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 ‘icbc cases’

ICBC Claims and Treating Physicians

October 29th, 2008

In reasons for judgement released today Mr. Justice Holmes awarded an injured Plaintiff a total of $8,500 in damages as a result of injuries sustained in a 2005 BC car accident that occurred in 100 Mile House.

The Plaintiff was a passenger at the time.  His wife was driving.  The vehicle left the roadway and rolled onto its roof.  Liability for the accident was admitted by ICBC but the issue of damages was contested.

The Plaintiff led medical evidence that he suffered from ‘mechanical lower back pain’ amongst other injuries as a result of this crash.  He advanced a ‘significant claim of loss of earning capacity’.

The cause of the Plaintiff’s back pain was at issue at trial.  The court largely rejected the Plaintiff’s claim and found that the Plaintiff had pre-existing back pain which was exacerbated as a result of the collision.   The court found that the Plaintiff’s exacerbation ‘either resolved or significantly diminished within a few months of the accident.  The Plaintiff’s more serious complaints of back pain and spasm did not occur until months later…‘ 

The court summarized its findings at paragraph 48 as follows:

[48]            I do however accept the plaintiff did receive some injury in the motor vehicle accident of November 15, 2005.  That injury was an exacerbation of a long-standing pre-existing back injury, and he is entitled to non-pecuniary damages for the exacerbation injury which I consider was resolved within approximately a year of the November 15, 2005 motor vehicle accident.  He was restricted for a month or two following the accident in his ability to lift weights and for several months on a diminishing or sporadic basis and he was troubled by prolonged sitting or immobility.  Treatment was by continuing chiropractic and exercise.  He was able to perform his work and operate his business with minimal interference.  I assess the plaintiff’s damages at $8,500, inclusive of minimal interference with earning ability or loss of business income.

The Plaintiff did not call his treating chiropractor and his family physician to give evidence.  The court was critical of this and it appears that this was a main factor which fueled the court’s decision.  The court highlighted this fact as follows:

[37]            I conclude the plaintiff has failed to prove on a balance of probabilities the back pain he experienced after commencing the above-ground work in erecting the towers commencing in the fall of 2006 was caused or contributed to by injury he received in the motor vehicle accident of November 15, 2005.

[38]            Neither Dr. Carson, the chiropractor, nor Dr. Geerts, the family physician, gave evidence or tendered reports despite the very contentious causation issue in this action.  Dr. Carson’s records recording the plaintiff’s history and the treatment he received were highly contradictory to the plaintiff’s evidence and the explanations of the plaintiff make no sense even with allowance that he is a poor historian.

[39]            I conclude the plaintiff had an existing problem of back pain, symptomatic at the date of the motor vehicle accident, for which he was receiving chiropractic treatments prior to the subject motor vehicle accident of November 15, 2005.  I accept the motor vehicle accident exacerbated that pre-existing condition for a period of time, and the symptoms were manifested when lifting weight and by postural discomfort caused from prolonged sitting or immobility.

If you are advancing and ICBC claim and have pre-existing injuries it is a good idea to consider calling your treating doctor to give evidence to explain your pre and post accident status to the court.  Failing to do so may result in an ‘adverse inference’ where the court may conclude that your treating doctor would have given evidence damaging to your case.


Left Turn Inersection Crashes and the Law in BC

October 24th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court concerning a 2005 intersection crash that occurred in the lower mainland of BC.

The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn from Hastings onto Willingdon.  At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle coming the opposite direction on Hastings.  A collision occurred.  There were no independent witnesses to this crash.  Both the Plaintiff and Defendant testified and as can be expected their evidence differed to several facts with each blaming the other for the crash.

Madam Justice Dardi preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence over the Defendant’s finding the Defendant testified in ‘an evasive and less straightforward manner’.

The court found that the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection on a stale yellow light and at the time the Defendant entered the intersection ‘it was not safe from him to do so on a very late stage amber or red light.  He should have stopped’.  The court found the Defendant 100% responsible for this intersection crash.

