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 ‘Frequency of Medical Appointments’

From Medical Marijuana to Surveillance and More

March 1st, 2013

As readers of this blog know, I often extract one point of interest when creating case summaries and when more than one point is noteworthy I create multiple point specific posts.  I do this because it makes it easier to search archived posts by case specific topics.

Reasons for judgement were released this week with so many nuggets it would be too burdensome to address them each individually so please excuse the multi point summary.   In short this judgement showcases video surveillance successfully attacking a claim, credibility findings, comments on self-serving medical appointments, claimed care costs for medical marijuana and other points of interest.  The entire judgement is worth a read.

In this week’s case (Datoc v. Raj) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection t-bone collision.  Both motorists claimed they had a green light which simply could not be true.   The Court found that despite credibility problems with the Plaintiff his account of the collision appeared more reliable and the Defendant was found fully at fault.  The Plaintiff  claimed damages of over $450,000.  The Court rejected most of these claimed damages and in doing so illustrated the following points:

Video Surveillance Successfully Used

Video evidence was presented which documented inconsistent presentations of the Plaintiff in court versus out of court.  Mr. Justice Sigurdson provided the following comments in finding the plaintiff was “significantly exaggerating” his claims:

[103]     I was shown video surveillance evidence of the plaintiff taken over a number of days in the months shortly before the trial.  These videos showed the plaintiff getting in and out of his car, driving his car and taking photographs as a real estate photographer.  This included squatting, and holding a tripod above his head to take pictures.  He moved fluidly, in and out of the driver’s seat, apparently without discomfort.  He and his counsel acknowledge a dramatic difference between his presentation on the video and his presentation in court.  The plaintiff explains the difference by saying that he is capable of doing what he does on the surveillance video only because of medical marijuana he takes in the morning and at the end of the day.  However, the plaintiff introduced no medical expert report to support this contention, only his evidence that this was the effect on him of his taking medical marijuana.  I did not find persuasive his evidence that marijuana would have the dramatic and persisting effect that he asserts.  The video surveillance showed him during different times of the day, not simply in the morning (shortly after he would have ingested a marijuana cookie), but into the afternoon as well, and his condition appeared to be no different no matter what the time of day.

[104]     Generally, surveillance evidence can be relatively unhelpful to assess the condition of plaintiffs as to whether they are performing activities without pain, or whether their ability to perform activities is because of use of pain medication, or stoicism, or other factors.  However, the difference in this case between the manner in which the plaintiff presented himself in court and how he was shown on the surveillance video was dramatic.  I did not find the plaintiff’s explanation persuasive that the dramatic difference was from his taking marijuana while working, and not taking it while in court…

[106]     I have concluded, based on a consideration of all of the evidence, that the plaintiff is significantly exaggerating the extent of his injuries.

Medical Marijuana

The Plaintiff claimed damages of $20,000 for the cost of medical marijuana.  While damages for medical marijuana are not unprecedented in British Columbia, a common analysis involves a plaintiff’s recreational interest in marijuana.  The defendant pursued such an analysis with apparent success.  In rejecting these claimed damages the Court provided the following analysis:

[60]         On cross-examination, the plaintiff was asked about his posting on the internet under the name Nismo200sx in light of his comment that he had only taken marijuana once or twice before.  Although those postings suggested an interest in marijuana beyond simply as a treatment for his back pain, the plaintiff denied any recreational interest in marijuana…

[112]     The plaintiff said that prior to his prescription for medical marijuana, he tried marijuana once or twice, but he did not care for it.  However, there is evidence to suggest the plaintiff’s interest in marijuana is more than purely for medical treatment purposes.  His internet postings suggest that.  Given my concerns about the reliability of the plaintiff’s evidence, and in the absence of expert evidence, I am not persuaded that medical marijuana is required by the plaintiff to treat his injuries…

[120]     The plaintiff seeks future care costs for medical marijuana of $200 per month or $2,400 a year for a suggested award of $20,000.  The evidence does not support the claim that medical marijuana is reasonably necessary: see Milina v. Bartsch (1985), 49 B.C.L.R. (2d) 33 (S.C.).  As such, I award nothing for the cost of future care.

