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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 ‘mild traumatic brain injury’

$145,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Traumatic Brain Injury With Lingering Cognitive Impairment

February 19th, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing damages for a mild traumatic brain injury with lingering cognitive impairment.

In today’s case (Gauthier v. Dubois) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 motorcycle collision caused by the Defendant.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries many of which enjoyed good recovery.  Among these were a mild traumatic brain injury which resulted in cognitive impairments which had a poor prognosis for full recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $145,000 for the injuries Mr. Justice Milman provided the following reasons:

[128]     Mr. Gauthier sustained many injuries in the accident, of varying severity. He had no broken bones. While many of his injuries have resolved, several have not.

[129]     Most significantly, I have found that Mr. Gauthier suffers ongoing cognitive impairments resulting from an injury to his brain. I also accept that he continues to have back problems and knee pain, including a risk of future degeneration in his left knee.

[130]     I have found that Mr. Gauthier suffered significant pain from his numerous injuries in the first weeks and months following the accident. Most of those injuries have since resolved. He continues to suffer occasional headaches and pain in his back and knees. There is a risk that his left knee will grow worse. He does not often seek out medical attention or therapies or take prescription drugs to ameliorate his discomfort, however.

[131]     Mr. Gauthier was away from work and disabled for several weeks. Although he has gradually recovered to a significant extent, he has not returned to his previous level of performance. While he can now do just about all of the activities he did before, he cannot do many of them as well, or without pain or discomfort.

[132]     Mr. Gauthier has suffered emotionally form his cognitive impairments and his gradual recognition of their permanence. He is anxious about driving. He cannot surf as aggressively or do other athletic activities at the same pace as formerly, although this must be attributed at least in part to his age. He is more introverted and less confident. He now questions his performance at work and his career prospects.

[133]     The plaintiff advances no argument in this regard.

[134]     Although Mr. Gauthier claims that he tends to socialize less than he did before the accident, I am not satisfied that this is a significant factor in his loss. As Mr. Harris submits, Mr. Gauthier has been able to enter into a long-term, romantic relationship since the accident where he did not have any significant attachments before.

[135]     Mr. Gauthier is still functioning at work but not at the same level. He is also unable to do the recreational activities that he enjoys, particularly surfing, at the same level. Nevertheless, he is still able to enjoy those activities.

[136]     Mr. Gauthier asserts that the impact on his lifestyle has been “severe.” In my view that is an overstatement. I accept that his lifestyle has been affected, but he has maintained his occupation as an entrepreneur and manager – his business appears to be recovering. He continues to do the same recreational activities as he did before, although not necessarily at the same level. Some of this drop in performance must be attributed to his age.

[137]     I found the following cases most helpful among those cited to me by counsel: Traynor v. Degroot, 2002 BCSC 441, aff’d 2003 BCCA 483; Joel v. Paivarinta et al., 2005 BCSC 73; Benson v. Day, 2014 BCSC 2224; Kaiser v. Williams, 2015 BCSC 646; and Sundin v. Turnbull, 2017 BCSC 15. I find that the injuries in issue here lie in the middle of that range – generally more severe than those in Kaiser ($130,000) but less severe than those in Sundin ($175,000). I find this case most similar to Traynor ($120,000 or $155,000 adjusted for inflation) and Joel ($110,000 or $134,000 adjusted for inflation).

[138]     It is important to bear in mind, however, that each case is unique and must be assessed on its own facts.

[139]     Having considered the facts of this case in light of the authorities to which I have referred, I assess Mr. Gauthier’s general damages at $145,000.


$125,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment for TBI – Adverse Inference Discussed

August 17th, 2011

Update March 21, 2014 – the Liability findings in the below case were upheld today by the  BC Court of Appeal

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Adding to this site’s ICBC Case Summary Archives, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages for a traumatic brain injury sustained in a BC vehicle collision.

In this week’s case (Meghji v. Lee) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while walking in a marked cross-walk in 2003.  Both the Defendant driver and BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways were found at fault for the crash.  The former for failing to keep a proper lookout while driving, the latter for designing the intersection at question with inadequate overhead lighting.  The driver was found 90% at fault with the Ministry shouldering 10% of the blame.

The Plaintiff suffered a fracture near her left shoulder, left elbow, ankle, knee and a traumatic brain injury.   The consequences of these were expected to cause permanent dysfunction.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Johnston provided the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[134]Mr. Lee struck Ms. Meghji on her left side. That caused a significant fracture to Ms. Meghji’s left upper arm, a less significant fracture just below and into her left knee and an injury to her left ankle, all of which required immediate medical intervention. There were also the soft tissue injuries that would reasonably be expected to accompany such trauma.

