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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 ‘Thoracic Outlet Syndrome’

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

November 23rd, 2017

Adding to this site’s archived damage assessments for thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for such an injury.

In today’s case (Sharma v. MacDonald) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries the most serious of which was thoracic outlet syndrome.  The symptoms lingered to trial and were expected to cause some ongoing limitations.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[198]     …I find that the defendants are responsible for the plaintiff’s neck, back, and arm issues.  In my view, the plaintiff has established on a balance of probabilities that she suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome, as concluded by Dr. Hawkeswood, and that this injury was caused by the defendants’ negligence.

[199]     With respect to anxiety, I accept that the plaintiff suffers from anxiety in relation to driving…

[203]     Regarding non-pecuniary damages, I find that the plaintiff enjoyed a full life before the Accident and had no issues with respect to her neck and back.  Nor did she have a tingling feeling in her arm or numbness of her right arm.

[204]     I find that, as she testified, the plaintiff did not have to rest after having performed her regular activities. I also find that she did not experience headaches or low mood symptoms prior to the Accident.

[205]     I do find, however, that the plaintiff has been steadily improving.  I note that she enjoys playing basketball.  I note that she now works without significant limitations.  I note that she has gone back to a number of her pre-Accident activities.  She is not as socially isolated now that she has returned home from Edmonton.

[206]     I accept that the plaintiff still suffers from numbness and tingling feelings in her right arm, and from some neck and back pain.  However, the pain she has now is not like the pain immediately following the Accident.  The plaintiff is able to work to the extent she testified to.  While I appreciate that she must rest afterward, she is not disabled from working.

[217]     In all of the circumstances, I award the plaintiff $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages.


$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Thoracic Outlet Sydrome Coupled With Mild Brain Injury

July 22nd, 2013

Adding to this site’s archives addressing non-pecuniary damages for traumatically induced thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such an injury caused in a vehicle collision.

In last week’s case (Danielson v. Johnson) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  Liability was admitted.  The Plaintiff, who worked installing ceilings, suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and thoracic outlet syndrome in the crash.  The Defendant took a serious run at the plaintiff’s credibility pointing out a history of cocaine use, getting paid under the table, and even lying at his examination for discovery.  Despite this the Court found the plaintiff ‘credible and reliable’.  The Court noted these injuries were caused by the collision and would likely require vocational retraining.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Silverman provided the following reasons:

[139]     With respect to both TOS and the MTBI, I reject the inference that prior injuries may have caused his current problems.  To the contrary, the evidence is that it is common for the long-term consequences of prior injuries to sometimes be sitting dormant, and when a newer injury emerges, a MTBI or TOS may result.  I am satisfied that has occurred here…

[146]     I am satisfied of the following: that the plaintiff did suffer a brain injury in the MVA, it was a mild brain injury, he suffers from accompanying emotional difficulties that cause additional impairment, and the consequences of the foregoing are likely to be ongoing…

[147]     The weight of the evidence supports the finding that the plaintiff does suffer from TOS as a result of the MVA and, on a balance of probabilities, I find this to be so.  I note that Dr. Fry devotes much of his medical practice to the management and treatment of TOS, both conservatively and with surgery, and that Dr. Salvian has a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of TOS.

[148]     More than a decade ago, the plaintiff had a fracture to his neck which eventually healed completely, and he had no problems as a result of it in the five years prior to the MVA.  The research has shown that a majority of people who suffer from TOS have had a prior neck injury, perhaps even years before, which had long healed, but that set them up to be vulnerable to any further injury.  I am satisfied that this is what happened to the plaintiff.

[149]     When the plaintiff raises his right arm to the side or above his head, or in front of him (while driving) as well as into a position where his hands are at the height of his head or slightly higher, TOS symptoms are provoked. Unfortunately, he is required to do these sorts of movements at his work.

[150]     I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers from TOS as a result of the MVA.  He has been able to function with his pre-MVA activities, including work and recreational activities, although less efficiently and less comfortably than before the MVA.  I am satisfied that the evidence indicates this will not improve; in fact, it will worsen.  Hence, the weight of the medical opinion that the plaintiff must re-train…

[167]     I agree that the plaintiff demonstrates remarkable grit in continuing to work and to be involved in extreme sporting activities, to some extent contrary to the advice he has received from various doctors and to the surprise of those doctors.  Having said that, I am satisfied that the plaintiff does so with much less ease and pleasure than he did prior to the MVA.  He has suffered a loss in that regard, and will continue to do so.