In reaching this decision Madam Justice Dardi summarized the law relating to left-hand turn intersection crashes as follows:

[34]            Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [MVA], governs the right-of-way in situations where a driver is making a left turn:

When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

[35]            An immediate hazard exists if the oncoming vehicle must make a sudden or violent avoiding action to prevent a collision: Aerabi-Boosheri v. Retallick, [1996] B.C.J. No. 143 at para. 8.

[36]            Section 128 of the MVA governs the duties of drivers when a traffic light turns yellow.  It states, as far as is relevant, as follows:

128      (1)        When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a)        the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety…

[37]            Who has the statutory right-of-way is informative; however, it does not determine liability in an accident.  Drivers with the statutory right-of-way must still exercise caution to avoid accidents where possible.  In Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 450, Cartwright J. states at paras. 46-47:

[46]      The duty of a driver having the statutory right-of-way has been discussed in many cases.  In my opinion it is stated briefly and accurately in the following passage in the judgment of Aylesworth J.A., concurred in by Robertson C.J.O., in Woodward v. Harris, [1951] O.W.N. 221 at p. 223: “Authority is not required in support of the principle that a driver entering an intersection, even although he has the right of way, is bound to act so as to avoid a collision if reasonable care on his part will prevent it.  To put it another way: he ought not to exercise his right of way if the circumstances are such that the result of his so doing will be a collision which he reasonably should have foreseen and avoided.”

[47]      While the judgment of the Court of Appeal in that case was set aside and a new trial ordered [[1952] 1 D.L.R. 82] there is nothing said in the judgments delivered in this Court to throw any doubt on the accuracy of the statement quoted.

The Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries.  The court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries at paragraph 57 as follows:

[57]            Dr. Steinson was an impressive witness.  I accept his opinion that the plaintiff has developed a myofascial pain syndrome in his neck and trapezius as a consequence of the injury in the motor vehicle accident.  I also find that the episodic pain that the plaintiff continues to experience is mild to moderate.  Dr. Steinson’s prognosis for the plaintiff is guarded.  Based on the medical evidence, the likelihood is that the plaintiff’s symptoms will continue to improve over the next few years although there is a possibility that his episodic pain may persist further into the future

The court awarded the following damages:

(1)        Non-pecuniary loss $30,000;

(2)        Loss of future earning capacity $20,000;

(3)        Cost of future care $2,000; and

(4)        Special damages $500.


Rule 37B and ICBC – J. Boyd Considers fact Defendant Insured by ICBC

October 23rd, 2008

As you may know Rule 37-B is the new BC rule dealing with formal settlements and costs consequences in the BC Supreme Court.  (to find my previous posts on this case search this cite for ’37B’).

This new rule will take some time to work itself out.  There are already conflicting reasons for judgement addressing whether it is appropriate to look at whether the Defendant is insured when considering costs consequences.

Last week J. Hinkson refused to consider the insurance status of a defendant when deciding whether to award ‘double costs’ after trial.

Reasons for judgement were released today considering the fact that the defendants were ‘represented by ICBC’ when weighing the ‘financial circumstances’ of the parties.

In addition to being the first precedent that has looked at the insurance status of the defendant as a relevant consideration, this case is interesting because it is the first to trigger ‘double costs’ even though a matter settled before judgement.

In this case the Plaintiff alleged a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury after a BC car accident.  She sued and made a formal offer to settle for $500,000 which expired at the start of trial.  The case settled on the 11th day of trial when the defendant’s offered to settle for $1 Million ‘plus assessable costs and disbursements’ less advances paid.  The Plaintiff’s accepted this offer.

The parties could not agree on the costs implications of the settlement were.  The Plaintiff asked for double costs because the Plaintiff’s reasonable settlement offer (which complied with Rule 37B) was rejected and the Plaintiff had to incur significant expense in running 11 days of trial prior to achieving settlement.

