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 settlement’

More on Rule 66, Rule 37B, ICBC Claims and Costs

May 19th, 2009

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with 2 issues of interest to me, Costs consequences under Rule 66 and Rule 37B.

In today’s case (Schnare v. Roberts) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff sued for damages under Rule 66.  The Plaintiff made a formal offer of settlement and ICBC did not accept it.  The Plaintiff proceeded to trial and the verdict more than doubled the Plaintiff’s settlement offer.  (click here to read my previous post regarding the trial judgment).

Today’s judgment dealt with the costs consequences.  ICBC argued that the Plaintiff should be limited to costs under Rule 66 (which are capped at an amount less than regular Tariff costs under the BC Supreme Court Rules) because the lawsuit was brought initially under Rule 66.  Madam Justice Adair disagreed with ICBC’s submission and noted that since the trial went beyond the Rule 66 2 day limit that constituted ‘special circumstances’ which permitted the court to order costs outside of the Rule 66 costs.  Madam Justice Adair reasoned as follows:

[13]        Sub-rules (29) and (29.1) of Rule 66 provide (italics added):

(29)      Unless the court orders otherwise or the parties consent, and subject to Rule 57 (10), the amount of costs, exclusive of disbursements, to which a party is entitled is as follows:

(a)   if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is one day or less, $5 000;

(b)   if the time spent on the hearing of the trial is more than one day, $6 600.

(29.1)   In exercising its discretion under subrule (29), the court may consider a settlement offer delivered in accordance with Rule 37 or 37A whether or not other special circumstances exist.

Rules 37 and 37A have been repealed and replaced with Rule 37B.

[14]        In my view, Ms. Schnare’s case was not the type of case contemplated by Rule 66.  By October 2008, the parties themselves realized that two days would not be sufficient for trial.  Even a more generous estimate of three days turned out to be insufficient to deal with the evidence on the relevant issues in the case and with submissions (including submissions on the admissibility of documentary evidence).  Although court adjourned somewhat early in the afternoon on January 28, 2009, it sat late on January 29, 2009, to ensure that a witness’ evidence could be completed.  I did not consider counsel were inefficient in their use of time.  I am satisfied that the length of the trial itself constitutes “special circumstances” in this case.  See Kailey v. Kellner, 2008 BCSC 224, 56 C.P.C. (6th) 40, where, in comparable circumstances, Mr. Justice Parrett also found the length the trial constituted “special circumstances” justifying a departure from the fixed costs under Rule 66(29), and awarded costs on Scale B.

[15]        In my opinion, the appropriate order respecting costs (before considering matters under Rule 37B) was and is that the plaintiff should recover her costs on Scale B of Appendix B.

The second issue worth noting were the costs consequences under Rule 37B.  The Plaintiff argued that they should be awarded double costs from the date of their formal settlement offer onward.    Madam Justice agreed and engaged in the below analysis and in doing so made some critical comments about an expert physician (Dr. McPherson) who ‘was very closely tied to ICBC…for over a decade‘ in the defence of personal injury claims:

19]        Should the plaintiff’s January 26, 2009 offer have been accepted, and the costs of the trial avoided?  Analysis of this question is not to be based on hindsight once the final result is known, as noted in Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, 63 C.P.C. (6th) 291, at para. 24.  Nevertheless, in my view, the defendants should have given that offer much more serious consideration when looking at the risks of going to trial. 