[168]     In view of all the foregoing, I award non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $85,000.


$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome With Poor Prognosis

April 8th, 2013

Adding to this site’s archived posts of BC non-pecuniary damage assessments for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for such an injury with a poor prognosis.

In last week’s case (Gillam v. Wiebe) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained various injuries including a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with a poor prognosis for full recovery. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Verhoeven provided the following reasons:

65]         In summary, I find that the plaintiff suffered the following injuries due to the accident:  chronic right sided neck and shoulder pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, and headaches, all as described above. She has also suffered from deterioration in her mood and disposition, interference with sleep, and significant weight gain.

[66]         Her headache condition is gradually improving but she continues to suffer from frequent headaches. Her neck and shoulder pain and her TOS symptoms also continue to cause pain and limitation of function. In general, the prognosis for the plaintiff’s conditions is poor. It is likely that she will have a degree of limitation of function and pain permanently…

[85]         Some context is also provided by the video surveillance evidence. Video surveillance was conducted on 3 separate days in April and May, 2012. The video evidence shows the plaintiff carrying out ordinary activities such as pumping gas, entering and exiting her vehicle, driving, and also shopping and eating a picnic lunch with companions. She displays no obvious sign of discomfort or disability and generally looks comfortable and able to carry out such moderate activities.

[86]         Nevertheless, the plaintiff suffers from a limitation of function. She suffers from pain in her neck and shoulder which will likely never completely disappear. She is unlikely ever to be symptom free in relation to her TOS condition. She continues to suffer from frequent headaches for which the prognosis is negative for complete resolution. She is no longer capable of heavy work, and must avoid other activities that could aggravate her neck and shoulder injuries and her TOS. She is restricted in terms of employment, domestic and recreational activities. There has been a very significant change in the plaintiff’s overall lifestyle. There have been emotional consequences to her injuries. Her injuries have also made caring for her daughter much more difficult.

[87]         While of course each case is unique, other court cases provide useful guidance with respect to the proper quantum of the award. Consistency with other decisions of the courts is desirable. The award must be fair to both sides.

[88]         The plaintiff relied upon: Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 ($175,000); Hooper v. Nair, 2009 BCSC 862 ($104,500); Cimino v. Kwit, 2009 BCSC 912 ($85,000); Milliken v. Rowe, 2011 BCSC 1458 ($85,000); and Durand v. Bolt, 2007 BCSC 480 ($75,000). The plaintiff submits that the range for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $95,000 to $135,000. The defence also relies upon Cimino, and Durand. Additionally, the defence cites Driscoll v. Desharnais, 2009 BCSC 306 ($55,000)Langley v. Heppner, 2011 BCSC 179 ($55,000), and Verhnjak v. Papa, 2005 BCSC 1129 ($40,000). The defence submits thatDriscoll and Langley most closely equate to this case, and submits that an appropriate award is $60,000.

[89]         Having reviewed these authorities, in my view an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss in this case is $90,000.


Why Labels Don't Matter – More on BC Injury Claims and Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessments

January 9th, 2013

When assessing damages for injuries the BC Supreme Court will not address the injuries as ‘items on a grocery list’.   The exact label attached to an injury is far less important than the ways in which an injury compromises a Plaintiff’s life.  This was highlighted in a recent judgement from the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry.

In the recent decision (McKay v. Powell) the Plaintiff was involved in three rear-end collisions.  As a result she suffered from a chronic pain disorder.  As is often the case, in the course of her lawsuit the Plaintiff was assessed by a variety of physicians who had competing diagnoses for the Plaintiff’s symptoms, namely fibromyalgia vs thoracic outlet syndrome.  Demonstrating that whatever the correct diagnosis, the symptoms were caused by the collision and the plaintiff was entitled to appropriate compensation, Mr. Justice Meiklem provided the following reasons:

[44]         Clearly the cumulative effects of the three accidents in this case have placed Ms. McKay in a position where she has chronic pain disorder as stated by Dr. Mosewich, regardless of the lack of consensus as to whether there is possibly a thoracic outlet syndrome or fibromyalgia in play. No expert has ventured a specific prognosis as to complete resolution of her symptoms. Dr. Wade holds out a hope that further rehabilitation with exercises will reduce her symptoms while participating in daily activities, recreation and occupation. Dr. Mosewich recommended regular exercise and physiotherapy, but recognized a continuing need for pain modulating medication. If Dr. Apel’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia is correct, the plaintiff’s condition will wax and wane, but there will be no full recovery…

[50]         Considering the cited cases, the individual circumstances in the present case, and the factors relevant to assessing this head of damages as set out in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $65,000.