The court agreed the Plaintiff was entitled to double costs in these circumstances.  The key finding being made at paragraph 42 which I set out below:

  In the case at bar, on a review of the Rule and the authorities, I conclude that the plaintiff is indeed entitled to double costs from the date of the August 12th offer of settlement forward.  Since the defendants ultimately settled for an amount which was double the plaintiff’s original pre-trial offer, it is clear in my view that her original offer to settle “…was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted”.  Certainly the terms offered in August were far more advantageous to the defendants than the ultimate amount represented by the settlement agreement.  It is also clear that there is a substantial disparity in financial circumstances between the parties.  The defendants, represented by ICBC, had substantially greater resources to finance a trial than the individual plaintiff.  Had the defendants accepted the plaintiff’s initial reasonable offer, the plaintiff would not have had to incur the significant costs associated with nearly two weeks of trial

 


"On the Road Again…" ICBC claims and Litigation Privilege

July 21st, 2008

As an ICBC claims lawyer I find myself frequently traveling throughout BC representing clients involved in ICBC claims. This week I’m back in one of my favourite destinations (particularly this time of year), sunny Kelowna, BC. The lake, the heat, what’s not to love?

I try to minimize the amount that travel interferes with business as usual, but despite my best efforts the responsibilities of life on the road do get in the way, so here is the ‘travel version’ of my reporting on recent ICBC claims…

Litigation Privilege. An ICBC claims lawyer representing his/her clients may come into the possession of privileged information. One of the most common types of privilege claimed over evidence by ICBC claims lawyers is the medico-legal report.

When a lawyer obtains a report providing an opinion as to the extent of injury caused in a BC car accident that report may very well be privileged and not disclosed to ICBC. The problem is, oftentimes a privately paid report authored by an independent physician or other hired expert may provide useful rehabilitation advice for a client. So the question is, can such a report be disclosed to the client’s treating physician to better aid in rehabilitation without waiving legal privilege and forcing disclosure to ICBC? A judgement released today seems to say that this can in fact be done.

In this case the Plaintiff had 2 claims, the first being the ‘tort claim’ meaning the claim against the motorist who injured the Plaintiff (who happens to be insured by ICBC) and a ‘part 7 claim’ meaning a claim against ICBC directly for the enforcement of any ‘no fault benefits’ that may be owing as a result of the same BC car accident.

The Plaintiff’s lawyer obtained a report that made some rehabilitation recommendations. This report was shared with the Plaintiff’s treating physician who adopted some of the recommended treatments. The ICBC defence lawyer argued that this disclosure ‘waived’ the claim for privilege. The Plaintiff lawyer disagreed. The ICBC defence lawyer made a motion asking the BC Supreme Court to order that the privately hired report be handed over to ICBC. Master Caldwell of the BC Supreme Court dismissed the motion stating that:

I am unaware of any authority which would dictate that reports which are prepared for purposes of litigation but which are provided to an individuals GP for treatment purposes lose the protection of privilege. No such authority was provided to me.

This is a great result for Plaintiff’s involved in ICBC claims and is certainly must reading for an ICBC claims Plaintiff lawyer who wishes to share a private report with a client’s treating doctor for treatment purposes.


$75,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Headaches and Chronic Pain

July 18th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just under $150,000 damages in total as a result of two ICBC claims.

One thing I’ve been meaning to point out for some time on this blog is that in BC tort claims (which include car accident claims), ICBC is almost never named as a party to the lawsuit. There are a few circumstances when it is appropriate to name ICBC directly but these are few and far between. It is a safe bet that if a case goes to court in BC involving a BC car accident it is more often than not an ICBC claim. I know that this case involves ICBC (despite them not being named as a party) because the defence lawyer is an ICBC in house lawyer from Kamloops. When you are looking at precedents to help you value your ICBC case to determine what a fair settlement, you should know that most any BC car accident case serves as a valuable precedent because even if ICBC is not mentioned or is not the insurer in any given case, each BC case serves as an example of how our courts value injuries in BC.

