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 claim’

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.


ICBC Claims, Expert Evidence and Advocacy

October 9th, 2008

If you are involved in an ICBC injury claim you likely know that ICBC may have the right to send you to a doctor of their choosing.   They can do this in one of 2 ways, either pursuant to the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation which allows ICBC to set up an Independent Medical Exam for any ‘insured’ seeking no-fault benefits, or under the Supreme Court Rules where the Defendant has the right to ‘balance the playing field’ by obtaining an independent medical exam in many circumstances.

Experts hired in such a situation can play a significant role in an ICBC claim.  Much weight can be attached to what an expert has to say with issues such as causes of injuries, prognosis, reasonable treatments and future disability.  Appreciating this it is important for an expert to present any opinion in a fair and balanced way.  However, expert witnesses sometimes cross the line and advocate for the side that hired them.

Reasons for judgement were released today concluding that the orthopaedic surgeon hired by the Defence in a BC auto-injury case acted as an advocate.

In this case the Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a 2003 collision.  The crash was significant.  The at fault driver was speeding, went through a stop sign and hit another vehicle head-on.

Just over $200,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s injuries and losses.  In reaching this decision Madam Justice Martinson made the following findings in rejecting the evidence of the orthopaedic surgeon hired by the Defendant to assess the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[52] In my view the evidence of Dr. Schweigel should be given limited weight.  He is no doubt a well-qualified orthopaedic surgeon.  However, his opinion with respect to causation is based to a large extent on incorrect and incomplete information.  His factual conclusions are, for the most part, inconsistent with the findings of fact made by the Court.

[53] Dr. Schweigel says in his report that (the Plaintiff) told him he had low back pain right after the accident.  He rejected that statement and focused on the fact that (the Plaintiff) had not complained to his doctor about low back pain until several months later.  For whatever reason, he did not have, then or later, the insurance adjuster’s notes showing that he had complained about low back pain shortly after the accident.

[54] In offering his opinion he downplayed the severity of the impact, though he agreed in cross-examination that the more severe a collision, the more likely is injury to the spine.  He did not comment on the fact that (the Plaintiff’s) activities were curtailed after the accident but not before.

[55] He drew inferences from the brief clinical notes of Dr. Alderson that supported the conclusion that the pre-existing low back pain was significant.  When summarizing the May 17th note, he put “less pain” when the note actually says “woke up in far less pain and is much more functional, bending without pain.”

[56] He was prepared to conclude, on very limited evidence, that the post accident incidents that were at issue likely caused the activation of the pre-existing condition.

[57] As I see it, Dr. Schweigel acted as an advocate for the defendants, not an expert whose sole purpose is to assist the Court.  He highlighted all matters that would support the defence position and either downplayed or ignored those that would support the position of (the Plaintiff).


$30,000 Pain and Suffering awarded for "mild to moderate soft tissue injuries"

August 28th, 2008

Blogging from Kelowna again (and a lot less rainy here than Victoria when I left this am)…

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $43,000 in damages as a result of a 2005 BC motor vehicle accident.

For the purpose of researching non-pecuniary damages, the key findings of fact were made starting at paragraph 132 of the judgement which I reproduce below. Of particular interest is the judge’s 25% reduction of non-pecuniary damages for the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’ set out at paragraph 134:

[132] I conclude that the plaintiff suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury the symptoms of which were exacerbated by his very heavy work duties, his financial worries, and the poor health of his wife and daughter. The combination resulted in a lack of motivation to adequately do the exercises and instead, a reliance on medications, which his wife supplied. On the evidence before me, I find that the injuries to his neck and upper back had more or less resolved within ten to twelve months after the accident with occasional flare-ups. It is probable that even with appropriate exercising, these symptoms would have persisted that long because he was obliged to return to work too early.

[133] There has been a substantial impact on his enjoyment of life and I am satisfied that he is not able to participate in family activities as much as he could before, including doing the Grouse Grind and fishing with his daughter. His ability to perform previously done housework has also been affected, although I am not satisfied on the evidence of the extent of gardening/lawn mowing help required. The daughter’s boyfriend could have been called as a witness and the failure to do so or explain his absence rightly allows the defence to suggest that I should draw an adverse inference, and I do so. Nevertheless, I accept that the plaintiff is not as able to bend or stoop to paint or do repairs to the house and his car. Further, in part because of his pain, his marital relations with his wife have been affected.

