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 ‘wrist injury’

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.


$135,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Multiple Orthopaedic Injuries

July 22nd, 2010

(Illustrations provided courtesy of Artery Studios Ltd.)

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $426,000 in total compensation for injuries and losses as a result of a 2007 motor vehicle collision.

Fault for the collision was hotly contested in today’s case (Hildebrand v. Musseau) .   The Defendant was operating a pick-up truck.   The Plaintiff was operating a dirt bike.  The vehicles approached each other from opposite directions.  Both motorists gave evidence that the other was on the wrong side of the road as they approached.  Ultimately the Court concluded that the Defendant was in the Plaintiff’s lane of travel as the vehicles approached each other.  The Plaintiff took evasive measures but was unsuccessful and was struck by the Defendant’s truck.   The Defendant was found 90% at fault for the crash.

The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries including a fractured right ankle and right wrist.  Both of these required surgery.  The Plaintiff also fractured his left femur which required splinting along with various soft tissue injuries.  Some of the injuries, particularly the injury to the knee and ankle, were expected to pose long term problems for the Plaintiff.  In awarding $135,000 for the Plaintiff’ non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) Madam Justice Hyslop provided the following reasons:

[216]     The plaintiff is a young man who suffered three different broken bones in his body. He lost eight and a half months of work convalescing. He had surgery to repair his broken bones and eventually had further surgery in which to remove plates and screws. He was initially confined to a wheelchair, then walked with crutches and eventually a cane. Many of his recreational activities were curtailed, some of which have been curtailed permanently, particularly if they relate to high impact-type activities. He has lost some range of motion in his right ankle which is unlikely to improve. The prognosis for osteoarthritis in the right ankle in the long-term is moderate. His injuries have prevented him in part from pursuing some renovations he wished to do in his home. The plaintiff’s injuries, particularly his right ankle and right knee, affect his ability to carry heavy loads, climb stairs and ladders, squat or kneel for extended periods of time.

[217]     The plaintiff, at the time of the accident, was aged 21 and had recently been certified as a journeyman auto body repair technician, a trade to which he appears to be well-suited.

[218]     He has a permanent disability as it relates to his ankle which prevents him from pursuing activities that he pursued prior to the accident and he may have wished to pursue in the future.

[219]     I assess non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $135,000.00.


$54,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Onset of Pain in Pre-Existing Wrist Arthritis

January 11th, 2010

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff $54,000 in damages for a wrist injury.

In today’s case (Zigawe v. Rance) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 rear end car crash.  The issue of fault was admitted by ICBC leaving the court to decide the value of the Plaintiff’s injuries.

The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which largely resolved by trial.  The main focus of the trial was the Plaintiff’s wrist injury.  The evidence established that the Plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in her wrist but this was asymptomatic.  The crash caused this pre-existing condition to become painful.  The court valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 then reduced this award by 10% for the contingency that the pain may have come on even without the car crash.

In coming to the above valuation Madam Justice MacKenzie reasoned as follows:

[107]     I find the plaintiff experienced neck pain for over three years, but it is almost resolved.  The headaches appeared to be associated with the neck pain and have resolved.

[108]     I also accept the plaintiff’s evidence that the plaintiff’s shoulder pain had mainly resolved six months post-accident but she had some pain in her left shoulder in May 2009, which is now resolved…

[110]     On the whole of the evidence, and in particular that of Dr. Shuckett who agreed the plaintiff’s current overall condition was “not inconsistent with” rheumatoid arthritis, I find it likely that the accident exacerbated pre-existing, but asymptomatic tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis in the plaintiff’s left wrist.  While it is an atypical presentation in that the condition is not mirrored in the right wrist, this finding makes the most sense.  It is proven on the balance of probabilities.

[111]     I do not accept the defendant’s submission that the rheumatoid arthritis in the left wrist arose independently of the accident.  In my view such a conclusion is not consistent with its temporal connection to the accident, and Dr. Shuckett’s evidence that the inflammation that accompanies this sub-acute condition can take weeks or months to develop…

[114]     Thus, on the totality of the evidence, the accident at least exacerbated the pre-existing tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis in the left wrist, given its history.

[115]     The swelling and significant, long standing pain has not improved since the accident.

[116]     Thus, I find the accident activated the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition in a wrist that was asymptomatic for some years before the accident.  The left wrist may indeed have remained asymptomatic of tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis for many years had the accident not intervened.  It may have not manifested into rheumatoid arthritis, given Dr. Shuckett’s evidence as to the nature of that condition.

[117]     The neck injury was caused by the accident and its recovery was probably prolonged as a result of her pre-existing but asymptomatic osteoarthritis.

[118]     The asymptomatic left wrist condition was triggered by the accident, resulting in significant pain and swelling that still has not resolved more than three years post-accident.  Hopefully, the scheduled injection of what is likely cortisone will greatly improve the wrist, but that is unknown, and the plaintiff may require surgery on that wrist.  But for the accident, the pre-existing asymptomatic condition in the left wrist may never have manifested…

[122]     In this case, I agree with the plaintiff that only a modest deduction is appropriate to account for the plaintiff’s pre-existing left wrist tenosynovitis related to rheumatoid arthritis.  It was asymptomatic before the accident.  It might never have resulted in symptoms but for the accident.  However, there remains a measurable risk that it would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future given the plaintiff’s left wrist problem in 2001 as seen by Dr. Hollands.  He thought it might represent early onset of rheumatoid arthritis although I realize the signs and symptoms presented differently in the post-accident wrist tenosynovitis.