Frequency of Doctor Visits

The last point of interest deals with the Plaintiff’s frequency of doctor’s visits  I have canvassed this topic previously.  In this week’s case the Plaintiff pointed to having 128 doctor visits as supporting his claim for injury.  The Court, however, found that there was no reasonable justification for this and instead came to the conclusion that the Plaintiff was simply papering his claim.  The following observation was made by Justice Sigurdson:

 [65]         Up to June 2012, the plaintiff saw Dr. Irene Chan, a general practitioner, 128 times for his injuries.  From July 8, 2008 to June 2012, the complaints he made to her were virtually the same on each occasion.  Dr. Chen was not called as an expert witness but testified simply with respect to some of the observations she made…

[107]     It is difficult to know what to make of the fact that the plaintiff attended his general practitioner for 128 visits and appears to have repeated his symptoms almost without change on each visit.  He explained in his testimony that he went to his doctor to report changes in his condition; however his doctor noted each of his attendances with the plaintiff reporting no changes.  The evidence left me with the impression that the plaintiff was creating a record of his injuries for his claim as there appears to be no reasonable medical justification for the number of attendances before his family doctor.  Rather than supporting his credibility, this evidence of the numerous attendances on his family doctor left me with the opposite impression.

 


A Sensible Take on Gaps in Clinical Records

April 24th, 2012

In the ICBC Claim process the number of medical visits following a collision are often scrutinized.  If there is a substantial gap in treatment an argument can be made that the symptoms are recovered and compensation should be limited accordingly.  Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, dealing with such an argument.

In the recent case (Noon v. Lawlor) the Plaintiff suffered from a chronic whiplash injury following a 2009 collision.  ICBC argued that a “large time gap in which the Plaintiff did not seek any medical treatment” was consistent with injury recovery.  Mr. Justice Halfyard rejected this absolute position and provided the following sensible analysis:

[194] A plaintiff’s failure to seek medical attention for relatively long periods of time cannot, by itself, justify the inference that the plaintiff was not experiencing the symptoms which he or she describes at trial. This is particularly so where exercise is the only “treatment” being advised by the plaintiff’s doctor. However, the circumstances in a particular case may warrant the inference that any pain symptoms that were experienced by the plaintiff during these time gaps were not continuous or frequent or alternatively, if they were, then such symptoms of pain were at a low level of intensity, perhaps not much more than discomfort. If one or other of these inferences is drawn, and if that inference is inconsistent with the plaintiff’s description of his or her symptoms at trial, then such inconsistency may adversely affect the plaintiff’s credibility.

For more judicial commentary on injury claims and frequency of medical appointments you can click here to access my archived posts.


Personal Injury Claims Are Not "Measured by the Number of Doctors Seen"

November 1st, 2011

The value of a personal injury case has little to do with the number of doctor visits a Plaintiff has.  I’ve discussed this topic previously.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, further addressing this matter.

In today’s case, (Tarzwell v. Ewashina) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  She suffered from chronic soft tissue injuries affecting her trapezius muscles and low back.   The injuries were on-going at the time of trial and the Court accepted that the symptoms would linger into the future.  Non-Pecuniary damages of $60,000 were awarded.  Prior to arriving at this assessment Mr. Justice Dley provided the following comments making it clear that the number of doctor visits does not measure the quantum of a personal injury claim:

[67] If a plaintiff’s claim was to be measured by the number of doctors seen or by the number of medical consultations attended, then that would unjustly marginalize victims such as Ms. Tarzwell. She has chosen not to burden the medical system with unnecessary visits to physicians who would give her no further advice than what she had already been provided and followed. She should not be penalized for that.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s comments to the lawyers involved in the litigation for their efficient use of Court time.  Illustrating that meaningful claims can be litigated with little Court time Mr. Justice Dley provided the following compliments:

[5] This case was presented with uncompromising efficiency. Counsel were meticulous in focusing on those matters that were actually in dispute.

[6] The evidence was concluded in a day along with an additional half day for argument.

[7] The medical evidence consisted of two reports. There was no wasted expense by tendering marginal evidence that would have done little to assist the Court.

[8] A case that takes little time to present does not mean that damages are nominal. It is the quality and substance of the evidence that matters. Style should never trump substance.

[9] If an example of proportionality needed a model case, counsel have succeeded here in illustrating how litigation can be conducted.


Why Frequent Doctor Visits Don't Increase The Value of Personal Injury Claims

September 21st, 2011

As previously discussed, frequent doctor visits in and of themselves add no value to a personal injury claim.  Seeing a doctor simply to ‘paper’ a personal injury claim really does nothing to add to the amount of compensation a claimant is entitled to receive not to mention that it creates a costly and unnecessary burden on the medical system.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that medical visits to address ‘inconsequential‘ matters with a view to assisting a personal injury claim are frowned upon.

In this week’s case (Hough v. Wyatt) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  He sued seeking over $350,000 in damages.  The Court largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claim finding that while the collision did cause some injuries these were little more than a ‘minor degree‘ of aggravation of pre-existing injuries.  Non-Pecuniary damages of $15,000 were assessed.

