2010

Here is a video I’ve uploaded to YouTube discussing examinations for discovery in BC Injury lawsuits:

An Examination for Discovery is a process where the opposing side can bring you in front of a Court Reporter and get your sworn answers to questions about relevant topics. Discoveries are designed to learn about your case and to hurt your case.  It is one of the most important pre-trial steps in Injury litigation and a Plaintiff’s evidence can play a key role in whether the case settles or proceeds to trial.

In ICBC claims some of the usual topics that are covered are the circumstances of the accident, the injuries sustained, the expenses incurred, the course of recovery of the injuries, wage loss details and other the effects of the accident related injuries on lifestyle  (You can click here to read a more in depth article about what is covered at a Discovery).

I hope this introductory video and the linked articles take some of the mystery out of the process.


Understanding The 2 Roles of ICBC – "Your" and "Their" Insurer

March 21st, 2010

Here is a brief video I’ve uploaded to YouTube discussing ICBC’s dual role and some information you should know before you place your first call to ICBC after being injured in a BC motor vehicle accident:

As readers of this Blog undoubtedly know, ICBC is a British Columbia monopoly auto insurer which usually plays 2 roles in BC auto injury claims.  When you are injured by another BC motorist who is at fault and you and they are insured with ICBC, ICBC will not only need to process your claim for Part 7 Benefits but also process the tort claim you are making against the at fault motorist.   I hope the information covered in this video is of assistance.


Loss of Commission Income and ICBC Injury Claims

March 10th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today (Tong v. Sidhu)awarding a Plaintiff $30,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) as a result of injuries sustained in a 2007 BC Car Accident.  

Mr. Justice Cohen of the BC Supreme Court made the following findings with respect to the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[40]            In my opinion, the medical evidence and the plaintiff’s testimony supports the conclusion that the plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries, and that he has made an overall improvement to a level where if he dedicates himself to learning and correctly performing the exercises recommended by Dr. King he will probably experience a full recovery within six to twelve months.

[52]            Upon a consideration of the severity and duration of the plaitniff’s accident related injuries and symptoms, and upon a review of the authorities on the range of the general damages submitted by the parties, I find that an award of $30,000 is a fair and appropriate sum to compensate the plaintiff for his general damage claim.

The Plaintiff, who was a commodities broker, also alleged a past and future loss of income although these claims were dismissed.   The Plaintiff sought approximately $50,000 for past income loss and $44,000 for future income loss.

In dismissing these damages Mr. Justice Cohen found that the Plaintiff ‘has not proven on the requisite standard that he has suffered past or future income loss‘.  Following this conclusion Mr. Justice Cohen engaged in a lengthy analysis of the Plaintiff’s claim for lost income and stated as follows:

[63]            First, the only documentary evidence the plaintiff has brought forward to support his claim are his income tax returns and payroll slips for 2007 and 2008.  Although he signed an authorization for release of employment information to the defendant, the onus remains on the plaintiff to bring to court any records which would help him to identify the details of his earnings history.  He has not produced any employment records to indicate or establish a month over month or year over year trend based on details of income from client or personal trading accounts.

[64]            Moreover, the plaintiff did not elicit evidence from Mr. Mok on his commission earnings to provide some comparative evidence regarding the level of earnings from commissions experienced by commodities brokers at Union Securities, or for that matter evidence of the earnings of brokers in other firms with a similar level of experience and client base as that of the plaintiff.

[65]            With respect to Mr. Mok, he and the plaintiff were performing the same work and both were earning income from commissions generated by client trades, as well as income from self trades.  Mr. Mok did say that he had two streams of earnings and that while his earnings from trades in his own account would not be shown on his T4, both streams of income were shown on his income tax returns.  He said that earnings from trading on his own account would be declared under the item of “business income” in his income tax returns.

[66]            I find that the plaintiff’s evidence on his precise earnings was at times both contradictory and confusing.

[67]            For example, the plaintiff was asked in chief about the line in his 1999 income tax return for “business income”, which shows an amount of $20,805.89 gross and a net loss of $8,323.15.  Although the plaintiff initially testified that the loss amount was due to amounts that he had to pay out of his pocket for losses sustained by his clients due to his trading errors, he later changed this testimony to say that the business income item related to a tax shelter investment that he had made, and that this was the amount reported to him by the company as a unit holder.  With respect to where he reported his income from self trades he said that he did not report this income in his income tax return as the earnings had gone into his RSP account, although he produced no records to substantiate his evidence on this point.