$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Pre-Existing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

November 1st, 2012

Adding this this site’s archived cases addressing non-pecuniary damages for thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgement were released last month addressing such an injury.

In last month’s case (Rollheiser v. Rollheiser) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  She suffered from long-standing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  The crash caused an aggravation of this condition with the Court accepting the following medical evidence:

[24]         Dr. Flaschner, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, also provided a report, dated February 2, 2012. Dr. Flaschner initially saw Ms. Rollheiser on December 2, 2009. His diagnosis included exacerbation of pre-existing TOS and musculoligamentous injuries to the cervical and thoracic spine. He states:

Ms. Rollheiser has subsequently been seen on numerous occasions for symptomatic management. She has undergone various trials of medications, local anesthetic trigger point injections botulinum toxin injections and has also been receiving regular IMS therapy from her physical therapist. Her pain has evolved as well and the current diagnoses secondary to the motor vehicle collision would include:

1.   Thoracic outlet syndrome, exacerbation of pre-existing injury.

2.   Cervical WAD II injury with chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome.

3.   Thoracic musculoligamentous injury with chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome.

[25]         Dr. Flaschner considers that Ms. Rollheiser’s symptoms will continue indefinitely.

[26]         Dr. Flaschner’s report continues:

Further symptomatic management options for the chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome would include regular physical activity from a cardiovascular perspective as well as stretching and strengthening of the painful musculature, ensuring adequate restorative sleep, various manual therapies, medications as well as needle based therapies including acupuncture, IMS, local anesthetic  trigger point injections, botulinum toxin injections or potentially fluoroscopically guided facet based procedures. It should be noted that the treatments will be expected to provide some temporary relief and would not be expected to be curative.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 Madam Justice Gropper provided the following reasons:

[35]         In sum, Ms. Rollheiser’s injuries have reduced her enjoyment of life. There has been impairment of family, marital and social relationships as well as physical abilities.

[36]         As noted, the case authorities provide guidance only; no two cases are exactly alike.

[37]         I agree with the defendant that not all of Ms. Rollheiser’s symptoms are attributable to the accident. It appears that some of the plaintiff’s limitations are due to the rotator cuff as opposed to injuries from the accident.

[38]         Of the authorities provided, I find Kaleta v. MacDougall, 2011 BCSC 1259 (Kaleta) to be most instructive. Justice Truscott awarded a 28 year-old male plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $80,000 for soft tissue injuries to the knee, back, arm, shoulder and neck. Like Ms. Rollheiser, Mr. Kaleta only missed a brief period from work, although he found it to be more difficult to resume work upon his return. Again, like Ms. Rollheiser, his moderate ongoing pain was probably chronic.

[39]         Accordingly, I assess Ms. Rollheiser’s non-pecuniary damages at $80,000.


$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

June 11th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome caused by a motor vehicle collision.

In last week’s case (Kovac v. Moscone) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 collision.  Fault for the incident was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff claimed that she suffered various injuries in this incident and claimed approximately $3 million in damages at trial.  While much the Plaintiff’s claim was rejected with findings that the Plaintiff’s disability had an origin in events other than the collision, Mr. Justice Harvey found that the collision did cause a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 for this injury the Court provided the following reasons:

[490] While I have rejected much of what the plaintiff testified to regarding her post-accident condition, the reference to tingling and numbness is borne out by repeated references to the condition which predate the fall.

[491] Specifically she complained of the phenomena to Dr. McLachlan in May of 2004 and later to her replacements on two separate occasions in 2005. The last appointment, prior to the fall, resulted in a referral to Dr. Mezei.

[492] The question that remains is, what is the cause?..

[501] On balance, I am persuaded that the plaintiff’s symptoms of arm and hand numbness/tingling were likely as a result of the accident. I say this because of the onset of the symptoms proximate to the accident and the absence of another plausible explanation for their appearance.

[502] Whether the diagnosis is TOS or, as described by Dr. Hershler, a “variant” of TOS, I conclude ongoing symptoms of occasional numbness and tingling in the plaintiff’s arms and hands is as a result of the accident.