[135]Within a day of the accident, Ms. Meghji had surgery to her left upper arm that involved the insertion of a rod that was fixed by screws just below her shoulder and just above her left elbow. She also had a screw placed into her left ankle…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[270]Based upon the evidence of Dr. Ali and Mr. Brozak of the substantial change noted in Ms. Meghji during this time, as supported by similar observations from Ms. Chauncey’s and Ms. Wyeth’s description of Ms. Meghji’s abilities in her math class and as a teaching assistant before the accident, I conclude that Ms. Meghji has more likely than not suffered a brain injury in the accident, and that the combination of the effects of the brain injury and the depression and chronic pain disorder, which I also find was caused by the accident or flows from injuries suffered in the accident, are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot possibly be disentangled.

[271]In all of the circumstances, the defendants are ordered to pay Ms. Meghji $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenities and enjoyment of life.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s application of the ‘adverse inference’ principle.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff’s lawyers had her assessed by a neurologist.  The neurologist did not tender evidence at trial.  Mr. Justice Johnston used his discretion to draw an adverse inference in these circumstances finding that the privately hired doctor likely did not have helpful evidence to give in support of the Plaintiff’s claim.  The court provided the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[240]In ordinary circumstances, I would agree that a claim of litigation privilege should be sufficient explanation for the failure to produce evidence from an expert who examined a party, and no inference adverse to that party should be drawn from the failure to produce the evidence.

[241]However, where, as here, counsel has assumed control of medical management of a plaintiff’s injuries, the circumstances are not ordinary.

[242]Dr. Grimwood would ordinarily have been expected to coordinate Ms. Meghji’s treatment, including referrals to specialists as he thought advisable. In this case, Dr. Grimwood appears to have largely ceded that responsibility to Ms. Meghji’s counsel, largely because counsel were able to arrange examinations by medical specialists much sooner than could Dr. Grimwood.

[243]Where counsel becomes actively involved in arranging treatment, or in treatment decisions, or in selection of treatment providers to the extent that it becomes difficult or impossible to determine whether any particular doctor is involved for treatment purposes, or to advise counsel, the protective cloak of litigation privilege becomes tattered.

[244]In such circumstances, counsel and the party who permit the line between treating physicians and physicians retained to advise counsel to become blurred must accept some risk that the protection ordinarily afforded by litigation privilege might be lost.

[245]Ms. Meghji testified that she saw Dr. Cameron for headaches. In the face of that evidence, I infer, from the refusal to produce evidence from Dr. Cameron, that any opinion generated as a result of his examination of Ms. Meghji was not helpful to the claims she makes in this trial. I also infer that, while examining for headache, had Dr. Cameron observed any signs that suggested to him that Ms. Meghji had suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, his observations or opinion would have been produced at trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Danicek v. AHBL: Looking Beyond the Headlines

January 24th, 2011

Last year reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for personal injuries at over $5.9 million dollars.

The case received a lot of publicity.  The size of the assessment and the facts underlying the case  (one lawyer fell on another lawyer while dancing at a nightclub) were some of the reasons why this case received so much press.

However, looking behind the headlines gives a better (and less sensational) account of a story of compensation for longstanding and debilitating injury.

The Plaintiff’s damage assessment at a quick glance appears high, however, she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the incident.  The Court found that she would never work competitively as a lawyer again.  The lion’s share of the damage assessment was intended to compensate the young lawyer for a lifetime of lost earnings.

Of greater significance was the fact that the Plaintiff never received anywhere near the assessed $5.9 million in damages from the personal Defendant.   Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaduin & Lang) revealing the rest of the story.

As the high profile case was being tried an underlying battle was being fought between the Plaintiff, Defendant and various insurance companies about coverage.

The Defendant, Jeremy Martin Poole, agreed to pay the Plaintiff just over $1,000,000 of the damages.  This money was obtained from an insurance company that agreed that coverage was in place based on the allegations.  A seperte insurer, whose policy provided $5,000,000 in coverage, denied payment arguing that this type of lawsuit fell outside the scope of their coverage.  This issue went to trial and in today’s reasons Mr. Justice Kelleher sided with Lombard Insurance finding that they did not have to pay any part of the damage assessment to the Plaintiff.

What’s left when all the dust settles is something far less sensational than what early headlines would lead people to believe.  Ultimately a brain injured plaintiff has received less than complete compensation for the long-standing consequences of traumatic brain injury.


"Demystifying" Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

December 29th, 2010

(Update: the Defendant’s Appeal of the below judgement was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal on February 7, 2012)

Many of you may be aware of ICBC’s current “demystifying” campaign.   There are many misunderstood topics related to injury lawsuits and one of the most prominent is that of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  Reasons for judgement were recently released by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, demystifying some of the arguments that are commonly raised in opposition to these claims.

In today’s case (Madill v. Sithivong) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the passenger side by the Defendant’s vehicle.  The issue of fault was admitted by the Defendant with the trial largely focussing on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.

