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 ‘indivisble injury’

Indivisible Injury Principle Applied Where Injuries Aggravated in Limitation Barred Event

March 28th, 2017

Helpful reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, showing the Plaintiff friendly scope of the Indivisible Injury principle.

In today’s case (Griffioen v. Arnold) the Plaintiff was involved in two vehicle collisions.  The first in 2011.  She sued the at fault motorist who admitted liability.  She was involved in a second collision in 2014.  She was a passenger in her husband’s vehicle.  He was at fault for the second crash but she chose not to sue and the limitation period to do so expired.  The second crash aggravated the injuries from the first.

The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff’s damages must be reduced to the extent that the second crash aggravated them.  The Court disagreed noting the principle of indivisible injury allows the Plaintiff to fully recover damages from the first Defendant who is then burdened to seek indemnification from other contributing tortfeasors.  In applying the indivisible injury principle in the Plaintiff’s favour Mr. Justice Bracken provided the following reasons:

[117]     In this case, the plaintiff elected not to sue her husband, who was the person at fault in the second accident.  She admits that he was at fault and that her right to bring an action is now statute-barred by the Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c. 13.

[118]     In Bradley v. Groves, 2010 BCCA 361 at paras. 32 – 34, the court said:

[32]      There can be no question that Athey [Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458] requires joint and several liability for indivisible injuries.  Once a trial judge has concluded as a fact that an injury is indivisible, then the tortfeasors are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  They can still seek apportionment (contribution and indemnity) from each other, but absent contributory negligence, the plaintiff can claim the entire amount from any of them.

[33]      The approach to apportionment in Long v. Thiessen [(1968), 65 W.W.R. 577 (C.A.)] is therefore no longer applicable to indivisible injuries.  The reason is that Long v. Thiessen pre-supposes divisibility; Long requires courts to take a single injury and divide it up into constituent causes or points in time, and assess damages twice; once on the day before the second tort, and once at trial.  Each defendant is responsible only for their share of the injury and the plaintiff can recover only the appropriate portion from each tortfeasor.

[34]      That approach is logically incompatible with the concept of an indivisible injury.  If an injury cannot be divided into distinct parts, then joint liability to the plaintiff cannot be apportioned either.  It is clear that tortfeasors causing or contributing to a single, indivisible injury are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  This in no way restricts the tortfeasors’ right to apportionment as between themselves under the Negligence Act, but it is a matter of indifference to the plaintiff, who may claim the entire amount from any defendant.

[119]     In Pinch v. Hofstee, 2015 BCSC 1888, the plaintiff claimed compensation arising from a motor vehicle accident.  He was subsequently injured in a second accident and the injuries from the two accidents were found to be indivisible.  The court considered Bradley v. Groves, but found that any claim for the second accident was statute-barred by section 10(1) of the Workers Compensation Act.  Burnyeat J. held that the plaintiff could not recover full damages from the defendant in the first accident.

[120]     At para.60, Burnyeat J. stated:

[60]      I conclude that the Legislature has made it clear that the principles set out in Bradley, supra, do not apply where there is a statutory bar to recovery of what may be found to be indivisible damages.  Section 10(1) of the Act is but one example of the inability to recover indivisible damages arising out of a separate breach of duty of care.  A further example might be illustrated by a situation whereby proceedings relating to a first tortious act were not commenced within the limitation period and a second tortious act occurred. In those circumstances, I cannot conclude that damages would be available where an action was not commenced relating to the first act, a subsequent act caused injuries which were found to be indivisible from the first act, and a claim was advanced against the second tortfeasor for damages for the injuries caused both by the first and the second tortious acts.  Just as a claim for damages for a second tortious act could not “give life to” recovery of damages for a first act where a limitation period had expired so also s. 10(1) of the Act has taken away “any right and rights of action” available to Mr. Pinch and any recoverable “damages, contributions or indemnity” that might have been available to Mr. Pinch as a result of MVA #2.

[121]     In Sandhu v. Vuong, 2016 BCSC 1490, Master Baker followed Pinch v. Hofstee, and held that the defendant in one action could not commence a third party proceeding against a person liable for a second accident that happened in Manitoba because the accident there was statute-barred by a “no-fault” automobile insurance regime.

[122]     I do not agree that the situation here is the same as where an action is statute-barred as in both Pinch and Sandhu.  There was no right of action in British Columbia against the person liable for the second accident.  In Pinch, the Workers Compensation Act prevented an action and in Sandhu, the court held that as there was no right of action in Manitoba, there could not be a right in British Columbia.

[123]     In both Pinch and Sandhu, the plaintiffs were not simply beyond the time limit for commencing an action, but would be barred by statute from commencing an action even if they had done so within the statutory time limits.

[124]     It seems to me that it was open to the defendants in this case to commence a third-party action provided it was commenced within the time limit that started when the defendants became aware of their right to commence an action against the plaintiff’s husband.  That is, the time limits for the defendants may not be the same for a third party action as for an action by the plaintiff. 

[125]     The plaintiff obviously knew of her right to commence an action from the time of the accident.  The defendants were aware of their right to commence an action from the time they discovered they might be liable for some damages from the second accident.  I therefore find that Pinch and Sandhu are distinguishable from the facts of this case and in the circumstances, I am not prepared to apportion liability to the plaintiff’s husband in reliance on the principle of indivisibility and will apply the principle in Bradley.