In the course of the judgement Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein had provided the following critical comments:

[9] Mr. Hough was a very difficult witness. He is a poor historian, which is understandable given his extensive medical history. However, he bears the burden of proof. He was argumentative, abrasive, sometimes rude, often unresponsive, and many times inconsistent in his evidence. Mr. Hough clearly demonstrates an attitude of entitlement to insurance benefits, at one point indicating he doesn’t understand the problem here, it is only insurance money. He reports everything, no matter how inconsequential, even a broken fingernail, so if there is a problem in the future, he can get compensation. The trouble for Mr. Hough is he was a medical disaster before the accident, and the defendant is not obliged to pay for all that ails him or ailed him. Mr. Hough’s pre-existing medical condition, his original position, as outlined in the evidence of Dr. Waiz, and what Mr. Hough can recall, would have manifested debilitating effects in any event, regardless of the accident. His original condition would have detrimentally affected him even absent the defendant’s negligence. The defendant is not required to compensate him for debilitating effects not caused by the accident….

[14] Dr. Waiz’s evidence is unsatisfactory on many levels, not the least of which his manner in which he managed Mr. Hough’s care with increasing doses of narcotics. His records are unreliable. He blames computer programs and computer generated forms. He has been willing to fill out reports to benefit Mr. Hough, for example, claiming all Mr. Hough’s drugs were WCB-related so Mr. Hough could be compensated, and claiming a wrist fracture was a WCB injury due to ongoing weakness and pain in his right leg. This is the same broken wrist that Mr. Hough now claims was caused by the accident for the same reason. Where it has suited Mr. Hough, Dr. Waiz has reported to WCB Mr. Hough is unable to work in any capacity. Now he was reporting to this court that, because of the accident, Mr. Hough cannot work. The concern is he is parroting what Mr. Hough wants him to say.

While it is true that serious injuries warrant higher damage awards than minor injuries and that serious injuries typically result in more medical appointments, the mere number of doctor’s visits in and of themselves do not assist in valuing a personal injury claim.  You can click here for a short discussion addressing the factors Court’s often consider when assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering) in a BC personal injury lawsuit.


ICBC Claims and Medical Treatment; How Often Should I See My Doctor?

July 8th, 2010

One common question I’m asked by people advancing ICBC injury claims is “how often should I see my doctor?“.  The short answer is “as often as necessary to properly diagnose and treat your injuries“.  Recovery should always be the main reason behind physicians visits, not litigation.

There is no magic number of times you need to see a doctor in order to be properly compensated for your injuries.  A person who sees their doctor 100 times prior to settling may receive less than a person who only receives medical attention a handful of times.  The severity and duration of injuries are some of the most important factors when valuing loss, not the number of medical treatments.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, highlighting this.

In today’s case (Co v. Watson) the Plaintiff was involved in a “T-Bone” collision in 2006.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  The trial focused on the value of the Plaintiff’s ICBC claim.   Mr. Justice Burnyeat found that the Plaintiff suffered from shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain and some sleep disturbance.  Some of the injuries improved prior to trial while other symptoms continued to bother the Plaintiff.

The Defendant argued that since the Plaintiff did not “regularly” attend to be treated by her GP that the Court should be weary of the Plaintiff’s credibility.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat rejected this argument and went on to award the Plaintiff $27,500 for her non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In addressing the topic of frequency of medical treatment the Court stated as follows:

[26]         Ms. Co did not regularly attend to be treated by Dr. Porten.  The credibility of Ms. Co was put in questions by Mr. Watson as a result.  In this regard, I adopt the following statement made in Mayenburg, supra, where Myers J. stated:

The defendants challenge the credibility of Ms. Mayenburg. They point to the limited number of times she visited physicians to complain about her pain. They also refer to the fact that she did not raise the issue of her injuries when she visited Dr. Ducholke on several occasions for other unrelated matters.

I do not accept those submissions, which have been made and rejected in several other cases: see Myers v. Leng, 2006 BCSC 1582 and Travis v. Kwon, 2009 BCSC 63. Ms. Mayenburg is to be commended for getting on with her life, rather than seeing physicians in an attempt to build a record for this litigation. Furthermore, I fail to see how a plaintiff-patient who sees a doctor for something unrelated to an accident can be faulted for not complaining about the accident-related injuries at the same time. Dr. Ducholke testified how her time with patients was limited.

In summary, Ms. Mayenburg’s complaints to her doctors were not so minimal as to cast doubt on her credibility.

(at paras. 36-38).

[27]         Taking into account the injuries suffered by Ms. Co as a result of the accident and the duration of the suffering relating to those injuries, I assess the general damages of Ms. Co at $27,500.00.