[503] Save for restrictions on reaching overhead, which may cause an onset of the symptoms and therefore should be avoided, the symptoms I find attributable to the accident in no way impact the plaintiff’s ability to work as an elementary school teacher…

12] The injuries caused by the defendant are moderate soft tissue injuries to the upper and low back area together with TOS. The former injuries were, in the main, resolved by January 2006. I accept the plaintiff had occasional flare-ups as referenced in her medical chart entries. However, the plaintiff had a history of low back pain unrelated to the accident as noted in her original report to the adjuster.

[513] The symptoms of TOS are ongoing but, as earlier noted, are not the source of her inability to work full time. The plaintiff’s chronic pain and depression likely rule out any substantial chance of overall improvement in her TOS symptoms and the assessment of her non-pecuniary loss needs to take into account the chronicity of her symptoms related to the accident.

[514] With the factors from Stapley in mind, I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $75,000.


$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Bilateral Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

April 18th, 2012

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome and other chronic soft tissue injuries.

In yesterday’s case (Olson v. Ironside) the Plaintiff was involved in a ‘signigicant collision’ in 2008.  ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the Defendant. The Court heard competing evidence with respect to the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries and ultimately sided with the Plaintiff’s experts noting ICBC’s expert failed “to consider significant material facts“.

The 19 year old Plaintiff suffered multiple injuries, the most serious of which was bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome.  These were expected to cause a permanent partial disability limiting the Plaintiff for the balance of her working years.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Josephson provided the following reasons for judgement:

[60] The plaintiff has proved that, but for the accident, she would have continued her healthy, active and outgoing life style. I accept the plaintiff’s submission that the following injuries were caused by the accident:

1.       chronic soft tissue injuries with myofascial pain in her neck and upper back present on a daily basis;

2.       chronic soft tissue injuries with myofascial pain in her lower back present on an intermittent basis;

3.       chronic cervicogenic headaches present on a daily basis;

4.       exacerbation of her pre-existing migraines;

5.       post-traumatic thoracic outlet syndrome bilaterally;

6.       chronic sleep disruption;

7.       major depressive disorder, presently in remission;

8        post-traumatic stress disorder, presently in partial remission; and

9.       permanent right temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

[61] The accident had a dramatic effect on all aspects of this young plaintiff’s life because of the symptoms listed in the previous paragraph. She has learned to cope as best she can with those symptoms, but is unlikely to fully recover.

[62] Of the several case authorities cited by the plaintiff to assist the Court in determining non-pecuniary damages in the case at bar, the most helpful are Parfitt v. Mayes et al, 2006 BCSC 125; Houston v. Kine, 2010 BCSC 1289; Murphy v. Jagerhofer, 2009 BCSC 335;Prince-Wright v. Copeman, 2005 BCSC 1306; and Ashmore v. Banicevic, 2009 BCSC 211.  The non-pecuniary damages awards in these cases range from $80,000 to $120,000.

[63] After reviewing the authorities cited to me and considering the impact of the proven injuries on the plaintiff’s daily life, I award the plaintiff $100,000 for non-pecuniary damages, which I consider to be a mid-range award for the circumstances of this case.


$65,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome With "Mixed" Prognosis

September 1st, 2011

Adding to this site’s public database of BC Thoracic Outlet Syndrome cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a TOS Injury with a “mixed” prognosis.

In this week’s case (Singh v. Clay) the Plaintiff was involved in a total of 5 collisions.  He alleged 4 of these caused or aggravated a Thoracic Outlet Injury and sued for damages.  Fault was admitted in all actions.

Mr. Justice Greyell concluded that the Plaintiff did in fact suffer from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and that the injury was caused, on an indivisible basis, from the collisions.  Damages were assessed on a global basis.  In awarding $65,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the Court made the following findings:

[81] Based on the medical reports and testimony of Drs. Keyes and Travlos, I am satisfied the plaintiff suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome which causes him difficulty holding his hands above his head, causes his left arm and shoulder to go numb such that he must lower his arm and “shake” the tingling and numbness out, and that this injury affects him both at work and in his home life as described earlier in this decision.

[82] He is also affected because his injury wakes him several times each night, causing him to be tired the following day.