[134] Taking all that into consideration I find that the appropriate compensation for his non-pecuniary loss is $40,000, but this amount must be reduced because of what I find has been a significant failure on his part to mitigate his injuries. He has failed to abide by the doctors’ and physiotherapist’s advice to engage in an appropriate exercise program. Although he said that he could not afford the program, he admitted that he had not even taken any steps to enquire as to the cost. Further, the plaintiff has not diligently performed the exercises that can be done at home and stops at the first sign of pain. He relied and relies too heavily on painkillers when, in the opinion of the medical experts, he should be properly exercising. The defendants are not obliged to compensate a plaintiff who fails to take proper steps to reduce the extent of the loss. Accordingly, I would reduce the non-pecuniary damages as well as some other heads of damages by 25% to reflect this failure and set them at $30,000.


$50,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries with Chronic Pain

August 20th, 2008

Note: The case discussed in the below entry was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal with respect to the Diminished Earning Capacity Award on March 18, 2010.  You can read my post on the BCCA’s decision by clicking here.

Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff for injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 car accident.

The Plaintiff was driving her daughter to pre-school when her vehicle was rear-ended. The impact was ‘sudden and relatively severe‘ and caused enough damage to render the Plaintiff’s vehicle a write-off.

The court heard from a variety of medical ‘expert witnesses’ and placed the most weight on the Plaintiff’s GP. The court found that the Plaintiff ‘now has chronic pain with her soft tissue injuries and that pain and discomfort, in varying levels depending on activity level, will continue indefenately.’ The court also found that the Plaintiff suffers from ‘anxiety associated witht he accident’ and that ‘(she) is at risk of premature arthritis in her cervical spine and left shoulder‘.

In awarding $50,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the court noted that:

[14] The injuries have affected the plaintiff’s family relationships. She is not able to participate in normal physical family and recreational activities to the same extent as before the accident. She cannot perform housework or garden to the same extent. She presents as a perfectionist and is clearly bothered by these restrictions on activities that she enjoys and takes pride in.

[15] (The Plaintiff) is also anxious and, perhaps, somewhat depressed; her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected, and she is naturally concerned and upset that her children now turn more naturally to their father for physical support and comfort. In addition to the ongoing pain and discomfort that restricts general activities, these factors also affect enjoyment of life. I take them into account in determining a fit award for non-pecuniary loss.

The most interesting part of this judgement for me was the court’s discussion of loss of earning capacity. Here the court found that the Plaintiff does have permanent injuries but that these will have ‘slight, if any, actual impact on her future earnings‘.

What interested me was the courts comments trying to reconcile to seemingly opposed lines of authority from the BC Court of Appeal addressing loss of future earnings. When one asks for an award for ‘loss of future income’ or ‘loss of earning capacity’ one has to prove this loss. There are various ways of doing this at trial.

Here the Plaintiff advanced a claim of loss of earning capacity using the ‘capital asset approach‘ as set out by our Court of Appeal in Pallos v. ICBC. The Defence lawyer argued that a subsequent case (Steward v. Berezan) overruled the law as set out in Pallos.

After listening to this debate the court noted that:

44] With respect, it is not clear, as I understand Steward, how one gets to the capital asset approach without first proving a substantial possibility of future income loss in relation to the plaintiff’s position at the time of trial. I cannot reconcile that approach with the factors first listed in Brown, later summarized in Palmer, and finally approved in Pallos in the passages set out earlier in my reasons.

[45] It would be helpful if the Court of Appeal has an opportunity to address these issues fully. I observe that the Court of Appeal since held in one decision that Steward turned on its facts and did not create any new principle of law. The court also affirmed Parypa in the same decision. See Djukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, at paras. 14 and 15.

Here the court held that “there is no reference in Steward to Pallos. Steward, in my view, does not over rule Pallos‘.

Mr. Justice Macaulay went on to reconcile the apparent conflict between these cases by concluding that Steward should be limited to its own ‘narrow factual circumstances‘ and awarding the Plaintiff damages based on the less stingent ‘capital asset approach‘.


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.


Car Accidents, Post Trauma Headaches and ICBC Claims

July 1st, 2008

Short clear reasons for judgment were released by Mr. Justice Savage of the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff compensation for car accident related headaches.

This is one of the crispest judgements I have read in quite some time.  I recommend reading the full judgment for anyone advancing an ICBC pain and suffering claim for headaches as the issues are succinct in this case and it does not get bogged down in legalese.