[20]        The defendants’ defence to Ms. Schnare’s claims for substantial damages rested primarily on the shoulders of their expert, Dr. McPherson, the only defence witness.  However, there were serious risks in that strategy.  Dr. McPherson was very closely tied to ICBC, and had been for over a decade.  This was not a secret, and had been the subject of media reports, which were used to cross-examine Dr. McPherson.  As counsel for the defendants must have appreciated, these ties made an issue of Dr. McPherson’s impartiality and credibility, and impaired his value as a expert.  Dr. McPherson’s evidence, unlike that of Dr. Van Rijn and Mr. McLean, did nothing to explain Ms. Schnare’s continuing symptoms and physical difficulties, and provided little assistance to the court.  His rejection of the possibility that there could be movement of Ms. Schnare’s sacroiliac joints led inevitably to his conclusion that her complaints could not be accident-related, and to speculate that Ms. Schnare possibly had a condition that Dr. McPherson conceded was extremely rare.  As I noted in my reasons, Dr. McPherson was unhelpfully dismissive of opinions other than his own.  In my view, the defendants’ reliance on Dr. McPherson’s opinions to defend against Ms. Schnare’s claims was unreasonable in face of the plaintiff’s eve-of-trial offer to settle.  The offer represented a very substantial discount from the amounts Ms. Schnare sought at trial.  A more reasonable assessment of the potential risk that Dr. McPherson’s opinions would be unpersuasive (as I found them) should have led the defendants to accept Ms. Schnare’s last offer, in which case the costs of the trial would have been avoided.  This factor supports the plaintiff.

[21]        The final damages awarded to Ms. Schnare were more than twice the amount of Ms. Schnare’s offer.  This factor also supports the plaintiff.

[22]        With respect to the relative financial circumstances of the parties, I consider this factor neutral.

[23]        Taking into account the underlying legislative policy behind Rule 37B, that Ms. Schnare’s offer represented a very substantial discount off her damage claims presented at trial and if accepted would have avoided the costs of the trial, and that the amount awarded was significantly more than the amount of Ms. Schnare’s offer, in my view it is appropriate to award the plaintiff double costs for steps taken after January 26, 2009.


One More Rule 37B Case

May 11th, 2009

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, giving more interpretation to Rule 37B in ICBC Injury Claims (click here to read my previous posts on this topic).

In today’s case (Smagh v. Bumbrah) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 motor vehicle crash.  The defendant made an offer to settle the case for $20,000 plus costs and disbursements in 2006.  This offer was rejected and the plaintiff proceeded to trial.  After a 10 day jury trial in early 2009 damages of $2,200 were awarded.

The defendant applied for double costs from the date of the offer onward.  Mr. Justice Kelleher refused to grant this motion however he did award the Defendant costs from the date of the offer onward.  In doing so he made the following observations about Rule 37B:

[7]                Rule 37B came into force in July 2008.  It is common ground that Rule 37B applies, even though the offer was made before Rule 37B came into effect.  Subrules (4), (5), and (6) are relevant here:

Offer may be considered in relation to costs

(4)        The court may consider an offer to settle when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs.

Cost options

(5)        In a proceeding in which an offer to settle has been made, the court may do one or both of the following:

(a)        deprive a party, in whole or in part, of costs to which the party would otherwise be entitled in respect of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle;

(b)        award double costs of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of delivery of the offer to settle.

Considerations of court

(6)        In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a)        whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date;

(b)        the relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c)        the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d)        any other factor the court considers appropriate.

[8]                Here the defendant seeks an award of double costs pursuant to Rule 37.  I turn to the considerations in Rule 37B (5)(b) and (6).

(a)        Whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date.

[9]                The plaintiff argues that, at worst, costs should only be awarded to the defendant commencing November 6, 2008.  That is when the defendant forwarded the report of Dr. Matushak, an orthopaedic surgeon who conducted an independent medical examination and whose report was not favourable to the plaintiff.  Before that time the plaintiff had the reports of her family doctor and two specialists.  All three of these physicians were supportive of her claim that her symptoms were related to the accident.

[10]            The difficulty with this submission is that these three reports were based on an acceptance of what the plaintiff told them.  Simply put, the jury did not believe what these physicians believed.

[11]            I conclude that the offer ought reasonably to have been accepted one week after it was made. 

(b)        The relationship between the terms of the settlement offered and the final judgment of the court

[12]            This factor favours an award of costs to the defendant.  The jury awarded an amount substantially less than the defendant’s offer.