[68]            Finally, I think that there is evidence that completely undermines the plaintiff’s assertion that he is entitled to damages for loss of income, past or prospective.

[69]            In cross-examination, the plaintiff agreed with defence counsel that it was not common for him to make earnings in excess of $100,000.  He agreed that his earnings jumped substantially in 2004 because of the financing he worked on.  He also agreed with the figures from his income tax returns that since 2001, with the exception of 2004, he has earned in the range of $40-50,000 annually.  He agreed that 2004 was unusual, adding that it was unusual in the sense that his hard work paid off.  He also agreed with counsel that the last year he earned a figure in the same range was in 1996.  He agreed with counsel that his average income for the past 7 years has not been in the $80,000 range, but rather closer to $50,000.

[70]            The plaintiff agreed with counsel that based on his average earnings over the period leading up to the accident that his income in 2007 was similar to what he had earned in earlier years, with the exception of the year 2004.

[71]            The plaintiff testified that for the years 2001-2008 he would rank himself against his peers as being in the middle of the pack, and not on average a top performer.  He agreed that his assessment of his ranking has not changed since the accident, and also agreed that essentially, with the exception of 2004, his income has not significantly changed.

[72]            Counsel reminded the plaintiff of his evidence that his focus and concentration had been affected by the accident and he was asked whether it had affected his number of clients, to which he replied that he gained and lost clients for all kinds of reasons.  When counsel suggested to the plaintiff that he had not lost clients as a result of the accident, he replied that he may have lost or gained clients during the period following the accident.  He was not able to say whether in fact the accident related injuries had resulted in a loss of clients.

[73]            Mr. Steven Engh is manager of sales at Union Securities.  He met the plaintiff when they both worked at C.M. Oliver.  He was asked how he would rank the plaintiff as a commodities broker. He replied that the plaintiff would fall in the middle of the pack, and that as far as he knew this had been the case for the past five years.  He also said that all of the brokers in his firm have been affected by the current securities market conditions and that this would include the plaintiff’s area of trading.  He did agree with plaintiff’s counsel in cross-examination that the securities business is very demanding and that it takes a focused person to succeed.

[74]            In the result, I find that on the whole of the evidence the plaintiff has failed to prove his income loss claim. With the exception of the year 2004, the plaintiff’s history of earnings in the seven years leading up to the accident disclose a trend of income much closer to the $50,000 range than his claim of $80,000.  This is clearly borne out by his income for the year 2006, a year in which he was completely healthy, had his list of prospects, and presumably was focused and determined to increase his income to a level closer to his exceptional result in the year 2004.  Yet, his income for the year 2006, at least from commissions on trades, was not very far off his usual annual earnings in the $50,000 range.

[75]            In my opinion, the evidence falls far short of the claim that the plaintiff is making for income loss, past and prospective, and therefore this head of damage must be rejected.

This case is worth reviewing for anyone on commissioned or self employed basis who suffers a wage loss in an ICBC Injury Claim to see how courts scrutinize such claims and to get some insight into the factors and the type of evidence courts find useful in determining whether there has been a past loss of income.


How Much is the Pain and Suffering Worth in my ICBC Injury Claim?

March 3rd, 2009

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a BC Personal Injury Lawyer is ‘how much is my pain and suffering worth?’.

This is an important question for anyone injured through the fault of another in a BC motor vehicle collision.  When negotiating with ICBC the playing field is typically imbalanced in that the ICBC claims adjuster has lots of experience in valuing personal injury claims.   Unless you are an injury claims lawyer you understandably would have little experience in valuing pain and suffering and may need help valuing this loss.  

It is important to empower yourself for the negotiation because in tort claims ICBC is negotiating on behalf of the person that injured you (the tort claim is, after all, made against the other persons policy of insurance). Practically speaking, this means that this imbalance in experience can work as a huge disadvantage, particulary if you think the ICBC adjuster is ‘your’ adjuster.  