The Plaintiff was injured when she was 4 years old.    She was in a proper infant car seat in her family van when it was broadsided by the defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  The accident was in 2002 and the claim finally went to trial in 2008.  For those of you not well versed in ICBC injury claims I should point out that there is nothing unusual about this timeline.  In infant injury claims in BC, most limitation periods are delayed until the infant’s 19th birthday.  One of the reasons for this is because doctors often can’t give a prognosis for an infant’s injuries until they reach adulthood.

In this case most of the Plaintiff’s injuries were not disputed.  She suffered from a broken tooth, some injury to her legs which healed in a few months, soft tissue injuries to her neck and back which took about one year to heal.

What was at issue was headaches.  The Plaintiff claimed that she had on-going headaches over 5 years after the accident and that these were caused by the accident.  The defendant said there are other potential causes for the headaches such as migraines or other trauma.  It is worth pointing out that such a ‘causation’ argument is typical in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.  Usually the court hears competing theories about the extent of injury and the cause of injury.  (click here to see an example of just how far apart 2 sides can be in an ICBC injury case involving headaches)

The court accpeted that the ongoing headaches were indeed caused by the accident and summarized the accident related injuries as follows: “very mild injuries post-accident that have completely resolved with ongoing significant but somewhat sporadic headaches continuing requiring the occasional use of Tylenol.”

Mr. Justice Savage noted that the headaches have persisted for some six years althogh there has been some improvement.  He went on to value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for these headaches at $35,000.


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!)


Court "Costs" and Your ICBC Injury Claim

June 11th, 2008

Reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff in a BC personal injury claim “costs” despite the fact that the Plaintiff’s award was within the small claims court jurisdiction.

This case gave me a good opportunity to write a little bit about the “costs’ consequences of bringing ICBC claims to trial and I intend to make this the first of several blog entries on this topic.

If you make an ICBC claim in BC Supreme Court and win (winning meaning you obtain a judgment in your favour greater than an ICBC formal settlement offer) you are generally entitled to ‘costs’ in addition to your award of damages.

For example, if a plaintiff with soft tissue injuries brings an ICBC claim to trial and is awarded $30,000 and ICBC’s formal settlement offer was $10,000, the Plaintiff would be entitled to “Costs” in addition to the $30,000 (barring any unusual developments at trial).

The purpose of awarding the winner Costs is to compensate them for having to go through the formal court process to get what is fair. This recognzes the fact that there are legal fees involved in bringing most ICBC claims to trial and one of the purposes of Costs is to off-set these to an extent.

Costs cover 2 different items, the first being disbursements (meaning the actual out of pocket costs of preparing a lawsuit for trial such as court filing fees and doctor’s fees in preparing medical reports) and the second being Tarriff costs – meaning compensation for many of the acutal steps in bringing a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court.

The Costs consequences after a BC Supreme Court Trial could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars and this is often the case in many ICBC claims.

Costs are discussed in Rule 57 of the BC Supreme Court Rules and this rule is worth reviewing for anyone bringing an ICBC claim to trial in the BC Supreme Court. The winner does not always get their costs, however. One of the situations when a winner may not get their costs is when they are awarded an amount of money that was in the small claims court jurisdiction ($25,000 or less).

Rule 57(10) states that “A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.”

As a result of this sub-rule, people who bring an ICBC claim to trial in BC Supreme Court and are awarded less than $25,000, may be disentitled to their Tariff Costs unless they can show ‘sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court.”

In this weeks judgement the court agreed that despite the fact that the Plaintiff was awarded $12,290 in damages (an award well within the small claims court jurisdiction), the Plaintiff did have sufficient reason to bring the proceedings in Supreme Court.

In reaching this decision the court referred to a leading BC Court of Appeal Case where it was held that “a Plaintiff does not have an on-going obligation to assess the quantum (value) of a claim and that the point in time for a consideration of whether a plaintiff had a sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court is the time of the initiation of the action.

The lawyer for the Plaintiff argued that when the lawsuit was started they were not in a position to finalize their valuation of this claim becase they did nothave a final medical report commenting on the plaintiff’s injuries. Also that since the Defendant took an LVI (low velocity impact) position it was important to sue in Supreme Court to have an examination for discovery of the Defendant (a procedure not available in small claims court).

For those and other reasons the court agreed and awarded the Plaintiff her Tariff Costs.

Do you have questions about an ICBC Claim, or BC Court Costs that you wish to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken.


Cyclist 75% At Fault for Intersection Crash for "Riding With No Reflection"

June 7th, 2008

 

NOTE: This case was overtunred on appeal on February 19, 2009, see my blog post of February 19 to read about this.