The collision was not significant, from a vehicle damage perspective, causing little over $1,700 in damage to the Plaintiff vehicle.   Despite this the Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.  ICBC argued that the injuries were not serious in part because the vehicle damage was modest, the Plaintiff had a ‘normal‘ Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15/15 noted on the ambulance crew report and that the hospital records relating to the treatment of the Plaintiff noted that he suffered from “No LOC (loss of consciousness)” and “zero amnesia“.

The Plaintiff called evidence from Dr. Hunt, a well respected neurosurgeon, who gave evidence that the above facts were not determinative of whether the Plaintiff suffered from serious consequences related to MTBI.  Madam Justice Morrison was persuaded by Dr. Hunts’ evidence and accepted that the Plaintiff suffered from long term consequences as a result of an acquired brain injury.  In rejecting the defence arguments Madam Justice Morrison provided the following ‘demystifying‘ reasons:

[112]     Dr. Hunt said he tries to concentrate on the individual.  He finds it helpful to see the notes of the family doctor, which deal with initial complaints, as do the notes of the ER doctor and responders.  But he notes that those doctors are very busy, and things get overlooked.  The same is true with an ambulance crew.  Dr. Hunt stated there may be no loss of consciousness, but there may be a loss of awareness.  An ambulance crew may give a 15 score for the Glasgow scale, indicating normal, but that could be misleading.  He also noted that someone may be described as being in good health pre-accident, but that would not mean he would not have issues.

[113]     Dr. Hunt disagreed that the best evidence of whether the plaintiff was an amnesiac, were notes at the hospital of “no LOC” and “zero amnesia”.  It was the evidence of Dr. Hunt that no matter how many times you see those terms, that a patient is alert and wide awake, that sometimes in looking at crew reports, the necessary information is not there.  A person does not need to strike his head for a concussion to have occurred.  It need only have been a shaking.

[114]     It is important to explain what a mild traumatic brain injury is, he stressed; Dr. Hunt referred to the many concussions in sports.  He said it is important to look at what happened following the accident, what symptoms have occurred and are continuing to occur.  Patients often deny a loss of consciousness or a loss of awareness, and it may be so fleeting that they may well be unaware.  But if the head has been shaken or jarred enough, this will equal a concussion, which is the same as a mild traumatic brain injury.  There may be no indication of bruises on the head, but it still could be a concussion.  Dr. Hunt noted that something prevented the plaintiff from exiting the vehicle, so the Jaws of Life was used.

[115]     Dr. Hunt noted that Dr. Tessler agreed that the plaintiff had a cerebral concussion in his initial report, but it was the opinion of Dr. Hunt that Dr. Tessler was not up to date on mild traumatic brain injuries.

[116]     In his evidence, Dr. Hunt listed some of the symptoms that are compatible with a concussion having occurred:  headaches, altered vision, balance difficulties, general fatigue, anxiety, memory disturbance, inability to manage stress.  “A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.  We no longer grade concussions.”

[117]     I found Dr. Hunt to be an excellent witness.  He was cautious, detailed, thoughtful, low key, thorough and utterly professional.  In cross-examination, he gave a minor clinic on mild traumatic brain injuries.  He was subjected to a rigorous, lengthy and skilful cross-examination, which only served to expand upon and magnify his report and opinions.

[118]     He commented on the history of Mr. Madill prior to the accident, pointing to a number of things that may have caused excessive jarring or shaking of the head, even if there had been no symptoms of concussion.  He believes that the first responders’ observations are not always accurate as to what actually happened.  He said he himself may not have identified problems of concussion at the scene of the accident.  Ninety percent of people with concussions have headaches.  They have difficulty describing the headaches, and they are not the same as migraine or tension headaches.

[119]     Dr. Hunt was further critical of Dr. Tessler in opining that Dr. Tessler had diluted his opinion, and that he had concerns with the report of Dr. Tessler.  He felt that Dr. Tessler was still “in the dark ages” with regard to mild traumatic brain injuries, that he has not had the advantages that Dr. Hunt has had in working with sports brain injuries.  “Concussion is cumulative.”

[120]     I found the report and the evidence of Dr. Hunt persuasive.  He came across as an advocate of a better understanding of concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries, not as an advocate on behalf of the plaintiff.

In addition to the above, two other topics were of interest in todays’ case.  Evidence was presented by ICBC though private investigtors they hired who conducted video surveillance of the Plaintiff.  The Court found that this evidence was of little value but prior to doing so Madam Justice Morrison made the following critical observations:

[74] Much of the videotaping occurred while both the plaintiff and the private investigator were moving on streets and highways, driving at the speed of other traffic.  The investigators testified they drove with one hand on the wheel and the other hand operating the video camera, up at the side of their head, to allow them to view through the camera what they were taping.  That continues to be their practice today, according to at least one of the investigators, which was interesting, considering from whom they receive their instructions, a corporation dedicated to road safety.