[83] The plaintiff also suffered low back pain and persistent headaches which lasted for several years after the second accident but which have now cleared up…

[88] I find the prognosis for Mr. Singh is a mixed one.  Dr. Keyes’ diagnosis is a difficult one to understand.  On the one hand he has opined that there is likely some permanent injury to the plaintiff’s neurovascular bundle in the left thoracic outlet space.  On the other hand, he has opined there is no permanent injury or damage of the neurovascular bundle in the left thoracic anatomic space.  Dr. Keyes was clear however Mr. Singh would “almost certainly respond” without surgical intervention and expected that his symptoms would improve “and probably resolve over time”.  Dr. Keyes’ prognosis for the plaintiff’s injuries is “very good to excellent” and he says that his recreational and employment activities would “not be significantly affected over the long term”.  The caveat Dr. Keyes offered to this opinion in the penultimate paragraph was that “repeated injuries to the same areas… would be expected to result in similar symptoms and a more prolonged recovery…”  Mr. Singh was involved in motor vehicle accidents on September 18, 2007 (which he did not tell Dr. Keyes about) and November 1, 2008, and the at-fault accident on March 19, 2007.

[89] At the time of trial Dr. Keyes had not seen the plaintiff for some four years.

[90] Dr. Travlos’s prognosis, based on an assessment made in April 2009 was much more guarded.  As noted above he was of the opinion “there is no real expectation that further treatment is going to magically cure his symptoms.”  Dr. Travlos recommended Mr. Singh commence a structured conditioning program outside the home.  There was no evidence to suggest Mr. Singh has followed Dr. Travlos’s recommendation to engage in a conditioning program outside his home or that he take medication to help relieve his sleeping problems.  Had he done so it is possible these problems would have resolved more quickly than they have.

[91] In my view the injuries suffered by Mr. Singh are more significant than those suffered by the plaintiff in Langley but less serious than those suffered by the plaintiffs in Cimino and Durand.  I assess the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $65,000.


$55,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

February 17th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, addressing quantum and liability following a motorcycle accident.

In this week’s case (Langley v. Heppner) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 BC collision.  The Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle and was following a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  Both vehicles were behind a slow moving van.  As the motorists approached a straight stretch of road both the Plaintiff and Defendant attempted to pass the van in the on-coming traffic lane.  They did so at almost the same time resulting in a violent crash catapulting the Plaintiff about 60 feet.

Mr. Justice Barrow held that both motorists were at fault with the Defendant bearing 80% of the blame.   Paragraphs 11-37 of the reasons for judgement are worth reviewing for the Courts discussion of liability.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries.  Most of these went on to heal however he was left with persistent neck and shoulder pain.  Ultimately he was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  The limitations related to this were expected to continue to improve however there was a likelihood of long standing symptoms.  Mr. Justice Barrow assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $55,000.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[43] Turning to Mr. Langley’s injuries more generally, he suffered a number of bruises and abrasions which resolved unremarkably. His low back was sore, and although it remained sore and painful for a considerable time following the accident, it was asymptomatic by the time of the trial (six years post-accident). His most significant and persistent injury is to his right shoulder and the right side of his neck…

[51] I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the plaintiff has thoracic outlet syndrome and that it is a result of the motor vehicle accident…

[58] Mr. Langley’s right shoulder and right neck pain are the most significant consequence of the accident. I accept that he is always in some degree of discomfort in these areas. His level of discomfort increases when he becomes fatigued, but it is most seriously aggravated when he does any activity that involves lifting his right arm to or above shoulder level…

I am satisfied that Mr. Langley’s functional abilities will improve in some respects, although not to a significant degree…

[81] In view of all of the foregoing, an appropriate award for non?pecuniary damages is $55,000.


Wage Loss Claims for Stay-At-Home Parents Intending on Returning to the Workforce

October 30th, 2010

Although stay-at-home parents are becoming less and less common many parents still take several years away from the workforce to raise their children in their infant and pre-school years.  Often times these parents intend to return to work after their children attend school on a full time basis.

When a parent in these circumstances becomes disabled from working due to the fault of another can they make a claim for loss of income in their tort action?  The answer is yes provided there is evidence establishing  a likelihood of returning to employment absent the accident related disability.   Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of law.

In last week’s case (Carr v. Simpson) the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant admitted fault and further admitted that the crash injured the plaintiff but took issue with the value of her claims for various damages including for income loss.

The Plaintiff, a 39 year old mother of three at the time of the collision, was out of the workforce for several years prior to the crash.  She spent these years working as a home-maker and raising her children.  She undertook some modest employment as a house cleaner shortly prior to the crash.  Following the crash she became disabled and did not return to any work from the time of the crash to the time of trial.