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court determining fault for a 2004 motor vehicle collision which occurred in Vancouver, BC involving a BMW and a bicyclist.

The collision happened at the intersetion of Main Street and East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, BC.  The Plaintiff cyclist was attempting to go through the intersection when the Defendant motorist turned left and collided with him.  The light was green and the cyclist did enter the intersection “in accordance with traffic signals” when the Defendant turned into him (in other words, on a green light).  The impact was significant as the Plaintiff “hit the passenger window of the car with enough force to smash the glass and he suffered personal injuries“. 

Who was at fault for this intersection crash was the issue to be decided at trial.  The trial proceeded by way of ‘summary trial’ pursuant to Rule 18-A of the BC Supreme Court Rules.  For those not familiar with ‘summary trials’ they are commonly referred to as ‘paper-trials’ because no witnesses testify in court, rather the lawyers present their cases through sworn affidavit evidence.  There has been much criticism of this rule over the years and BC personal injury lawyers seldom use this rule to advance ICBC claims to trial.

This case is interesting for Madam Justice Griffin’s analysis in determining fault.  The 5 main factors she considered in reaching her conclusion were

1.  The speed of the car

2.  The speed of the bicycle

3.  The light conditions

4.  The location of the bicyle whent he car began its left turn

5.  The response time of the bicycle rider

The key findings of fact made at trial were that “the Plaintiff was not speeding and was properly riding his bicycle in the correct lane, the curb lane, in accordance with the traffic signals.  It is undisputed that (the bicyclist) was in breach of the Motor Vehicle Act by failing to have a headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle….Given that (the bicyclist) had no headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle, (he) was also negligent in wearing dark clothing insread of bright and reflective clothing…(he) had no opportunity to avoid the collision.  Even though the BMW was clearly poised to mnake a left turn and had its left turn signal activated, there was no reason for (him) to expect that the BMW would turn in front of him.  He would have seen that it had given way to other traffic.”

Madam Justice Griffin concluded that “the bicyclist presented an immediate hazard when the BMW began to turn the vehicle to the left…..(the driver of the BMW) should have considered (the bicylcist) to be an immediate hazard and should not have proceeded with the turn until (the bicyclist) was safely through the intersection.  As such (the driver of the BMW) was negligent.”

When both parties are at fault for a collision BC courts must determine the degrees of fault as between them.  This is required by the BC Negligence Act.  Madam Justice Griffin ruled that the Plaintiff was 75% at fault for the accident and the motorist was 25% at fault.  What this means is that the Plaintiff would only be entitled to recover 25% of the value of his injuries from ICBC in his tort claim.

In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Griffen ruled that

[62]            The streets of Vancouver are shared by drivers and cyclists.  Those who use the streets must anticipate each other and the limitations inherent in each other’s response time and visibility. 

[63]            The plaintiff took a very big risk by riding his bicycle in the dark without any form of illumination or reflection.  He ought to have appreciated the difficulty that drivers of motor vehicles have in seeing fast-moving dark objects.  While he may have counted on the street lights to illuminate him, he was extremely careless and showed little concern for safety.

[64]            In deciding to make a left turn across the intersection, Mr. Schwartz should have appreciated the need to be vigilant for the potential of a cyclist approaching in the curb lane. 

[65]            In conclusion, I apportion fault for the accident 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendant.

This case is a difficult precedent for any BC cyclist injured in a BC car crash who either fails to wear reflective clothing or fails to have a headlamp or reflectors on their bicylce.  It may be troubling to know that a cyclist can be found largely at fault for a collision even though he is “not speeding” “riding in the correct lane and in accordance with traffic signals”  who has “no opportunity to avoid the collision” and have “no reason to expect (a car )to turn in front of him“.

What is striking about this case is the degree of fault attibuted to the cyclist despite all the above findings.  This case serves as a stark reminder that if a cyclist fails to wear refelctive clothing or a headlamp, it may not only increase the risk of collision, but can drastically reduce the settlement value of an ICBC claim following a collision.

If you are an injured cyclist or pedestrian in a BC car crash and at the time did not have ‘any form of illumination’ you should be prepared to address the results of this case in your claim settlement negotiations with ICBC.

Do you have questions about this case, or about a BC crash involving a cyclist or pedestiran, or the issue of fault in an ICBC claim?  Are you looking for a free consultation with an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so, click here to arrange your free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.