Lastly, this case is worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of diminished earning capacity.  In short the Plaintiff was self employed with his spouse.  Despite his injuries he was able to continue working but his spouse took on greater responsibility following the collision.  The Court recognized that the Plaintiff suffered from a diminisehd earning capacity and awarded $650,000 for this loss.  Paragraphgs 193-210 of the judgement contain the Court’s discussion of this topic.


$5.9 Million Damage Assessment To Lawyer For Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

August 10th, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages of just over $5.9 million for injuries and losses sustained in a Dance Floor injury.

In today’s case (Danicek v. Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang) the Plaintiff lawyer was out at a lawfirm function in 2001.  After dinner some members of the Plaintiff’s firm went dancing at a nightclub in downtown Vancouver.  During the evening a fellow lawyer fell backwards while dancing.  During his fall he struck the Plaintiff causing her to fall as well.  The Plaintiff hit her head on the ground with enough force to knock her unconscious.  Liability was in issue however Mr. Justice Kelleher found the Defendant was impaired when he fell and that he was fully responsible for the incident.

The Plaintiff suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) the consequences of which were expected to never fully recover.  The court found that the Plaintiff would likely never work competitively as a lawyer again and awarded over $5 million for her diminished earning capacity.  Mr. Justice Kellehar also awarded the Plaintiff $185,000 for her non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).  In reaching this figure the Court made the following findings about the severity and extent of the Plaintiff’s brain injury:

227]     I find Ms. Danicek suffered a mild, traumatic brain injury in the April 6, 2001 accident. It has had a profound effect on her life. She was completely disabled from work until December 2001. As Dr. Anderson notes in his report dated January 26, 2007, the mild traumatic brain injury has resulted in ongoing post-concussive symptoms, which include physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties.

[228]     Her headache pain has persisted and persists today, some nine years after the accident. The post-traumatic headaches have resulted in the plaintiff developing chronic pain disorder. Dr. Anderson notes that chronic pain disorder “causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” …

[229] The medical evidence suggests that the plaintiff is not likely to completely or even substantially recover from these symptoms….

230]     Dr. Robinson noted that persons who suffer from severe headache disorders similar to the plaintiff’s condition are not likely to realize substantial improvements with the available treatments.

[231]     Dr. Anderson does not consider it likely that the plaintiff’s chronic pain disorder will meaningfully improve…

[232] In addition to the headaches and pain disorder, I accept that the dance accident caused some measure of cognitive impairment. Ms. Danicek felt that before the accident she was quick to understand new concepts. Today, she feels that, in her words, everyone gets it except her….

254]     The dance accident has impacted the plaintiff’s life profoundly. She has lost much. She has had and continues to have headaches of varying severity and duration. The injury has affected her physical and mental abilities and had a significant impact on her relationship with Mr. Schober.

[255]     The plaintiff has experienced a loss of enjoyment of life, and is unable to engage in many recreational activities. Her lifestyle has drastically changed since the dance accident.

[256]     An example of the effect of the dance accident on the plaintiff’s life is found in the evidence of her friend, Kristen Schneider. Prior to the accident, Ms. Schneider described the plaintiff as having “the most energy I think out of anybody I know”. At trial, Ms. Schneider testified that after the dance accident, Ms. Danicek was unable to consistently make their customary lunch dates; when she did, they had to find restaurants that were quiet to avoid exacerbating her headaches.

[257]     Additionally, she and the plaintiff no longer regularly go for runs, rollerblade, or hike the Grouse Grind, as was their habit prior to the dance accident.

[258]     Ms. Danicek is no longer able to pursue her career as a corporate solicitor working on “big deals”, a position she worked hard to obtain. The plaintiff enjoyed this work and her career was a source of pride for her. I accept this loss has negatively affected her feelings of self-worth and emotional well-being. In Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.), [1987] 1 S.C.R. 313, Dickson C.J. (in dissent) stated at 368:

Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being.

[259]     It is clear the plaintiff continues to suffer from her injuries, and her problems are likely to continue in the future without substantial improvement or resolution. Her prognosis for recovery or diminishment of her chronic headaches and pain is not good.

[260]     While individual judgments turn very much on their particular facts, two decisions which have influenced me are Reilly v. Lynn, 2000 BCSC 360, varied on other grounds, 2003 BCCA 49, leave to appeal ref’d [2003] S.C.C.A. No. 221, and Adamson v. Charity, 2007 BCSC 671.

[261]     In the circumstances, an award of $185,000 is appropriate.


$170,000 Non-Pecs for MTBI, Impaired Driver Found "Grossly Negligent"

June 28th, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $415,000 in total damages as a result of serious injuries occurring in a motor vehicle collision.

In this week’s case (Eggleston v. Watson) the pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle driven by the Defendant.  The Defendant had just left a pub and had a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit.  the Defendant was criminally convicted for driving with an unlawful blood alcohol limit.

As a result of this criminal conviction the Defendant was in breach of his ICBC insurance.  He defended the lawsuit personally and ICBC defended as a statutory third party.