Getting back to the case – here the Plaintiff was injured in 2 car accidents for which others were at fault. The first in 1998, the second in 2004. In the first accident the Plaintiff was a passenger in a pick-up truck involved in a roll-over accident. In the second the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was T-boned. Both crashes were significant and resulted in injuries.

This case is a good example of how complex chronic pain ICBC claims can be when they head to trial. In this case the court heard from over 10 lay witnesses who could comment on their observations of the Plaintiff’s injuries (or lack thereof by the witnesses called by the ICBC defence lawyer). The court also had access to medical evidence from over 6 doctors and other specialists.

The Plaintiff presented a case of chronic pain affecting every single aspect of her life. The defence case was one of injury which significantly improved after 2 years.

The court concluded that, although the Plaintiff ‘exaggerated her claim to some extent‘ she ‘has suffered to some degree from headaches and chronic pain over the past 10 years, and will continue to suffer these in the future, over some limited period of time. Some of her complaints are psychosomatic and she may benefit from counselling‘.

The court awarded damages as follows:

The plaintiff shall recover damages as follows:

general damages: $75,000

past income loss: $680

cost of future care: $4,271.72

diminished future earning capacity: $60,000

special damages: $7,753.60

In doing so the court recited some good quotes from previous BC judgements addressing the assessment of damages. These precedents are worth knowing for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim. Particularly the court referred to a great BC Court of Appeal case summarizing the principles used in the assessment of damages in personal injuries, the key quote being:

The most basic of those principles is that a plaintiff is entitled to be put into the position he would have been in but for the accident so far as money can do that. An award for loss of earning capacity is based on the recognition that a plaintiff’s capacity to earn income is an asset which has been taken away. Where a plaintiff’s permanent injury limits him in his capacity to perform certain activities and consequently impairs his income earning capacity, he is entitled to compensation. What is being compensated is not lost projected future earnings but the loss or impairment of earning capacity as a capital asset. In some cases, projections from past earnings may be a useful factor to consider in valuing the loss but past earnings are not the only factor to consider.

Because damage awards are made as lump sums, an award for loss of future earning capacity must deal to some extent with the unknowable. The standard of proof to be applied when evaluating hypothetical events that may affect an award is simple probability, not the balance of probabilities. Possibilities and probabilities, chances, opportunities, and risks must all be considered, so long as they are a real and substantial possibility and not mere speculation. These possibilities are to be given weight according to the percentage chance they would have happened or will happen.

The trial judge’s task is to assess the loss on a judgmental basis, taking into consideration all the relevant factors arising from the evidence … [The factors] include:

[1] whether the plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;

[2] whether the plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers;

[3] whether the plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to him, had he not been injured; and

[4] whether the plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.

The task of the court is to assess damages, not to calculate them according to some mathematical formula. Once impairment of a plaintiff’s earning capacity as a capital asset has been established, that impairment must be valued. The valuation may involve a comparison of the likely future of the plaintiff if the accident had not happened with the plaintiff’s likely future after the accident has happened. As a starting point, a trial judge may determine the present value of the difference between the amounts earned under those two scenarios. But if this is done, it is not to be the end of the inquiry. The overall fairness and reasonableness of the award must be considered taking into account all the evidence.

The court then did a great job of summarizing the two approaches when addressing future wage loss and ICBC claims, summarizing the law as follows:

There are two methods of assessment under this head of damages, although both have the same outcome. The court can either use the “real possibility” approach, and compare the plaintiff’s likely earnings, had she not been injured, with the income she likely now earns, factoring in the positive and negative contingencies; or the court can value the loss of earning capacity as a capital asset (as Finch J.A., as he then was, suggested in Pallos v. ICBC (1995), 100 B.C.L.R. (2d) 260 (C.A.)).