The Court accepted the Plaintiff sustained serious, permanent and partly disabling injuries due to the crash.  The Plaintiff sought damages of $84,000 for lost income from the time of the crash to the time of trial.  She argued that she had planned on returning to the work force once her children became school-aged (which was around the time of the crash) but was precluded in doing so as a result of her injuries.  The Defendant disagreed arguing that the Plaintiff suffered only a modest loss of income because of her “inconsistent work history (and) lack of incentive to work because of income from other sources.

Mr. Justice Bernard sided with the Plaintiff and awarded her most of what she sought for past income loss.  In doing so the Court provide the following useful reasons addressing the reality that parents that leave the workforce to raise young children can still succeed in an income loss claim:

[132]     I reject the notion that Ms. Carr’s unemployment history during her child-rearing years made her return to the workforce less realistic or less likely. Ms. Carr did not harbour fanciful ideas about her capabilities, her income-earning potential, or her opportunities for employment. When her youngest child reached school age, Ms. Carr was relatively young, energetic, able-bodied, willing to work hard, prepared to accept modest wages in exchange for her labours, and was fortunate to have a brother who could offer her steady, secure, and reasonably well-remunerated employment.

[133]     The evidence establishes that Ms. Carr, shortly before the collision, was motivated to earn some income (e.g., from housecleaning) until her youngest child was enrolled in school; thereafter, she planned to seek more fulsome employment. I do not accept the defence submission that Ms. Carr lacked the incentive and/or need to earn an income; to the contrary, since she has been unable to work because of her injuries she has, with some reluctance, turned to her mother for ongoing loans of relatively large sums of money, just to get by.

[134]     Ms. Carr became a single parent as of June 1, 2005. I find it highly likely that this new status would have impelled her to take the employment her brother offered, and to do so immediately. Her newly poor economic circumstances would have necessitated that Ms. Carr make child-care arrangements to bridge the time until her youngest child was in school in September 2005, and would have motivated her to work as many hours as she could manage as a single parent. Similarly, I am satisfied that she would have made any necessary arrangements for the care of her father.

[135]     I also find it is highly likely that Ms. Carr, as an employee of her brother, would have worked the hours and received the rates of pay assumed by Mr. Bush in his calculations. I find it is most unlikely that the seasonal aspect of the work would have reduced Ms. Carr’s overall income. Any shortage of work in the slow season would be offset by the demands of the busy season, and I am satisfied that Ms. Carr would have adjusted her life, accordingly.

[136]     While I am unable to agree with the plaintiff’s submission that in the determination of past wage loss there should be no reduction for negative contingencies, I am satisfied, for the relatively predictable period in question, the reduction must be minor.

[137]     Having regard for all the foregoing, I assess the plaintiff’s past wage loss at $75,000.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of non-pecuniary damages.  The Plaintiff sustained numerious injuries including soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, headaches and dizziness, a right hand and wrist injury which required surgery, a meniscus tear that required surgery, low back pain and depression related to chrobic pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Bernard provided the following reasons:

125]     Ms. Carr has, at age 44, many years ahead of her. As a result of the defendant’s negligence, Ms. Carr has been permanently partially disabled and left with constant and chronic pain. Since the collision, Ms. Carr has undergone two surgeries and endured considerable pain and discomfort. Ms. Carr has developed TOS and surgery is not recommended. She suffers from clinical depression related to the negative effect her injuries has had upon her, her family, and her way of life. Ms. Carr’s mental acuity and concentration has slipped. Ms. Carr’s marriage ended six months after she sustained her injuries. Her husband was unsympathetic and frustrated by her lack of desire for sex due to her discomfort. Ms. Carr has been rendered unemployable for most jobs in a competitive market. She is now unable to enjoy most leisure activities and active social pursuits with her children. She has a special fondness for horses and gardening, but meaningful participation in activities related to these interests is no longer feasible. Ms. Carr has lost much of the satisfaction from gainful employment, and the purpose and dimension it gives to life. In short, the negligence of the defendant has had a profoundly negative and lasting impact upon Ms. Carr.

[126]     I agree with the plaintiff’s position that the Djukic case is most similar of the proffered cases on its facts. I also agree with the defendant’s submission that Ms. Djukic’s pain was more severe than that of Ms. Carr; otherwise, I am persuaded that Djukic a useful reference point for the upper end of a general damages award in this case; and that Cimino is instructive in determining the lower end.

[127]     Having regard to all the foregoing, I assess Ms. Carr’s general damages at $100,000.