With this in mind, here is some basic informaiton on paind and suffering and ICBC tort claims.  Pain and Suffering is awarded under the legal head of damages called ‘non-pecuniary loss’.  One of the best ways to value pain and suffering in an ICBC tort claim is to find cases with similar circumstances and injuries to see what damages were awarded.  When you find several similar cases a range of damages starts to become apparent and this range can serve as a useful guide in helping you understand the potential value of your ICBC personal injury tort claim.

Reasons for judgement were released today (Hoang v. Smith Industries Ltd.) dealing with the issue of pain and suffering in a BC motor vehicle collision tort claim.  In awarding the Plaintiff $19,000 for his non-pecuniary loss as a result of soft tissue injuries Madam Justice Russell summarized the law of non-pecuniary damages as follows:

[32]            The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is to compensate the plaintiff for “pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023, B.C.J. No. 1535 at para. 134; see also Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229; Kuskis v. Tin, 2008 BCSC 862, B.C.J. No. 1248.  While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as a guide to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis at para. 136. 

[33]            There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  Justice Kirkpatrick, writing for the majority, in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines the factors to consider, at para. 46:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)  age of the plaintiff;

(b)  nature of the injury;

(c)  severity and duration of pain;

(d)  disability;

(e)  emotional suffering; and

(f)  loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)  impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)  impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)   loss of lifestyle; and

(j)   the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54 (B.C. C.A.)).


ICBC Can Do That!?!? What You Need to Know About Part 7 Benefits

July 8th, 2008

OK, imagine this:

You are injured in a car accident that is not your fault. You incur medical expenses and send ICBC (your own insurer) the bill. Your ICBC adjuster does not to pay.

You sue the driver that injured you (who also happens to be insured by ICBC). The same ICBC adjuster hires the lawyer to defend the driver and tells that lawyer what to do (that’s the way it often works).

At trial you claim the medical expenses as special damages (special damages are expenses related to the other person’s wrong-doing). The Judge agrees these are reasonable special damages and awards you compensation.

(Thanks for bearing with me, here’s where it gets interesting)….The ICBC hired lawyer then says, “Your Honour, the Plaintiff should have been reimbursed this expense by ICBC so you should not award this money to the Plaintiff” The Judge, in his most eloquant voice responds, “you’re right counsel, I have no choice but to make this deduction”.

That’s exactly what can happen! ICBC can refuse to pay for an expense then the lawyer hired by ICBC in the ‘tort trial’ can argue that the court should not award reimbursement of the expense because you should have had ICBC pay for the expense.

When you sue someone for car accident related injuries in BC, the defendant (most often times insured by ICBC) can argue that due to the operation of s. 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act,he should not have to pay any money covering benefits you could have received from ICBC as your own insurer. (Whether or not you received the benefits is an entirely irrelevant consideration… the deduction can be used even if you applied for these benefits and ICBC refused to pay…click here to read Sovani v. Jin, a case where almost $100,000 in damages were deducted from the jury’s verdict).

Section 83 reads as follows:

83 (1) In this section and in section 84, ‘benefits” means benefits

(a) within the definition of section 1.1, or

(b) that are similar to those within the definition of section 1.1, provided under vehicle insurance wherever issued and in effect,

but does not include a payment made pursuant to third party liability insurance coverage.

(2) A person who has a claim for damages and who receives or is entitled to receive benefits respecting the loss on which the claim is based, is deemed to have released the claim to the extent of the benefits.

(3) Nothing in this section precludes the insurer from demanding from the person referred to in subsection (2), as a condition precedent to payment, a release to the extent of the payment.

(4) In an action in respect of bodily injury or death caused by a vehicle or the use or operation of a vehicle, the amount of benefits paid, or to which the person referred to in subsection (2) is or would have been entitled, must not be referred to or disclosed to the court or jury until the court has assessed the award of damages.

(5) After assessing the award of damages under subsection (4), the amount of benefits referred to in that subsection must be disclosed to the court, and taken into account, or, if the amount of benefits has not been ascertained, the court must estimate it and take the estimate into account, and the person referred to in subsection (2) is entitled to enter judgment for the balance only.