[13]            However, this factor is not in itself determinative.  Decisions on damages by juries are somewhat more difficult to predict than assessments by judges.  Madam Justice Humphries put it this way in Lumanlan v. Sadler, 2009 BCSC 142, [2009] B.C.J. No. 224, at para. 35:

As well, an assessment of non-pecuniary damages, as every trial judge knows, is a difficult and somewhat subjective task, as hard as one tries to be consistent with other judgments.  A jury verdict can, of course, be even more disparate when compared to assessments by judges.

[14]            I agree with counsel for the plaintiff that the court should be cautious in placing too much weight on this factor.

(c)        The relative financial circumstances of the parties

[15]            The plaintiff is in difficult financial circumstances.  There is no evidence regarding the defendant’s financial position.  Counsel for the plaintiff argues that it is appropriate to consider the relevant circumstances of Ms. Smagh and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which defended the action on the plaintiff’s behalf.  She relies on Radke v. Parry, 2008 BCSC 1397, 64 C.P.C. (6th) 176, where Madam Justice Boyd made note of the “substantial disparity in financial circumstances between the parties”: at para. 42.  Her Ladyship went on to state at para. 42:

The defendants, represented by ICBC, had substantially greater resources to finance a trial than the individual plaintiff.

[16]            A different view was expressed in Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, 63 C.P.C. (6th) 291, where Hinkson J. made the following comments:

[32]      Second, [the plaintiff] places her financial position against that of ICBC, as opposed to that of the defendants.

[33]      While I accept that it is likely that most drivers in British Columbia are insured by ICBC, the wording of subrule 37B does not invite consideration of a defendant’s insurance coverage.  There may be good policy reasons for this.  Insurance coverage limits with ICBC are not universal, and will vary from insured to insured.  Certain activities may result in a breach of an individual’s insurance coverage, or the defence of an action under a reservation of rights by ICBC.  A plaintiff will not and likely should not be privy to such matters of insurance coverage between a defendant and ICBC.

[34]      The contest in this case was between the plaintiff and the defendants, and the insurance benefits available to the defendants do not, in my view, fall within the rubric of their financial circumstances, any more than any collateral benefit entitlement that a plaintiff may have would affect that person’s financial circumstances for the purpose of determining their loss.

[17]            In Abma v. Paul, 2009 BCSC 60, [2009] B.C.J. No. 87, Madam Justice Gropper agreed with the reasoning in Bailey.  She distinguished the different circumstances in Radke, where the defendant accepted the plaintiff’s offer after 11 days of trial.

[18]            The decision in Bailey was also followed in Kanda v. Jackson (19 December 2008), Vancouver M030259 (S.C.)).

[19]            Although the matter is not settled, the emerging consensus appears to be that the financial position of ICBC is not determinative.  As Butler J. said in Arnold v. Cartwright Estate, 2008 BCSC 1575, 86 B.C.L.R. (4th) 99, at para. 23:

[T]here will always be a substantial difference between the relative financial circumstances of the usual personal injury plaintiff and the defendant’s motor vehicle insurer.  That difference, in and of itself, is not enough for the Court to exercise its discretion to deprive the defendant of costs.  If that was the intent of the new rule, it would have been more clearly articulated.

[20]            This third factor is not helpful in this case.

(d)        Any other factor the court considers appropriate

[21]            While the relative financial positions may not be determinative, I am prepared to consider the financial circumstances of the plaintiff.  They are poor.  She invested in a laundry business which has now failed.  The lender holds a claim over her home.  As well, she is responsible for some or all of a $62,000 personal guarantee given in connection with the business.

[22]            The plaintiff has begun working at a small firm on an as-needed basis for $11 per hour.  She is unable to pay her bills.  She owes her law firm some $40,000 for disbursements.  These circumstances militate against an award of double costs.

[23]            I conclude that the plaintiff is entitled to costs up to November 2, 2006.  The defendants are entitled to costs, but not double costs, from November 2, 2006, to date.

[24]            There has been mixed success on this application for costs.  No costs are awarded in connection with this application.


