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 ‘injury’

More on BC Injury Claims and Biomechanical Engineering Evidence

April 22nd, 2010

Further to my recent post on this topic, the evidence of biomechanical engineers is becoming more common in BC injury lawsuits.

Biomechanics is the study of forces applied to biological tissue and the injuries that can result from such forces.  In litigation it is easy to imagine the use such expert opinion evidence can be put to in proving causation of injuries.

Biomechanics is a relatively new scientific field.  Courts are generally conservative and can be slow to accept ‘novel‘ scientific evidence.  Despite judicial conservatism, biomechanical evidence does appear to be gaining acceptance by BC Courts as demonstrated in reasons for judgment released today.

In today’s case (More v. Bauer) the Plaintiff suffered a severe brain injury while playing hockey.  The Plaintiff claimed his helmet was negligently designed and sued the manufacturers of the helmet.  In support of his claim he called a biomechanical engineer who gave evidence in the field of biomechanics and the biomechanics of safety standards.

The Defendants did not challenge his qualifications to give this evidence, however, at the conclusion of the expert’s testimony the Defendants brought a motion to rule the testimony inadmissible arguing that the expert’s “underlying methodology and science are so flawed that the evidence (does not meet the legal test for admissibility)” and that the expert was “biased and purposely misled the court to assist the plaintiff“.

Mr. Justice Macaulay rejected the motion and concluded that the evidence was in fact admissible.  In doing so the Court recognized biomechanics as an “accepted area of scientific and academic expertise“.  The Court reasoned as follows:

[1] Dr. Stalnaker has a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics. Through much of his lengthy career, he has worked in the branch field of biomechanics. He also has practical experience in standards development for certification purposes although not specifically with regard to hockey helmet standards. Biomechanics involves the study of body kinematics ? the forces applied to biological tissue and the injuries that can result. The plaintiffs sought to qualify Dr. Stalnaker as an expert in biomechanics and the biomechanics of safety standards…

[12] Mohan sets out the current approach to the admissibility of expert evidence. Mr. Justice Sopinka outlines the following criteria for the admissibility of opinion evidence:

(1)      the evidence must be relevant to some issue in the case;

(2)      the evidence must be necessary to assist the trier of fact;

(3)      the evidence must not contravene an exclusionary rule; and

(4)      the witness must be a properly qualified expert.

[15] Assessing reliability includes determining whether the science or technique the witness uses to reach a conclusion is “novel”. Novel science will be subject to a stricter level of scrutiny than theories or techniques that are more generally accepted…

[23] To conclude, in assessing reliability when exercising my gatekeeper role, I must determine whether the approach the impugned expert takes is novel. If Dr. Stalnaker is relying on a novel theory or technique, I should exercise a higher level of scrutiny when examining reliability, in order to prevent the trial becoming “a medical or scientific convention with an exchange of highly speculative points of view” (R. v. J.E.T. at para. 77).

[24] In assessing reliability, I may find the Daubert factors helpful, but need not apply them too strictly. The purpose of applying the factors is to determine the degree of uncertainty present in the impugned expert’s analysis. The question is whether “the degree of uncertainty is unacceptable given the likely effect upon the trial process and the trier of fact. The level of acceptable uncertainty may depend upon the purpose for which the evidence is tendered and the use made of the evidence by other experts” (Wolfin at para. 20). Both the mode of trial and the importance of the evidence to making a final determination of the matter are factors to consider. If a theory or technique is implausible it will not be admitted.

[25] I remain persuaded that biomechanics is a recognized and accepted area of scientific and academic expertise. I am satisfied that Dr. Stalnaker is qualified to give opinion evidence in the area of biomechanics including in relation to safety standards. Opinion evidence is necessary to assist me in drawing appropriate inferences of fact.


Taxi Driver found 10% At Fault For Leaving High Beams On

April 8th, 2008

In a judgement released today by the British Columbia Supreme Court, Madam Justice Humphries concluded that a taxi driver was 10% at fault for 2 young girls’ injuries because he left his high beams on thus obstructing the view of on-coming traffic in the early morning of September 6, 2003 in Langley, BC.

The taxi did not hit the girls, rather, the taxi driver’s fault rested with the fact that he stopped his taxi on the side of the highway to engage some potential passengers in conversation with his high beams on. The passengers were a group of 5 young people who had left a party and were looking for a taxi ride home. The taxi driver declined to give this group of 5 people a ride because his vehicle only had 4 available seatbelts.

After being rejected by the taxi driver the young people headed back across the street into the lane of westbound traffic. Unfortunatley the driver of a vehicle driving in the westbound lane failed to see the people and struck 2 young girls with her vehicle.

The court found that the girls, the taxi driver, and the westbound vehicle were all partly at fault. In assessing 10% of the blame to the taxi driver Madam Justice Humphries stated “He did not keep a lookout for oncoming traffic and he left his high beams on. This constitutes a departure of the standard of care expected of a prudent driver and was a contributing cause of the accident.

If a person in British Columbia is partially to blame for an accident, it is important to seek compensation from all others who are at fault. Failing to do so will result in the Plaintiff receiving less than full compensation for injuries caused by the fault of others. This is called “several liability”. This decision is a great illustration of Plaintiff’s counsel seeking compensation from all those responsible for car accident related injuries. Had the taxi driver not been sued, on this reasoning, the young girls would have had the value of their claim reduced a further 10 percent.

Feel free to contact the author if you have questions about several liability and a current ICBC claim.


Buckle Up Or Pay the Price

April 4th, 2008

Failing to wear a seatbelt can not only hurt you physically, it can hurt financially and I’m not referring to a traffic ticket.