(6) If, for the purpose of this section or section 84, it is necessary to estimate the value of future payments that the corporation or the insurer is authorized or required to make under the plan or an optional insurance contract, the value must be estimated according to the value on the date of the estimate of a deferred benefit, calculated for the period for which the future payments are authorized or required to be made.

This may seem like boring stuff but it could cost you well over $100,000 in your ICBC claim.

In another example of the s. 83 argument in action, reasons for judgment were released today that are well worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC claim. After trial the Jury awarded damages including $32,000 for cost of future medical care. The defence lawyer then argued that a portion of the $32,000 should be reduced because of section 83. This argument is often made by ICBC defence lawyers after trial. In this case the deduction was not made but depending on the facts of any given ICBC claim such a deduction very well could be made.

The bottom line is that if you are advancing an ICBC ‘tort’ claim you must apply and follow up for all of the ‘no-fault’ benefits you may be entitled to. Failure to do so can result in a significant reduction of your award of damages.


Damages of $159,857 Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries and Migraines

July 2nd, 2008

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court compensating a Plaintiff for accident related injuries.

The trial concerned a 2001 BC car accident. Her vehicle was struck in a down-town Vancouver intersection by a left-turning van. Liability (fault) was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum (value) of injuries and losses.

The impact was reasonably significant causing the Plaintiff’s head to jerk to the right and hit the window, then snap back.

At the time of the accident the Plaintiff was a 38 year old operations manager at a Vancouver travel agency. As with many ICBC claims that head to trial the Plaintiff’s pre-accident health was explored at trial in some detail. The court found that, prior to the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘continued to suffer regularly from migraine and tension headaches, and from neck and back pain due to stress and postural strain. (the Plaintiff’s) tension induced neck and shoulder pain sometimes precipitated migraines.’

The court concluded that despite these pre-accident problems, the Plaintiff ‘continued to funciton without significant compromise‘ prior to her Vancouver car accident.

As is often the case in ICBC injury claims, the court heard from various medical experts including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopaedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.

After hearing the competing evidence the court found that “the increase in (the Plaintiff’s) headaches and neck and shoulder pain is causally related to the soft tissue injuries she sustained in the accident. I find that her increased neck and shoulder pain sometimes leads to full-blown migraines. In addition, it is related to other painful headaches that she experiences from time to time.”

The court accepted the expert evidence of Dr. Robinson who is a highly-regarded BC neurologist who specialises in headache disorders. He testified in part that “when patients with a stable migraine disorder are exposed to neck trauma they sometimes suffer an indefinite aggravation of their headaches. Due to the neck pain caused by trauma such patients develop a new way to get headaches, which may or may not develop into full blown migraines“.

In terms of prognosis, the court found that ‘with treatment, (the Plaintiff’s) headaches will probably continue to improve over the course of the next five years.‘ and that ‘the low grade neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident will probably persist indefinitely. As a result some aggravation of (the Plaintiff’s) pre-existing headache condition will also persist‘.

The court awarded $65,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering). In doing so the court noted that ‘non-pecuniary damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. The compensation awarded should be fair and reasonable to both parties…for purposes of assessing non-pecuniary damages, fairness is measured against awards made in comparable cases. Such cases, though helpful, serve only as a rough guide‘.

Thanks to these reasons for judgment, British Colmbian’s now have one more rough guide to help assess the fair pain and suffering value for lingering soft tissue injuries, aggravation of pre-existing injuries and migraine headaches when considering ICBC claim settlement.

This case is also worth a quick read for anyone advancing a claim for loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) as the court does a good job summarizing some of the leading legal precedents in this area at paragraphs 151-155 of the judgment.

The court concluded that, as a result of the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘is less able to complete the same high volume of computer based work she could before before the accident and it it sometimes obvious that she is exhasted. In these circumstances, it is apparent that her earning capacity, viewed as a capital asset, has been impaired.’ The court went on to award $75,000 for this loss.


More on Intersection Crashes, ICBC, and Fault

June 23rd, 2008

In another example of our courts dealing with the issue of fault and intersection crashes, reasons for judgment were released last week faulting a ‘through driver’ 100% for a crash involving a left hand turner in Langley, BC.

I have previously blogged about this and will blog more on this topic in the future. The issue of fault is probably the most litigated when it comes to intersection crashes involving left hand turning vehicles.