More from BCSC on Rule 37-B

November 18th, 2008

Reasons for judgment were released today further interpreting the relatively new BC Rule 37(B) (the rule dealing with formal settlement offers and costs consequences of these in BC Supreme Court Actions).

The facts of this case are a little difficult to extract from the judgement but it appears that the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of 2 motor vehicle collisions and separate Formal settlement offers were made by the Defendants in each action.  Both actions went to trial by jury and damages were awarded.

It appears that the global Jury award exceeded the combined settlement offers but when broken down between the 2 accidents it appears that the settlement offer for the second collision exceeded the damages the Jury awarded for that collision.

The Defendants asked the court to award them costs for beating the Second Accident Rule 37 offer.  (I should point out that the settlement offers where made when Rule 37 was still in place but verdict was given after it was repealed by Rule 37B).

The court noted that:

[11]            Rule changes have overtaken this case.  Rule 37B retroactively reinstates judicial discretion in the matter of settlement offers and cost awards.

[12]            As set out in Bailey v. Jang, 2008 BCSC 1372, Rule 37B came into force on July 1, 2008.  The Rule states that it applies to offers to settle made both before and after July 1, 2008, where no order as to costs has been made.  As conceded by the defendants on this application, Rule 37B returns judicial discretion as a major factor in determining an appropriate award of costs.  Thus, the new rule makes far less applicable most of the Court of Appeal decisions relied upon by the defence.  That is, those which stated Rule 37 is a complete code in relation to which no judicial discretion is applicable.

The court then refused to exercise its discretion to award the second defendant costs or double costs for exceeding their settlement offer.  The court provided the following reasons:

[14]            The analysis requires applying the facts to Rule 37B(6)(a):

Whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on any later date

[15]            Here, while I do not find, as urged to do by the plaintiff, that the offer is ambiguous or at least significantly ambiguous, it is clear that to accept the second offer in this case would not have simplified the trial at all.  It is reasonable to assume that, particularly with a jury to have settled the second action would tend to leave the jury with more complicated instructions.

The relationship between the terms of settlement offered and the final judgment of the Court

[16]            The two offers combined were significantly less than half the award of the jury.  Thus, this factor favours not awarding costs to the defendants.

The relative financial circumstances of the parties

[17]            This was a matter of a bus company versus the modest financial circumstances of the plaintiff.  If anything, it favours the plaintiff however, I give little weight to this.

[18]            In all these circumstances – the over-riding principle here is whether, if the offer had been accepted would there have been a significant or any saving in litigation cost to either party or the Court.  Here, it would be difficult to see any saving.  It was obvious during this trial that the defence intended to call the bus driver and perhaps other witnesses to the second accident to challenge the plaintiff’s credibility generally.  There was little or no evidence by the plaintiff that painted the second accident as other than minimal physically.  The psychological impact was far greater because the second accident occurred just hours following a much more traumatic accident.

[19]            Thus, there would have been no savings in time at the trial.  In these circumstances the defendants are not entitled to any costs of these two actions and the plaintiff will have her costs throughout.

[20]            There is divided success on this application.  However, the plaintiff was successful on the costs issue which took up almost the whole of the submissions.  In these circumstances she should have her costs at the lowest scale on this application.

I will continue to post the BC Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of Rule 37B.  The factors the courts consider in exercising discretion under this rule should be of particular interest to anyone taking an ICBC injury claim to trial in BC Supreme Court where a formal settlement offer has been delivered.


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

 


ICBC Claims, Breach of Insurance and Costs

October 6th, 2008

I’ve previously blogged about the financial consequences of being in breach of ICBC insurance.

Today reasons for judgemenet were delivered showing some of these consequences in action.

In 2002 the Plaintiff was involved in a car accident.  He was at fault for the accident.  He was in breach of his insurance at the time (he was driving with a suspended licence). And he injured the occupants of one of the vehicles involved in the collision.

The injured parties advanced an ICBC claim and eventually ICBC settled paying out a total of $19,067.38.

ICBC then came after the ‘breached’ Plaintiff to have the money paid back.  ICBC also exercises its statutory right and refused to re-issue a license to the Plaintiff.