[123]     Therefore, in my view, a discount of 10 percent from non-pecuniary damages appropriately reflects the contingency of the condition developing in the future…

[126] In my view, having considered all the evidence and all the cases, non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 discounted by 10 percent, or $6,000, which amounts to $54,000 is appropriate in all the circumstances.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of credibility.

The Court found that the Plaintiff was a “vague historian” and had a “poor memory“.  The Court also found that the Plaintiff “exaggerated the degree to which she could not use her left wrist.“.  The Plaintiff told her doctor that the wrist was “useless” and this was contradicted by video surveillance evidence obtained by ICBC.   This evidence seemed to negatively impact some of the plaintiff’s claims and the judgement is worth reviewing in full to see how the Plaintiff’s credibility was scrutinized at trial.


$1.065 Million Awarded to Brain Injured Plaintiff

May 21st, 2008

In highly anticipated reasons for judgement released today, following a 4 week trial in late 2007, Mr. Justice Maczko awarded a severely injured Plaintiff over $1,000,000 in compensation as a result of a motor vehicle accident.

The issues to be decided at trial were liability (who was at fault) and quantum (the value of the injuries) as a result of a significant accident which occurred in West Vancouver, BC in 2004.

The Plaintiff, who was 26 years old at the time, was standing in a roadway in West Vancouver when he was struck by a Hummer SUV driven by the Defendant. The Plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury, scalp wound, bilateral wrist and jaw fractures, the loss of several teeth, and soft tissue injuries to the neck and back. The traumatic brain injury was the most significant of these in terms of the Plaintiff’s employability and need for future medical care.

In the end the court found the Defendant entirely at fault an awarded over $1,000,000 in damages to the Plaintiff.

Addressing the issue of liability at paragraph of 127 of the judgement, the court held as follows:

[127] The Hummer travelled too quickly for the existing conditions. Mr. Samieian was negligent in moving his vehicle too quickly and travelling around the cube van when his view of his path was obscured. It is more likely that the accident arose from driver error than from a complete failure of all controls on the Hummer. It is unlikely that steering, braking and acceleration all malfunctioned at once, and without leaving anything detectable on inspection after the accident.

[128] As a result, the defendants are entirely responsible for the accident and for the losses it caused Mr. Dikey.

As is often the case in ICBC claims involving brain injuries, the court heard from numerous expert physicians including neurologists, a neuropsychologist, and a Physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist).

In the end the court made the following findings regarding the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[109] In summary, Mr. Dikey suffered many injuries as a result of the accident. The most significant injury in terms of functioning was the traumatic brain injury. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the injury was moderate when it occurred, but this is of little assistance in determining the long-term impact of the injury.

[110] Mr. Dikey’s continuing cognitive problems include significant limitations with memory, planning, organizing, attention, concentration, awareness, judgement, decision-making, language, reasoning, abstract thinking, mental flexibility, and calculations. He forgets to eat and take his medications regularly, and forgets appointments. He also suffers depression, isolation and limited social support and interactions. He has minimal initiation and motivation.

[111] Mr. Dikey suffered serious head and jaw injuries. Dr. Goldstein recommends investigating jaw reconstruction, likely requiring refracturing the jaw on both sides, and tooth replacement. Mr. Dikey and his family were undecided for several years about whether to pursue that treatment, owing to the risk of damage to a facial nerve. The evidence suggests that the risk is small and any damage that might occur would probably be temporary.

[112] Mr. Dikey suffered two broken wrists. His left wrist healed appropriately, but the right wrist did not. He does not have pain-free full range of motion of his right wrist owing to the way the fracture healed. The suggested surgery will give him a very good chance of increased range of motion without pain.

[113] Mr. Dikey suffered injury to his right knee. The recommended surgery for his right knee would have a good likelihood of relieving his right knee pain.

[114] Mr. Dikey has continuing pain from his soft tissue injury to his neck and back. His cuts and bruises have healed, but he has a visible scar on his forehead and in his scalp. His primary complaint is of headaches, which can be so bad at times that they lead to vomiting. They are his most frequent and significant cause of pain.

The court summarized the profound effects of the injuries as follows:

[142] Mr. Dikey’s life has changed profoundly as a consequence of the accident. He is unlikely to work, and has lost the self-esteem, enjoyment and income that is available from work. While he retains the ability to walk and talk and engage in the activities of daily living, his cognitive problems are such that he will require some assistance for the rest of his life. His most significant loss is the loss of cognitive abilities. He also suffers severe headaches. He has chronic pain in the neck. His pain and the lost function of his right wrist are likely to improve following surgery. He will likely have on-going problems with his neck and back.

In the end damages were assessed as follows:

$215,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering)

$500,000 for lost future earning capacity

$350,000 for cost of future care

If you have questions about an ICBC claim or a brain injury claim that you would like to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer feel free to contact Erik Magraken for a free consultation.