In this case the Plaintiff was attempting to turn left. The Defendant, approaching in the opposite direction, was attempting to go through the intersection. The light was amber or red. This is a common recipe for disaster and indeed they crashed with each other. As is often the case in ICBC claims involving intersection crashes the 2 sides had different versions of evidence, particularly as to whether the light was red or amber at the time.

The court found that the light was red at the time of the crash. While both vehicles where, therefore, in the intersection on a red light, only the ‘through driver’ was found at fault because the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection.

The court quoted a case that is well known to ICBC claims lawyers which is helpful to left hand turning motorists in such a situation. The cases is Kokkinis v. Hall from the BC Court of Appeal where the court held that:

9 This discussion, however, detracts from the more important question of law, which is whether Mrs. Kokkinis was on one hand entitled reasonably to assume that Mr. Hall would stop before entering the intersection or on the other hand, whether she can be faulted for failing to see his van “until it was on top of her”, i.e. constituted an immediate hazard. In this regard, Mr. Johnson cites Feng v. Graham [1988] 5 W.W.R. 137 (B.C.C.A.), (not a left turn case), for the principle that the plaintiff’s entitlement to assume that other traffic will obey the law, is “subject to the proviso” (in counsel’s phrase) that where it is apparent or should be apparent that an oncoming driver is not going to yield the right-of-way, then at that point the other driver must act reasonably and cannot simply proceed into the collision, as it were. At the least, Mr. Johnson says, it was open to the trial judge to find that in the circumstances, Ms. Kokkinis failed to exercise reasonable care for her own safety and the safety of others, and that she must therefore bear some responsibility for the accident.

10 I must say this argument has given me pause; but ultimately I resolve it by asking whether in law Mrs. Kokkinis should be faulted for diverting her attention momentarily from oncoming traffic to check cross traffic at the point in time in question, i.e., as she prepared to start her turn – to see if any of those cars had jumped the light or were going to pose a threat to her turn. Was this an unreasonable or careless thing to do? I think not, given both the realities of the situation (which of course occurred over only a few seconds) and past decisions of this Court that have imposed on left-turning drivers the duty to be aware not only of oncoming traffic, but also of cross traffic, pedestrians, and whatever else may be present in the intersection. To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. An amber light is not, as the current witticism suggests, a signal to accelerate or to pass traffic that is slowing to a stop. Indeed, as Mr. Justice Esson noted in Uyeyama, in a busy city like Vancouver and at a busy intersection like 25th and Granville, an amber is likely the only time one can complete a left turn. Drivers approaching intersections must expect that this will be occurring. Putting a burden on a left turning driver to wait until he or she sees that all approaching drivers have stopped would, in my view, bring traffic to a standstill. We should not endorse such a result.

11 Accordingly, notwithstanding the principle (which I do not doubt) that questions of apportionment are generally questions of fact with which we should interfere only in exceptional cases, I would conclude that the issues I have referred to are ones of law and that the learned trial judge erred in law in placing too high a standard on the plaintiff and in failing to consider the assumptions she was entitled to make. I would not apportion any of the fault to her and would apportion 100 percent to Mr. Hall.

The court held that this was a similar case to Kokkinis and found the through driver at fault.

In terms of injuries the Plainitff suffered from general body trauma, bruising and soreness, soft tissue injuries to the neck, chest wrist and knee. The most significant injury was to the back and the court found that “3 years post-accident the Plaintiff continues to have significant pain from his back. Any prolonged activity, such as sitting in a lecture hall or travelling in a sitting position over 45 minutes causes soreness and pain. The Plaintiff is not recommended to pursue recreationbal activities of a physical nature such as football, which he had formerly done.”

The court awarded damages totalling $74,978.13 including $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).


Mild Trauamtic Brain Injury (MTBI) Claim Dismissed by BC Supreme Court

June 18th, 2008

In a striking example of how complex brain injury litigation can be, lengthy reasons for judgment were released today dismissing a Plaintiff’s claim that 2 accidents caused/contributed to a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI).

The trial lasted over 30 days of court time spanning between November, 2006 – July 2007. The reasons for judgement give insight into just how complex the brain injury trial was. The reasons are well over 300 paragraphs long.