Today’s judgement dealt with how much money was owed to ICBC.  The court found that ICBC was entitled to $19,320.38 from the ‘breached’ driver.

This case is worth bringing to the attention of anyone who is thinking of driving in breach of their contract with ICBC.  Doing so can result in significant financial consequences.


Chronic Pain Syndrome and Fractured Spine Net $60,000 for Pain and Suffering

July 29th, 2008

In a judgement released today a total of $81,694 was awarded in compensation as a result of a 2004 ‘chain rear end’ accident in BC.

The accident involved mutliple vehicles and the force of the crash was enough to write off the Plaintiff’s car. Fault was admitted by ICBC leaving only quantum of damages at issue.

As a result of crash the court found that the Plaintiff suffered from a fracture at T12 and a disc injury to T11 / T12 and perhaps T9 / T10 (basically fractures to the mid back) and that the Plaintiff ‘has gone on to develop a chronic pain syndrome with discomfort, sleep disturbance and depression.

The court went on to award $60,000 for pain and suffering, $20,000 for Loss of Earning Capacity and just over $1,000 in special damages (out of pocket expenses as a result of the accident.)

This case is worth reading for the judge’s discussion of credibility. When people complain of ‘chronic pain’ in an ICBC claim their credibility is always at issue. The reason is obvious, pain cannot be measured objectively. People can only describe their pain and a judge or jury can believe this descrpiton or reject it. In this case the judge had problems with the Plaintiff’s credibility but accepted that her chronic pain syndrome was legitimate.

More interesting is the judge’s comments on the credibility of the expert witnesses that testified. In this case ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, hired an orthopaedic surgeon to examine the Plaintiff. He testified, in essence, that the Plaintiff had no serious injuries or ongoing problems. The court rejected this doctor’s evidence finding that ‘it was obvious to me that he had not spent as much time, nor was he as objective in his assessment of the Plaintiff (as her own physicians were). (ICBC’s doctor) impressed upon me that he was more of an advocate for ICBC than an objective expert, and I therefoe attach little wieght to his evidence.

This case is also worth reviewing for the judge’s great summary of the law relating to future wage loss at paragraphs 34 and 35.


ICBC Claims, Wage Loss, and Loss of Overtime Opportunities

July 3rd, 2008

In reasons for judgement released today Madam Justice Dillon of the BC Supreme Court awarded an injured Plaintiff just over $200,000 in damages as a result of a ‘hit and run’ accident.

The Plaintiff was 56 at the time of the BC car crash. He was on his way to work when he was rear-ended. The crash was significant enough to push the Plaintiff’s car the length of a city block prior to coming to a stop. The Defendant ‘took off around a corner” after the collision.

The Plaintiff is an apparently stoic man who returned to work despite being injured in this crash. He continued to work for several days ‘before (his) neck and back pain, headaches and dizziness steadily increased to the point that (he) was unable to perfrom the heavy work of a millwright.’

The Plaintiff was off work for almost 6 months prior to returning to work full time. Once returning he struggled and needed assistance from his work partners. He also struggled in taking advantage of over-time opportunities.

As in many ICBC injury claims that go to trial, the court heard from various doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon, a physiatrist, a neurologist and the Plaintiff’s GP. Again, as is common in ICBC injury claims, the doctors testifying had varying takes on the nature and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries and their connection to the car accident.

No issue was taken a trial as to who was at fault for this rear-end accident. The trial focused on quantum of damages (value of the injuries). The theory advanced by ICBC’s expert was that, while the Plaintiff was injured, the Plaintiff ‘probably would have had these problems regardless of the accident because of his underlying degeneration of the cervical and lumbar spine‘.

The court heard evidence from the Plaintiff’s doctors that he had various injuries that would likely impact him well into the future.