Indivisible Injuries in Action

October 6th, 2010

As I recently discussed, the law in British Columbia requires a Defendant to compensate a Plaintiff for any indivisible injury caused by their wrongdoing.  If a subsequent event contributes to or aggravates the injury a defendant cannot reduce the amount of compensation the Plaintiff is entitled to.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, demonstrating this principle of law.

In this week’s case (Fillmore v. McKay) the Plaintiff was involved in 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was riding his bicycle when he was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The Defendant initially denied being at fault but during trial admitted that the collision was indeed a result of her negligence.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries and a traumatic brain injury.

At trial the Defendant argued that some of the Plaintiff’s injuries were made worse during a subsequent fall and that this should reduce the compensation the Plaintiff should receive.  Mr. Justice Truscott rejected this argument and provided the following useful comments demonstrating the law relating to indivisible injuries in BC:

[145]     The plaintiff took a fall at work on July 9, 2005 when he says in his note that he aggravated his neck and shoulder. The defendant submits that this was a new incident not caused by him that should serve to reduce the plaintiff’s personal injuries for which he has liability from the motor vehicle accident. The defendant even submits that it may have been this incident of July 9, 2005 that caused the plaintiff’s back injury because his first complaint to Dr. Buie was not until after that.

[146]     I have already concluded that the plaintiff’s back injury occurred in the motor vehicle accident and not subsequently by this bike accident. The plaintiff does not say in his note that he aggravated his back on July 9, 2005, but only his neck and shoulder.

[147]     As to the possible aggravation of his neck and shoulder injuries, Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458, makes it clear that the defendant remains liable where his negligence caused or contributed to the injuries and that liability is not reduced by any non-tortious contributing causes.

[148]     Accordingly, even if the plaintiff’s neck and shoulder injuries were aggravated by this non-tortious incident, the defendant is still fully responsible for the full extent of those injuries because his negligence caused them in the first place and thereby contributed to the extent of the injuries.


$86,967.02 Awarded for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries and Anxiety

May 30th, 2008

Reasons for judgement were released today following a 3 day trial in Vernon, BC in which Mr. Justice Cole awarded a 35 year old plaintiff close to $90,000 in compensation for her losses and injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident.

This case is worth a read for anyone advancing an ICBC claim or involved in ICBC settlement negotiations concerning the issue of ‘indivisble injuries’. That is, where an event other than the accident has contributed to the injuries sustained in the accident. I will say more about this below.

The Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end accident in Kelowna BC on June 30, 2005. Her vehicle was rearended by a truck driven by the Defendant. As a result of this incident she suffered from various soft tissue injuries and anxiety.

In early 2007, the Plaintiff was almost struck by a vehicle while she was in a cross-walk. This added to her anxiety issues.

The court heard from several medical experts who commented on the Plaintiff’s injuries. This is quite common in ICBC injury claims that proceed to trial as there is often 2 sides to the medical story. In this case, however, the medical evidence addressing the physical injuries was quite similar.

Dr. Laidlow, a physiatrist who often conducts ‘independent medical exams’ for ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff will be “prone to mechanical lower back pain…and may require the odd use of anti-inflammatories during times of flare up“.

Dr. Travlos, another physiatrist well versed in diagnosing and treating injuries related to ICBC claims, stated that “(the plaintiff’s) current residual neck and shoulder symptoms are a result of tjhe accident. It is likely that these symnptons will slowly continue to improve and ultimately resolve….the Plaintiff’s tailbone symptoms are clearly an ongoing issue…..the nature of her current low back / pelvic symptoms is intermittent and this bodes well for further recovery.”

The court also heard from the plaintiff’s family doctor who testified that there was room for improvement in the Plaintiff’s condition.

Possible future treatments for the injuries included trigger point injections, diagnostic injections, a facet joint rhizotomy and medicaitons.

In the end the court concluded that the Plaintiff sufferd a soft tissue injury “that would be described as the upper end of a moderate soft tissue injury that should resolve itself over time“. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the collision in 2005 and the near collision in 2007. The Plaintiff claimed she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the collision and this was supported by the evidence of Dr. Neilson. The court, however, held that the Plaintiff did not make out this claim as the Plaintiff did not prove all the facts that were underlying Dr. Neilson’s diagnosis of PTSD.

The court awarded damages as follows:

Pain and Suffering (non pecuniary damages) $60,000

Special damages: $6,045

Past wage loss: $19,522.02

Future medical care: $400

Future Therapy: $1,000

This case did a great job reviewing 2 areas of law which frequently come up in many ICBC claims, namely claims for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ and claims where intervening events add or contribute to accident related injures.

As in many ICBC claims the Plaintiff had an intervening event which added to her anxiety. When valuing the injuries the court did a great job in summarizing how a court is to do so when the subsequent event caused an ‘indivisble injury’.

The court referenced some of the leading authorities in concluding the PTSD claim gave rise to an ‘indivisble injury’.   Most experienced ICBC claims lawyers are familiar with these authoritative cases which the court referred to, particularly:

Athey v. Leonati

EDG v. Hammer

Ashcroft v. Dhaliwal

The court concluded that “I am satisfied, in this case, that the two incidents that the plaintiff was involved in are indivisble. The anxiety caused to the plaintiff by the second incident is directly connected to the accident involving the defendant. Since the individual that caused the second accident was not before the court, as was the case in Ashcroft, where there was a settlement of the claim, the defendant is liable for all of the plaintiff’s damages

Do you have questions about this case or a similar ICBC case involving soft tissue injuries, post traumatic stress or an intervening event?  If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.