The Plaintiff was involved in 2 accidents. She sued for both and the trials for both claims were heard at the same time. The first accident happened in 2001 in Abbotsford BC when the Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a driver who failed to stop at a stop sign. Liability (fault) for this accident was admitted by the defence lawyer. The second accident happened in 2005 when the Plaintiff’s vehicle changed lanes and collided with the defendant vehicle who was pulling out from a parking lot. Liability was denied and the trial judge found the defendant was solely responsible for the accident.

With the determination of fault out of the way the court had to decide what injuries the Plaintiff suffered in both these crashes and their value. The Plaintiff said she suffered from a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in the first accident and this injury was made worse in the second accident. This allegation was hotly contested by the defence lawyers.

The court heard from numerous witnesses including over 10 doctors. It is very common for ICBC brain injury claims to include opposing medical evidence and numerous ‘lay witnesses’ who give evidence of changes in a Plaintiff’s level of functioning after the accident. ICBC claims lawyers often refer to these witnesses as before and after’ witnesses.

The expert medical evidence included

1. The Plaintiff’s GP who diagnosed a ‘closed head injury

2. A Physiatrist who diagnosed ‘a head injury that has resulted in some brain dysfunction‘ along with ‘soft tissue aches and pains

3. A psychiatrist who treated the Plaintiff since 2002 who diagnosed ‘impairments…as a result of the accidents‘ and a ‘significant concussive injury in both accidents (which have gone on to become) a post-concussion syndrome, now persistent type…a personality change due to MTBI….a pain disorder that relates to (the Plaintiff’s) headaches and other chronic pain complaints…a post-trauma seizure disorder‘ He concluded that the Plaintiff ‘will continue to have significant disruption of her life and her ability to work is permanently compramised’.

4. A neuropsychologist who accepted the diagnosis of ‘closed head injury, possible seizure activity, chronic pain and post-concussive syndrome.’ He performed numerous tests and concluded that the Plaintiff ‘was suffering from psychological turmoil which was sufficiently severe to affect her score on neuropsychological tests’ and lastly that ‘the pattern of neurological test results was consistent with diffuse brain injury attributed as likely being caused by the car accident‘.

5. A urologist

6. A psychologist who saw the Plaintiff regularly since 2003

7. a Neurologist from the University of Colorado School of Medicine who diagnosed a ‘concussion with amnesia in the first accident and that she subsequently developed post-concussion syndrome’.

8. Another physiatrist who assessed the Plaintiff after the second accident and ‘attributed (her) symptoms after the first accident to post-concussive syndrome’. He also diagnosed various soft tissue injuries.

9. A psychologist who assessed the Plaintiff in 2006 who stated that ‘the plaintiff suffered from a brain injury based personality change arising from a frontal-lobe related impairment and emotional disturbance reactive to the trauma of the accidents

10. An orthopaedic surgeon who was hired by the defence lawyer. His opinion differed largely from most of the previous experts and gave evidence that:

Based on my assessment of Ms. Abma on May 9, 2003, she presented as an extremely symptom focused individual whose clinical examination strongly suggested a significant non-organic component to her various musculoskeletal/neurologic complaints. I base this latter opinion, that Ms. Abma has significant nonorganic illness, on the following findings:

1. Multiple areas of complaint.

2. No reported pain free interval.

3. Failure of all treatment modalities to date.

4. Significant pain behaviour and reaction on clinical examination.

5. Multiple areas of non-anatomic pain.

6. Regional numbness affecting her right arm.

7. Abnormal pain diagram.

All of these factors would suggest that there is a significant psychological social component influencing the reporting scenario and duration of Ms. Abma’s multiple musculoskeletal/neurologic complaints. In addition, Ms. Abma’s clinical records indicate that she suffered from anxiety/depression preceding her November 2001 motor vehicle accident, both of which can negatively influence an individual’s pain experience and their self perception of disability.

11. A Psychiatrist hired by the defence lawyer who noted that ‘there is no objective evidence to support the fact that this woman suffered any type of concussion or brain injury.’