The court’s key finding as to the extent of injury can be found at paragraph 28 where Madam Justice Dillon noted that:

[28] There is no medical opinion that the plaintiff would have suffered from chronic neck or back pain, to the extent and severity that he has incurred, but for the accident. Gold has developed severe and disabling chronic neck and back pain, which significantly limits movement. He continues to have headaches. His condition plateaued within two years after the injury and has not improved despite reasonable effort on his part. This has had a significant effect on his ability to work overtime to the extent that he did before the accident and requires cooperation with his work partners to fulfill the mandate of his job without formal accommodation being made. He has suffered a loss of lifestyle and recreational activity.

The court awarded $80,000 for ‘general damages’ (pain and suffering).

The court also made an award for past wage loss, past loss of overtime opportunities and loss of future earnings.

This case raised some common issues which often arise in ICBC claims. Particularly the amount of past loss income when a Plaintiff returns to work but is not able to work as many overtime shifts. I recommend this case for anyone involved in an ICBC injury claim who has missed overtime work as a result of injuries. This case gives an example of how this issue can be dealt with at trial. The personal injury lawyer representing the Plaintiff capably called evidence addressing wage loss and overtime and in the end the court addressed this loss fairly.

In awarding money for loss of future wages, the court noted that “there is more than a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will be unable to work overtime at his historical pre-accident rate into the future.’ and also that, given the Plaintiff’s age and injuries, that he would have ‘a difficult time finding work if his (current) job ended‘, As a result of this the court awarded $70,000 for loss of future earnings / loss of earning capacity.

Lastly, the ICBC lawyers argued that “damages should be reduced by 25% because the plaintiff failed to start an exercise programme as recommended by his general practitioner, his physiotherapist, and the rehabilitation medicine specialist

This argument is known in law as ‘failure to mitigate’. If a person injured in an ICBC claim does not take reasonable steps to recover from their injuries the value of compensation can be reduced.

The court summarized the law of ‘failure to mitigate’ as follows:

[44] To succeed in this submission, the third party must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the plaintiff failed to undertake the recommended treatment; that by following that recommended treatment he could have overcome or could in the future overcome the problems; and that his refusal to take that treatment was unreasonable (Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146, 16 D.L.R. (4th) 1; Maslen v. Rubenstein, [1994] 1 W.W.R. 53 at 57-58, 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.); Fox v. Danis, 2005 BCSC 102 at para. 37). The remedial programme must be likely to achieve resolution of the problem or at least have a positive effect on the plaintiff’s injury arising from the accident (Hepner v. Gill, [1999] B.C.J. No. 1755 at paras. 5 and 7 (S.C.) (QL); Briglio v. Faulkner and Reichel, 1999 BCCA 361, 69 B.C.L.R. (3d) 122 at para. 44; Wong v. Stolarchuk, [1997] B.C.J. No. 2837 at para. 48 (S.C.) (QL)). The reasonableness of a refusal to undertake a recommended programme depends upon the risk that such a programme would impose, the gravity of the consequence of refusing to participate, and the potential benefits to be derived from it (Janiak v. Ippolito, supra).

The court rejected ICBC’s failure to mitigate arguments.

This case illustrates just how important credibility is in ICBC injury claims. The court clearly liked the Plaintiff and he made a good impression on the judge. His stoic attitude certainly helped. Contrary to what some believe, having a tough attitude in the face of injuries does not hurt the value of an ICBC case, as this case illustrates, this postitive attribute can in fact add to the credibilty of an injured person and help result in a good trial result.


More on Court Costs, Settlement Offers, and Your ICBC Claim

June 13th, 2008

If you are advancing and ICBC injury claim in BC Supreme Court, whether or not you are represented by an ICBC Claims Lawyer, you need to know something about Formal Settlement Offers. These settlement offers bring potential consequences if they are not accepted and these need to be considered when deciding whether an ICBC settlement offer is fair.

Rule 37 of the BC Supreme Court Rules permits parties to a lawsuit to make a Formal Settlement Offer and if the claim goes to trial and the settlement offer is beaten there can be significant Costs consequences (where the losing side has to pay the winning side tarriff court costs and disbursements which can easily exceed $10,000).