The Defendant never saw the Plaintiff (who was walking in the Defendant’s lane of travel in the same direction) prior to hitting him.   Despite this, and despite the criminal conviction, both the Defendant and ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was mostly at fault for this incident.  Mr. Justice Davies disagreed and found that the defendant was at fault holding that “(his) ability to operate a motor vehicle at the time that he struck (the Plaintiff) was so impaired by his consumption  of alcohol that his actions in so doing were not only negligent, but grossly negligent“.

The Court went on to find that while the Plaintiff was in violation of s. 182 of the Motor Vehicle Act at the time of the crash for not walking on the roadway facing oncoming traffic, he was not partially to blame for this crash.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Davies reasoned as follows:

[70]        The question is whether Mr. Eggleston’s own conduct in placing himself at some risk that a severely impaired driver would not see him in time to apply his vehicle’s brakes or otherwise avoid a collision requires an apportionment of some liability to him for his injuries.

[71]        In all of the circumstances I find, as did Kirkpatrick J. in Laface, that Mr. Watson’s conduct was so unforeseeable, and the risk of injury from Mr. Eggleston’s failure to take more care so unlikely that “it is simply not appropriate” to find that Mr. Eggleston was contributorily negligent.

[72]        If I am wrong in that conclusion, based upon the analysis and conclusions of Esson J.A. in Giuliani, I would assess Mr. Eggleston’s fault in failing to avoid the collision to be no more than 5%.

The Court then awarded the Plaintiff $170,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for his serious injuries which included a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[145]     After considering the totality of the evidence in this trial including the medical evidence adduced by the parties, I have concluded that Mr. Eggleston has proven that it is more likely than not that he suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in the collision of June 9, 2009.

[146]     I also find that the mild traumatic brain injury he suffered is the primary cause of the emotional, social and cognitive difficulties he has exhibited and endured over the more than three years between the date of the accident and the start of the trial, and which will continue to impact his future suffering and enjoyment of life…

[157]     In addition to the mild traumatic brain injury that I find has been the primary cause of Mr. Eggleston’s past social, emotional, and cognitive problems as well his as continuing problems with serious headaches, all of which will likely continue to impact his future, as well as the balance difficulties that I find were caused by the collision, I also find that the evidence establishes on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Watson’s negligence caused the following physical injuries which Mr. Eggleston has suffered and from some of which continues to suffer:

1)        Significant soft tissue injuries and bruising which were ongoing until at least January of 2007 when he was seen by Dr. Travlos.

2)        A traumatic umbilical hernia which was successfully operated upon on May 29, 2007.

3)        Injuries to his right shoulder including a torn biceps tendon, impingement syndrome and a rotator cuff tear which were operated on without success on December 5, 2007, and which in the opinion of Dr. Leith, require further surgery.

4)        Injuries to his lower back which aggravated existing back problems from which he had largely recovered prior to the collision. Those lower back injuries have impacted on his ability to drive the water truck in his work for Mr. Palfi and in respect of which I accept Dr. Leith’s opinion of June 2, 2009.

[158]     In addition to those specific physical injuries, I accept the evidence of Dr. Travlos, Dr. Cameron, Dr. Smith and Dr. Bishop that Mr. Eggleston has suffered and continues to suffer from psychological problems arising from his brain injuries and the pain associated with the physical injuries suffered in the collision. That pain was chronic until at least June of 2009 but was relieved to a large extent by narcotic and other medications thereafter until Mr. Eggleston determined to wean himself off Dilaudid. He now again has more pain and is also likely suffering the continuing effects of withdrawal. However, his present work history convinces me that within the neurological and cognitive limits that may still compromise his recovery, his future suffering from chronic pain will likely be capable of amelioration with psychological counselling and pain management assistance without narcotic intervention.

[159]     In determining the appropriate award to compensate Mr. Eggleston for the injuries suffered in the collision, I have considered all of the injuries suffered by him that were caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence, their devastating effect upon his ability to enjoy the active life involving horses and his relationship with friends and family surrounding that lifestyle that he formerly enjoyed.

[160]     I have also considered the pain Mr. Eggleston has endured and will likely continue to endure at least at some level, the compromise of his role as the leader of his family and the loss of his self-esteem, the length of time over which he has already suffered those losses, the prospect of the continuation of those losses into the future, albeit at a less intense level than in the past, and the fact that he will again have to undergo surgery in an attempt to repair his shoulder injuries.

[161]     In addition, I have considered the situation that has existed since March of 2008 when Mr. Eggleston returned to work, in that the work he does drains him of energy so that his life has become somewhat one-dimensional, centering upon work and recovery from its daily effects upon him to the continued detriment of his ability to enjoy life.

[162]     Finally, I have considered all of the authorities which have been provided to me by counsel and which offer some guidance as to the appropriate range of damages for injuries such as those suffered by Mr. Eggleston but which are of course dependent on their unique fact situations.