12. An otolaryngolgist hired by the defence lawyer who ‘concludes that the plaintiff suffered a mild/modest neck sprain in the first motor vehicle accident classified as whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) Type 1. He considers that this may have re-activated the neck sprain from her 1996 motor vehicle accidents which demonstrated that her complaints continued for more than three years. Dr. Sinanan states “but for that factor, recovery from a Grade 1 WAD Type neck sprain usually is within six to eight weeks, 12 weeks at most

13. Lastly the court heard from a neurologist also hired by the defence lawyer and it was ‘uncontested’ that this doctor is the ‘foremost epilepsy expert in the Province of BC’. he concluded that the Plaintiff did not have a brain injury.

After all of this the court sided largely with the defence medical evidence. The key findings were made starting at paragraph 308 where the court held that:

[308] The most persuasive view of the plaintiff’s post-accident experience is described by Drs. Anton and Smith. Dr. Anton suggests that the plaintiff is suffering psychological injuries. Dr. Smith is also of a similar view: adjustment disorder with anxiety, which does not result from injuries sustained in either of the accidents, but arising from her belief that she is cognitively impaired as a result of the accident.

[309] I am not finding that the plaintiff is acting dishonestly. She believes that she is suffering from a brain injury. She is relying on the information she has been provided by her treating physicians. She has not proven on a balance of probabilities that she suffered a brain injury in the first accident. I find it much more likely that the psychological difficulties, including the cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems which the plaintiff has experienced, arose from her reaction to the brain injury diagnosis made by Dr. Ancill in April 2002. I do not accept the plaintiff’s assertion that all of her symptoms had their “genesis” in the motor vehicle accidents.

[310] Ultimately, I find that the injuries suffered by the plaintiff in the first accident are the physical injuries and to some extent the depression described in the evidence. The plaintiff suffered the following injuries as a result of the first motor vehicle accident on November 14, 2001:

1. aggravation of previous soft tissue injuries to her neck, back, shoulders and hips;

2. a contusion to the area above her left knee; and

3. some depression and anxiety (exclusive of that related to the diagnosis of a brain injury) attributable to the pain of her injuries.

As a result of this finding the court largely dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims for loss of income past and future, future care needs, and her in-trust claims for voluntary services provided by her family.

Ultimately little more than compensation for pain and suffering for soft tissue injuries was awarded.

As an ICBC Injury Claims Lawyer, one of the highlights of this case for me was found at paragraph 204 of this judgement where the court discussed its view of some of the neuropsychological test results.  These tests, which can be used to see if a pattern of cognitive defecits are consistent with brain injury, have some built in ‘fail-safes’ in them.  These measures are built in to help the neuropsychologist gauge whether the patient is applying their best effort.  In other words, these built in to see if the Plaintiff may be faking the injury.

In this case the “Fake Bad Scale‘ disclosed some ‘suspicious results‘.  The various doctors placed varying levels of importance on this fact.  Madam Justice Gropper made her views quite clear at paragraph 304 where she stated that “If the testing is invalid it does not mean there is something wrong with the test,; it suggests that there is something suspicious about how the individual is responding to the testing and whether she is applying her best effort to it.  It is a factor to be considered, not simply ignored.’

This case, while perhaps lengthy and difficult to read through, is worth reviewing for anyone involved in an ICBC claim alleging Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. This is one of the most aggresively litigated injuries and this case shows just how involved these trials can be, not just from the medical side of things but from the involvement of ‘before and after’ witnesses and many intimate details of a Plaintiff’s life.

Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC claim involving Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?  Do you need advice from an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken (services provided for ICBC injury claims throughout BC!)


$35,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Wrist and Soft Tissue Injuries

June 18th, 2008

Written reasons for judgment were released today by Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein of the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $60,000 for her losses and damages as a result of a 2005 BC Car Accident.

The Plaintiff was in her mid 20’s when she was involved in an intersection crash involving a left turning vehicle. The lawyer for the offending driver admitted liability (fault) for the accident leaving the issue of quantum of damages (value of the injuries) to be addressed at trial.

The Plaintiff suffered several injuries including soft tissue injuries to her neck and lower back. Her most significant injury was a fibro-cartilage tear of her right wrist and a possible scapholunate ligament injury as well.