A person advancing an ICBC claim who is injured through the fault of another motorist may be found “contributorily negligent” for failing to wear a seatbelt if it can be proven that injuries would have been prevented (or lessened) by the use of a seatbelt.

If a person advancing an ICBC claim is found contributorily negligent, the value of the ICBC claim goes down.

In these cases BC courts must apportion those injuries due to the failure to wear a seatbelt and deduct their value in compensating the injured person. Generally failing to wear a seatbelt results in reduction of the value of the claim by 15% – 25%, although the range of apportionment varies and can exceed this range.

When dealing with ICBC, it is important to keep in mind that failing to wear a seatbelt does not automatically reduce the value of the claim. It is for ICBC (or the insurance company / lawyer for the at fault driver) to prove that failure to wear a seatbelt caused or contributed to the injuries. Justice Fulton, the case Gagnon v. Beauliew, summarized the law as follows “In the case of this particular form of contributory negligence, the onus is on the defendant to satisfy the court, in accordance with the usual standard of proof, not only that the seat belt was not worn but also that the injuries would have been prevented or lessened if the seatbelt had been worn”

Also, there are some limited circumstances where failing to wear a seatbelt does not amount to negligence such as when a person has medical reasons making wearing a seatbelt unreasonable.

Circumstances excusing people from wearing seatbelts are the exception, not the norm so consider buckling up, failing to do so can not only add to your injuries, it can subtract from your pocket-book.


Who's That in the Bushes? ICBC Surveillance and You

April 3rd, 2008

A concern many BC personal injury clients have is the threat of surveillance when they are advancing an ICBC injury claim. Video surveillance is legal in British Columbia so this threat is real.

The thought of video surveillance is unsavory to say the least.  What concerns me, however, is not that ICBC may be conducting video surveillance, rather the misconseption that some BC personal injury claimants have regarding their behaviour and potential surveillance. I have been asked many times “Should I watch out because there may be surveillance” or “Should I limit my activities out in public because if I get filmed being active that will hurt my claim“.

My answer to this question is as follows: Video surveillance does not hurt a personal injury claim, overstating the effects of injuries does. It does not matter if you’re painting your house, lifting weights, or doing any number of physical activities that are caught on film. If you can be active and not aggravate your injuries that is a good thing. If, on the other hand, a personal injury claimaint tells others that they are limited and video surveillance shows otherwise, that could be very damaging. This goes to a person’s credibility. If a person is caught in a lie with respect to the effect of their injuries that will have a very negative effect on the value of an ICBC claim.

I like to assure people advancing ICBC claims that they need not live life any differently because of an ICBC claim or because of the threat of video surveillance. It is lies and lies alone that have the most damaging impact on a personal injury claim. If you are honest about your injuries and their impact on your life video surveillance should not be a concerning threat.  In fact, with an honest plaintiff, video surveillance should appear as nothing more than an unsavory insurance tactic.


MS and Trauma – Difficult to Legally Link

March 23rd, 2008

Two recent BC Court decisions illustrate the difficulty in proving a legal link between MS and trauma on a balance of probabilities.

In a unanimous decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal pronounced February 20, 2008, the court dismissed the appeal of a Plaintiff’s claim in which the trial judge found that she did not sustain brain injuries in 2 motor vehicle accidents.

The trial judge found that “Ms Roeske has received a diagnosis of probable multiple sclerosis. She has multiple sclerosis of a remitting/relapsing type. All of her neurological signs, including her cognitive deficits, can be explained by multiple sclerosis. The later improvements in her test results in the areas that Dr. Amell found deficient due to brain injury suggest that her remitting/relapsing multiple sclerosis caused those deficits. There is no evidence that traumatic brain injuries can be relapsing/remitting in nature

On appeal, the court found no errors in the trial judgement and concluded that “The judge merely was relating the test result evidence to the diagnosis of probable multiple sclerosis. He concluded in that context the test results did not support a traumatic brain injury. The judge did not conclude Ms. Roeske’s condition was attributable to multiple sclerosis. He concluded she did not establish on the balance of probabilities that her condition was caused by the accidents

In an other interesting decision considering the potential link between trauma and MS, Mr. Justice Cullen disposed of an alleged connection by way of summary trial.

Mr. Justice Cullen was specifically asked “Does the Evidence Prove on a Balance of Probabilities that there is a Causal Relationship between Trauma, including Mild Head Trauma or Whiplash, and the Onset or Exacerbation of MS Symptoms?

Competing medical evidence was called making this a difficult issue to resolve. Mr. Justice Cullen thoroughly reviewed much of the leading scientific evidence with respect to this topic making this decision must-reading for anyone advancing a claim connectin MS and trauma.

In the end, Mr. Justice Cullen dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim concluding that “the question before me of whether trauma, including mild head trauma or whiplash injury, can cause the exacerbation of MS symptoms, was the precise question before the court in Dingley supra. As did the Lord President and the House of Lords in that case, I conclude that the plaintiff has not proved on a balance of probabilities that such a causal connection exists.”

The judgement went on to state that “In finding that the evidence falls short of establishing a causal link on a balance of probabilities, I also rely on the fact that a substantial majority of the relevant scientific community has rejected the notion of a causal connection based on developments in understanding the pathogenesis of the disease, epidemiological studies, reanalysis of previous studies said to support the link, and a weakening of the biological plausibility of the theory through studies such as the Werring Study and the Filippi Study. In the result, I have an advantage over the court in Dingley, supra, in knowing what the future held for the issue in the scientific community in the years following that judgment.”