[163]     I have concluded that in the totality of the circumstances an award of non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $170,000 will appropriately compensate Mr. Eggleston for his pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by Mr. Watson’s negligence.


There is Nothing "Mild" about Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

June 9th, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are generally categorized as Mild, Moderate and Severe.  Despite what the name suggests, there is nothing necessarily “mild” about the effects of a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster registry, doing a great job explaining this.

In today’s case (Cikojevic v. Timm) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2002 crash.  She was 17 at the time.  She was a passenger in a truck that drove off the road and hit a tree.  The force of the collision “threw her head into the windshield hard enough to star it“.

All of the medical experts that examined the Plaintiff (both her own and those hired by ICBC) agreed she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in this crash.  The consequences of this never fully resolved and the Court accepted she would struggle with life long difficulties.  Mr. Justice Brown awarded the Plaintiff over $1.4 million in total compensation including $1 million for her diminished earning capacity over her lifetime.   The case is worth reviewing in full for the Court’s discussion of this head of damage.  Prior to awarding damages Mr. Justice Brown provided the following useful quote about “mild” TBI:

[251]     Although experts sometimes disagree on whether to call an injury a mild concussion or a MTBI, either term is suitable.

[252]     “Mild” describes the severity of the organic injury, not its effect.

[253]     Although the organic severity of an injury usually associates with the severity of symptoms, sometimes symptoms can be severe while the organic injuries to the brain are mild.

[254]     Upwards of 85% of people suffering uncomplicated MTBI recover within six months. The recovery range lies between 85% and 95%, depending on the expert’s views and the literature they accept. I find that around 90% of people suffering uncomplicated MTBI recover according to scientific literature. However, as noted by Dr. Anton, such statistics are of no value when dealing with a patient who falls into the subset of people who never fully recover. Each case must be evaluated individually.

[255]     The cognitive and emotional effects of MTBI can severely disable and impact the injured person’s life.

You can click here to access my archived posts of other recent BC personal injury cases dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury.


More on the Law of Multiple Defence Medical Exams in Injury Litigation

April 13th, 2010

Further to my previous posts on this topic, the law is well settled that the BC Supreme Court can order a Plaintiff involved in an injury lawsuit to undergo multiple defence medical exams in appropriate circumstances in order to ‘level the playing field‘.

There are many reported court cases considering such applications and today reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, providing a concise summary of some of the legal principles at play when ICBC or another defendant wishes to have a Plaintiff assessed by multiple doctors.

In today’s case (Hamilton v. Pavlova) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2002 BC car crash.   The Plaintiff alleged that she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) in the crash which affected her cognitive functioning and had been assessed by at least 14 doctors since the time of her accident.

The Plaintiff attended two independent medical exams at request of the defendants, the first with an orthopaedic surgeon and the second with a neurologist.  The neurologist provided an opinion that “there was no evidence to support a diagnosis of brain injury“.  The Defendants then requested the Plaintiff to be assessed by a psychiatrist.  The Plaintiff refused and this resulted in a court motion to force attendance.

Mr. Justice Bracken dismissed the motion finding that the defendants were seeking to “bolster the opinion (of the neurologist they chose) by providing a similar opinion from someone with perhaps a more appropriate specialty“.  Before reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Bracken provided the following very useful summary of some of the factors Courts consider in requests for multiple ‘independent’ medical exams:

[10] Rule 30(1) provides discretion to the court to order an independent medical examination, and under Rule 30(2), more than one examination may be ordered.  Counsel, in their helpful submissions, have thoroughly canvassed the relative authorities on this point.  From those authorities, certain principles emerge.  The case law is against a background of the rules of court, and in particular, the principle that the rules are designed to secure a just determination of every proceeding on the merits and to ensure full disclosure, so the rules should be given a fair and liberal interpretation to meet those objectives:  Wildemann v. Webster, [1990] B.C.J. No. 2304 (B.C.C.A.) at pp. 2-3.

[11] Rule 30(2) is a discretionary rule, and the discretion must be exercised judicially.  An independent examination is granted to ensure a “reasonable equality between the parties in the preparation of a case for trial”:  Wildemann v. Webster at p. 11 from the separate concurring reasons of Chief Justice McEachern.

[12] Reasonable equality does not mean that the defendant should be able to match expert for expert or report for report:  McKay v. Passmore, 2005 BCSC 570 at para. 17, andChristopherson v. Krahn, 2002 BCSC 1356 at para. 9.

[13] A second exam will not be allowed for the purpose of attempting to bolster an earlier opinion of another expert.  That is, there must be some question or matter that could not have been dealt with at the earlier examination:  Trahan v. West Coast Amusements Ltd., 2000 BCSC 691 at para. 48, and Norsworthy v. Greene, 2009 BCSC 173 at para. 18.

[14] There is a higher standard required where the defendant seeks a second or subsequent medical exam of the plaintiff:  McKay v. Passmore, supra, at para. 17 and para. 29.