If you think of taking an ICBC claim to trial and winning I imagine you think of proving the other driver is at fault and being awarded money for your injuries. With formal settlement offers, winning is not quite that simple. If ICBC makes a formal settlement offer under Rule 37 and the judge or jury awards you less this can be considered a loss. Rule 37(24) sets out the consequences to a Plaintiff for failing to accept a Defendant offer to settle and ‘losing’ at trial, the subrule reads as follows:

Consequences of failure to accept defendant’s offer for monetary relief

(24) If the defendant has made an offer to settle a claim for money and the offer has not expired or been withdrawn or been accepted,

(a) if the plaintiff obtains judgment for the amount of money specified in the offer or a lesser amount, the plaintiff is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and the defendant is entitled to costs assessed from that date, or

(b) if the plaintiff’s claim is dismissed, the defendant is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and to double costs assessed from that date.

On the other side of the coin, there can be more than one way of winning. If you make a formal offer to settle your ICBC claim in compliance with Rule 37 and the judge or jury award you more money, Rule 37(23) sets out the consequences to the Defendant. The subrule reads as follows:

Consequences of failure to accept plaintiff’s offer to settle a monetary claim

(23) If the plaintiff has made an offer to settle a claim for money, and it has not expired or been withdrawn or been accepted, and if the plaintiff obtains a judgment for the amount of money specified in the offer or a greater amount, the plaintiff is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and to double costs assessed from that date.

Now, after absorbing all of the above you need to know that RULE 37 and 37A are being repealed as of July 2, 2008 and being replaced with Rule 37(B)!

That does not mean that you just wasted your time learning the above. If a formal offer to settle an ICBC injury claim is made before July 2, 2008 it needs to comply with Rule 37 or Rule 37A to trigger ‘costs consequences’.

To trigger costs consequences in an ICBC claim that goes to trial any offer made after July 2, 2008 has to comply with Rule 37B. To do so the offer must

1. be made in writing

2. be delivered to all parties of record, and

3. contain the following sentence “the [name of party making the offer] reserves the right to bring this offer to the attention of the court for consideration in relation to costs after the court has rendered judgement on all other issues in this proceeding”.

It seems that the purpose of Rule 37B) is to simplify the process of making formal settlement offers. The consequences of taking ICBC claims to court and beating (or not beating) a formal settlement offer seem to be less certain under this new rule. Rule 37B(4) sets out the consequences as follows: “The court may consider an offer to settle when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs”.

The options given to the court are set out in subrule 5 which states:

In a proceeding in which an offer to settle has been made, the court may do one or both of the following:

(a) deprive a party, in whole or in part, of costs to which the party would otherwise be entitled in respect of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of the delivery of the offer to settle;

(b) award double costs of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of the delivery of the offer to settle.

Subrule 6 sets out the factors a court may consider in exercising its costs discretion where a formal offer was made stating:

In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a) whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on an later date

(b) the relationship between the terms of the settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c) the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d) any other factor the court considers appropriate

I for one welcome Rule 37B. One of the biggest criticisms made by plaintiff ICBC injury claims lawyers was that the old Rule 37 was unfair to plaintiffs as a person injured in a car accident was always in a worse financial position to face the consequences of losing at trial than ICBC. This lopsided reality created a lot of pressure on people advancing ICBC injury claims in BC Supreme Court to consider settlement when faced with a Rule 37 formal settlement offer.

It will be interesting to see if our BC courts, when considering “the relative financial circumstances of the parties” will consider ICBC a party to the lawsuit of an ICBC injury claim. Typically, ICBC is not named as a defendant to a ICBC Injury tort Claim, instead those at fault for the collision are named and often they simply happen to be insured by ICBC. So ICBC is not formally a ‘party’ to most ICBC injury tort claims.

If the court is willing to consider the fact that the Defendant is insured when weighing the ‘relative financial circumstances of the parties‘ then this Rule is a welcome change for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim. If not, perhaps the court is willing to consider this under “any other factor the court considers appropriate“.