The Plaintiff had 14 sessions of physiotherapy which created ‘some improvement’ of her neck injury. The Plaintiff had an MRI of her wrist which revealed a tear of the triangular fibro-cartilage complex (a “TFC tear”). The Plaintiff had a cortisone injection in her wrist which offered some temporary relief. Arthroscopic surgery was also recommended by an orthopaedic surgeon but the Plaintiff elected not to have this procedure done until her son was older.

The Plaintiff’s lawyers sought just over $150,000 in damages as a result of these injuries. The defence lawyers suggested numbers were significantly lower. Such a discrepancy is common in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.

After hearing the evidence the court awarded damages as follows:

a) $35,000.00 for non-pecuniary damages;

b) $7,812.00 for past wage loss, subject to Part 7 and statutory deductions;

c) $486.99 for special damages;

d) $20,000.00 for diminishment of earning capacity; and

e) $1000.00 for cost of future care.

The court’s discussion relating to ‘diminshed earning capacity’ is worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim concerned with future wage loss. In this case the Plaintiff was able to return to work for a period of time following the accident before leaving the workforce on maternity leave. By the time of trial the Plaintiff was retraining for a different profession. The court agreed with the defence lawyers point that this change of careers ‘is a natural progression for somebody (in the Plaintiff’s) position‘ and the court also put weight in the defence lawyer’s position that the Plaintiff ‘never worked a full year.’

The court cited one of the better known quotes from the BC Court of Appeal addressing ‘diminished earning capacity‘ which states:

Because it is impairment that is being redressed, even a plaintiff who is apparently going to be able to earn as much as he could have earned if not injured or who, with retraining, on the balance of probabilities will be able to do so, is entitled to some compensation for the impairment. He is entitled to it because for the rest of his life some occupations will be closed to him and it is impossible to say that over his working life the impairment will not harm his income earning ability.

The court concluded that only a ‘modest award‘ was appropriate for the Plaintiff’s diminished capacity and awarded $20,000 for this loss.

Do you have questions about an ICBC wrist injury claim or an ICBC claim involving ‘diminished earning capacity‘ (future wage loss)?  Do you need advice from an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so, click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken (Services provided for ICBC injury claims throughout BC!)


Mistrial Declared for Opening Statement that Went "Over the Line"

June 17th, 2008

In March, 2008, Mr. Justice Cole declared a mistrial after he found that the Plaintiff’s lawyer went “over the line” in his opening statements. The judges oral reasons were released in writing today.

Negligence (fault for the accident) was admitted by the defence lawyers. The Plaintiff lawyer, in the opening address to the jury, stated that ‘the defendant must pay for breaching the rules of the road.’ and referred to the defendant as falling asleep at the wheel of his car, causing the accident‘. The court characterized the general theme of the opening comments “such as to create an atmosphere of sympathy for the Plaintiff.”

The court concluced that the Plaintiff lawyer ‘did go over the line‘ and that ordering a mistrial is the ‘only fair thing to do.’

The result of the mistrial is that the jury is dismissed and the matter has to be reset for trial on a later date. Such a result brings with it delay and expense, commonly referred to as the ‘twin evils’ in the BC civil justice system.

Reading this case made me wonder whether jurors would be inflamed by such opening statements. Personally I struggle in thinking that a reasonable jury would be inflamed to such a degree by this statement that their whole view of the case would be unjustly prejudiced.

Even the judge acknowledged that ‘no one can ever tell’ if this statement caused damage to the juries ability to fairly hear the case.

In BC it is improper for lawyers to talk to jurors after the fact and poll them about their decision.  Specifically, in 1967 the BC Court of Appeal stated that lawyers who poll jurors after verdict would be in contempt of court.  This has been severely critisized by many including fellow blogger and former BC Supreme Court judge John Bouck.

Since the jurors can’t be polled I thought I’d ask my readers. What do you think? If you were sitting on a jury involving an ICBC injury claim, and the plaintiff’s lawyer told you that the Defendant fell asleep at the wheel and ‘must pay for breaching the rules of the road’ would your judgment be compromised? Would your ability to fairly value the plaintiff’s injuries be compromised? Would you feel a need to punish the defendant by awarding the Plaintiff an overly generous amount of compensation?

Please feel free to leave comments or e-mail me privately.

Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC injury claim? If so click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken (services provided for ICBC injury claims throughout BC!)