[15] The application must be timely.  That is, the proposed examination should be complete and a report available in sufficient time to comply with the rules of admissibility and to allow enough time for the plaintiff to assess and respond if necessary:  Vermeulen-Miller v. Sanders, 2007 BCSC 1258 at paras. 47-48, relying in part on Goss v. Harder, 2001 BCSC 1823.

[16] Finally, subsequent independent medical examinations should be reserved for cases where there are some exceptional circumstances:  Wildemann v. Webster, supra, at p. 3.

As previously pointed out, the BC Supreme Court Rules are being overhauled in July 2010.  Under the new rules the Court will continue to have the power to order multiple medical exams in particular circumstances but one thing that will change is that the concept of ‘proportionality’ will be introduced into the analysis. I plan to follow the law as it develops under the new rules and will report how our Courts apply the concept of proportionality to multiple defence medical exams in ICBC and other BC Personal Injury Litigation.


Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries and the Recognition of Symptoms

February 22nd, 2010

When people suffer from mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI), it sometimes takes time for people to recognize the extent of the injury and the impact that the consequences of MTBI have on everyday life.  Changes can be subtle but the impact could be dramatic.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering such a case.

In today’s case (Burdett v. Eidse) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 serious motor vehicle accidents.  The first in Kelowna, the second in North Vancouver.  Fault was not admitted for the first but after trial the Court found the Defendant 100% liable for the first crash.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant for the second crash.  Madam Justice Loo was asked to determine the extent of the Plaintiff’s accident related injuries.

The Plaintiff suffered from an MTBI in the first crash.  As is sometimes seen with these types of injuries the Plaintiff did not appreciate the significant impact his MTBI had on his level of functioning.   The Plaintiff, who had a “bulldog” attitude took very little time off work and complained very little about the consequences of the car crash.

To those around the Plaintiff, however, the changes were noticeable.  Evidence was called that there were significant changes in the Plaintiff’s functioning after the car crash by those close to him.  Ultimately Madam Justice Loo of the BC Supreme Court accepted that the Plaintiff did suffer an MTBI in the collision and that he was competitively unemployable as a result.  The Court went on to award just over $1.1 Million in total damages including an award of $200,000 for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).

In reaching her conclusions Madam Justice Loo highlighted the difficulty the Plaintiff had in realizing the consequences of the car crash.  Some of the key findings were as follows:

[106] When asked when he became aware that he had a problem, Mr. Burdett said that when he first saw his counsel Mr. Burns, he mentioned he had an accident, and “kind of left it” at that. No one in his crew told him he was not doing what he was supposed to be doing on the job. Then “weird things” started “creeping into my life”. Friends started telling him he was forgetting things, he was having a hard time remembering numbers, he could no longer estimate the cost of a plan, and he was forgetting things at work. His crew told him to get joist hangers and he returned with something else. They started writing things down for him so that he would remember. He finally realized “there’s something really wrong here; I need help”. He returned to see Mr. Burns again.

[107] There is no evidence of when Mr. Burdett saw his counsel the first or second time, but this action was commenced and a statement of claim filed on April 4, 2007. The statement of defence was filed July 30, 2007.

[108] Despite what his family, friends, and co-workers saw and observed of Mr. Burdett, it was not until he saw Dr. Cameron that he recognized the extent of his injuries from the motor vehicle accident of June 26, 2005.

[109] At the time Mr. Burdett worked on the Losch and Summerland Motel projects, he thought he was doing fine. In retrospect, he was not. In retrospect he realized that he was cut out of the loop, did not stay on top of matters, and let work get out of control.

[110] Several times during the construction of the Losch projects, the architect voiced to him that the project was not running satisfactorily. Not only has an architect never said that to him, but Mr. Burdett also did not realize that the project was not running smoothly at the time.

[111] Mr. Burdett’s company is still owed $80,000 on the Losch project, but Mr. Burdett is unable to determine what the deficiencies are or what work has been left undone because he left everything to the job superintendent with whom he no longer has a relationship.

[112] The Summerland Motel project became an even bigger disaster because Mr. Burdett failed to properly manage the project. He did not write up a change order or extra work order and did everything with a wave of his hand. He never made sure that the owner had financing in place, with the result that Mr. Burdett financed much of the work with his own personal funds. He did not deal with the trades as he should have, with the result that trades walked off the job or never showed up. The job occurred at a time when carpenters and other trades were hard to get. Mr. Burdett misquoted parts of the work by leaving out necessary work, and did not know at the time that he was having difficulty estimating and working with numbers.

[188] There is no doubt that Mr. Burdett initially did not recognize the extent of his injuries:  Dr. John Pullyblank testified that it is not uncommon when a person suffers neurocognitive injuries. It takes that person some time to realize that his brain does not work the way it used to.

