$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries With Psychological Component

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic pain condition stemming from collision related soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Karim v. Li) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 collision.  The defendant accepted fault for the crash.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which, coupled with psychological consequences, resulted in an ongoing chronic pain condition.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:

(a) prior to the Accident, Mr. Karim was a hard-working and industrious man who had overcome significant obstacles in his past. He was satisfied with his life both personally and professionally;

(b) Mr. Karim’s “original position” included a significant difficulty with stuttering which, although considerably improved from what it had been in the past, was in a fragile or vulnerable state. Had the Accident not occurred, regression was likely were he faced with stressful conditions either in his personal or vocational life;

(c) although I found the plaintiff generally to be credible, he has embellished certain events. For example, he advised Dr. Nader that the defendants’ vehicle was travelling at approximately 80 kph when it struck him. Common sense leads to the conclusion that his vehicle would not have been drivable after the Accident had this been the case and that emergency vehicles would have attended the Accident scene, neither of which occurred. There are also examples of embellishment in his work and educational history;

(d) the plaintiff has a tendency to see things in their worst light. Dr. Gouws characterized this as “pain catastrophization”. This has resulted in the perception that he is much more disabled from a pain and functioning perspective than he is in reality;

(e) the plaintiff sustained moderate to moderately-severe soft tissue injuries in the Accident. He was essentially totally incapacitated from a physical perspective for a period of approximately one year and at intermittent times thereafter. As such, his condition, which includes psychological factors, does satisfy the criteria for “chronic pain” being pain that persists for more than six months. The psychological factors have had a significant negative effect on his ability to recover;

(f) despite the plaintiff’s presentation and the history he has provided to the various professionals who have assessed him, he is capable of much more than what he perceives. I accept Dr. Gouws evidence in cross-examination to that effect;

(g) a component of the plaintiff’s perception of his inability to function may be his psychological makeup. He has, however, demonstrated the ability to overcome disability through his own resources or willpower. An example is his ability to control his stuttering to which I have referred above;

(h) with appropriate professional assistance including a further intensive course at Columbia together with a 16 session cognitive behavioural therapy program as recommended by Dr. Riar, Mr. Karim will largely return to his level of personal and professional functioning experienced prior to the Accident; and

(i) in that regard, I accept Dr. Gouws’ and Dr. Paramonoff’s opinions which identified “catastrophization” and “confounding factors” as the main limitation to Mr. Karim’s recovery. This is the basis for their recommendation that he obtain psychological assistance….

[126]     Based on my findings of fact, I am satisfied that Mr. Karim, who was 25 years old at the time of the accident, suffered moderate to moderately-severe soft tissue injuries at the time of the accident which resulted in physical and psychological consequences. The stress of these injuries also aggravated the significant stuttering condition which existed prior to the Accident. I also find that the consequences of the Accident were instrumental in the termination of his relationship with Ms. Azimi which resulted in an increase in his stress and greatly affected his quality of life for a period of time.

[127]     I have also found that with an appropriate course of treatment both physical and psychological that Mr. Karim should largely return to his pre-Accident level of functioning. Thereafter, there will still, in my view, be some occasions in the future when the consequences of the Accident will affect the plaintiff both professionally and personally.

[128]     I conclude that the authorities referred to by the defendants in particular Andrusko resemble more closely the plaintiff’s circumstances. But that award of $80,000, in my view, should be increased to reflect the contribution that the Accident had on the plaintiff’s relationship with Ms. Azimi. The award should also reflect that although I have concluded that the plaintiff does have the ability to overcome his negative perceptions of how the Accident has affected his life this will take some real effort on his part.

[129]     I award the plaintiff $100,000 under this heading.

bc injury law, Karim v. Li, Mr. Justice Abrioux

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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