Do you have questions about an ICBC settlement offer or the Rules of Court governing settlement offers in BC Supreme Court? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Injury Claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

 


$45,000 Awarded to Plaintiff for Post Accident Headaches

June 10th, 2008

After a 13 day trial in Vancouver, BC,  reasons for judgement were released yesterday awarding a Plaintiff $45,000 plus special damages (out of pocket expenses for treatment of injuries) as a result of a 2001 BC car accident.  This was a ‘headache claim’ and the primary issues were whether the Plaintiff’s headaches were caused by the BC car accident and if so, how much money the injury claim was worth.

At trial the BC personal injury lawyers on opposing sides were miles apart in their view of the value of the case in their submissions to the court.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer alleged permanent impairment of her capacity to earn income and sought damages in excess of $900,000.  The personal injury lawyers defending the claim responded that the Plaintiff only suffered from mild soft tissue injuries and that damages between $10,000 – $20,000 were appropriate. 

It is quite common for lawyers on opposing sides of ICBC claims to take very different positions at trial  and this case is a good example of how far apart 2 sides to an ICBC claim can be.  In this case the Plaintiff presented a case of chronic headaches which interfered with tasks of daily living including work.  The defence lawyers presented a case alleging mild soft tissue injury with headaches resolving a short time after the accident.  At the end of the trial the court largely sided with the defence lawyer’s position. 

The Plaintiff was 19 at the time of the accident.  As she was driving the defendant turned left directly in front of her lane of travel.  She had the right of way.  She had time to step on the brake and the clutch of her vehicle, shift into neutral and brace herself for the impact.   The accident was described as a t-bone collision by the Plaintiff although the court noted that the front left portion of the Plaintiff’s car struck the driver’s side door of the other vehicle in this BC car accident claim.

As is often the case in ICBC claims alleging an ‘impaired earning capacity‘ due to a BC motor vehicle accident, the court heard from a variety of doctors as ‘expert witnesses’.

Dr. Robinson, a neurologist who specializes in headache disorders, testified on behalf of the Plaintiff.  He stated that her headaches ‘have features consistent with a diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic headache of a migrainous type.’

Dr. Chu, a physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) testified that the accident “is the direct cause of (the plaintiff’s) mechanical left upper neck pain.  This in turn is the cause of her secondary cervicogenic headaches”

Dr. Vincent, a cutting edge specialist in Anaesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine, also testified and gave evidence which ended up largely supporting the Defendant’s position.  Dr. Vincent injected anaesthetic medications into the Plaintiff’s neck on two occasions.  Unfortunately neither of the injections relieved the Plaintiff’s headache.  After a rigorous cross-examination Dr. Vincent testified that the Plaintiff’s results were inconsistent with a ‘causal relationship between an injury…to the neck and the headaches the Plaintiff experiences.”

The defence lawyer relied on the opinion of Dr. Jones, a neurologist, who testified that the Plaintiff’s headaches are ‘true migraines that have arisen spontaneously and are unrelated to any injury to her neck or cervical spine’.

The court preferred the evidence of Dr. Jones.  The court found that the BC accident ‘did cause an exacerbation of (pre-existing) headaches’ and that ‘those headaches largely resolved and (the Plaintiff) had returned to her pre-accident state of health within approximately 10 months following the accident.

The court found that there were problems with the Plaintiff’s evidence and that her present recall of symptoms in the months after the accident was ‘unreliable’.  The ultimate finding was that all of the Plaintiff’s headaches sinced 2002 were ‘primarily migraine headaches that she would have developed (even without the accident)’.

The court awarded $45,000 for pain and suffering and the Plaintiff’s special damages up to March 16, 2002.

This case is a great example of the different positions opposing lawyers can take in court in an ICBC claim and results such as this one should be reviewed when in settlement negotiations with ICBC for a ‘headache’ claim as a result of a car accident.

Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC headache claim?  Are you looking for a free consultation with a ICBC claims lawyer?  If so click here to arrange a free consulation with 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.