[189] I find that Mr. Burdett is neither a complainer nor a malingerer. At first, he was not aware of the extent of his cognitive difficulties and worked without even telling those with whom he worked closely that he had been in an accident. Common sense tells me that those who worked with him would not and did not tell him that something was wrong with him or his brain. This is supported by the evidence. Instead, those who worked with him avoided dealing with him and basically cut him out of the loop.

[190] Dr. Kates, Mr. Nemeth, Dr. Cameron, and Dr. Kaushanksy all spoke about Mr. Burdett’s bullish or bulldog attitude. Dr. Kaushansky put it best when he said that Mr. Burdett probably did not recognize he was injured in the accident (I pause to note that Mr. Burdett seemed genuinely surprised when the police officer’s report indicated that he had been injured). It is part of his bull dog approach: “This is a nothing accident. I’m out of here and on my way”. It explains why he took no time off work, why he told very few about the accident, and why he complained little, if at all…

[194] While Mr. Burdett clearly did not appreciate the extent of his injuries or that something was wrong with him, clearly those who were close to him—his family, friends, and workers—knew he was a different man long before Dr. Cameron’s diagnosis…

[198] I conclude on a consideration of all of the evidence that Mr. Burdett suffered soft tissue injuries and a concussion or an MTBI from the June 2005 accident. He had a pre-existing brain injury that made him more susceptible to more significant and prolonged symptoms, and he fell within that small percentage of individuals who do not recover. His soft tissue injuries were aggravated by the January 2006 accident. The overwhelming evidence is that Mr. Burdett suffered cognitive impairment immediately after the first accident, his condition will likely not improve, and he will suffer the same problems for the rest of his life. His anxiety and depression are related to the accident and the realization that not only is he no longer the same high functioning successful businessman that he once was, but also that his condition is permanent and he is not likely to recover.

[199] I conclude on all of the evidence that Mr. Burdett is no longer capable of working as a contractor and is competitively unemployable, or put at its best, is minimally employable.

It is difficult to extract sound bites from a case like this and I suggest that anyone interested in Brain Injury litigation in British Columbia review this judgement in full to see some of the types of issues that can arise in MTBI cases.

This judgement reveals 2 issues that are worth taking note of.  First that lay witnesses (friends, family co-workers) play a vital role in brain injury litigation as their evidence can be key towards establishing not just the diagnosis of injury but the severity of its impact.  Second this case shows that being stoic in the face of injury does nothing to reduce the value of an injury claim.  Here the Plaintiff’ ‘bulldog‘ attitude did not reduce the value of his claim and in all likelihood assisted the Court in making positive credibility findings.


$115,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

May 1st, 2009

In reasons for judgement released yesterday (Williamson v. Suna) by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, damages of just over $266,000 were awarded for injuries and losses as a result of a 2004 motor vehicle collision.

The Plaintiff was a 38 year old member of the Canadian Armed Forces at the time of the car crash.  The crash was a significant head on collision.  The issue of fault was admitted focusing the trial solely on damages.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries and symptoms as a result of this crash including a mild traumatic brain injury, headaches, poor sleep, irritability and difficulties with memory.  While the medical evidence did not rule out further possible recovery the testifying physcians stated that the plaintiff would probably suffer from headaches, neck pain and consequences of the mild traumatic brain injury for many years to come.

In awarding $115,000 for the plaintiffs non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) Mr. Justice Goepel summarized the consequences of the injuries on the Plaintiff as follows:

[41]            Prior to the accident, Mr. Williamson was in good health.  He was physically active, and enjoyed activities such as fly fishing, scuba diving, sky diving, and competitive target shooting.  He was a former member of the Canadian national shooting team. 

[42]            After the accident, Mr. Williamson stopped skydiving and scuba diving.  While he still participates in target shooting, the enjoyment that he derives from that activity has decreased.  He explained that the noise from the rifle aggravates his headache, and the kick from the rifle aggravates his neck pain. 

[43]            Before the accident, Mr. Williamson was an active photographer.  He had taken a number of photography courses.  Since the accident, the enjoyment he derives from photography has decreased.  He has difficulty maintaining the static neck positions required to take quality photographs. 

[44]            Mr. Williamson testified that as a result of the accident and his headaches, he now seldom goes out in the evenings.  His irritability has obviously impacted on his family life.  Because of his headaches, he is unable to enjoy his young child as much as he should.

[45]            Mr. Williamson realizes that his injuries, particularly his difficulties with memory and concentration may eventually curtail his military career.  That possibility has caused him considerable anguish and diminished his enjoyment of life.

In addition to non-pecuniary damages, $150,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity.  Although he missed little time from work in the Canadian Armed Forces and in fact was promoted in the years after the car crash the court found that there was a possibility that the Plaintiff would not be able to continue in his current position or perhaps in the military  altogether as a result of his injuries.  Paragraphs 52-62 are worth reviewing for a discussion demonstrating how damages for future wage loss / diminished earning capacity can be made in an ICBC Injury Claim even where there is no wage loss from the time of the crash to the time of trial.