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$150,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Pain and Somatic Symotom Disorder

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Verjee v. Dunbrak) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2009 on Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge.  The Defendants admitted fault.   She suffered chronic soft tissue injuries and subsequently developed psychological symptoms including depression and a somatic symptom disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 Madam Justice Marzari provided the following reasons:

[90]         I find on all the evidence that Ms. Verjee’s injuries arising from the accident have resulted in chronic pain in her neck, shoulders and mid to upper back which continues to impact her. One of the most significant aspects of that chronic pain is the effect that it has had on her mood, resulting in a diagnoses of depression in 2013 and SSD since at least that time. Ms. Verjee’s chronic pain and SSD act on each other in a vicious cycle. Together they have resulted in her giving up or avoiding many of the things that supported and invigorated her prior to the accident.

[91]         The evidence establishes that before the accident Ms. Verjee was a strong and dynamic member of her immigrant and spiritual community, able to raise her daughter from the age of 8 largely on her own while succeeding in an internationally based career.

[92]         Since the accident, I accept her own evidence, and that of her daughter and her husband (from whom she has been separated many years) that she has become withdrawn and anxious, avoiding many of the things that previously animated her.

[93]         In these circumstances, I find that she is entitled to compensation for her non-pecuniary losses attributable to her chronic pain in her neck, shoulder, upper and lower back pain and her depression and SSD.

[94]         In making a compensation award, I must be careful not to also compensate Ms. Verjee for damages and losses caused by the arthritis in her knee since 2014. While it may be difficult to isolate the losses and psychological effects Ms. Verjee has suffered as a result the chronic pain caused by the accident, from the losses she is has suffered as a result of her now chronic knee pain since 2014, I must do so.

[95]         I find that the accident was the sole cause of Ms. Verjee’s chronic pain and SSD until 2014, when the arthritis in her knee became a very significant, even predominant factor. By this time, I find her SSD was well-established, and that increased the impact of her knee pain, as well as all other health related issues that have arisen since then.

[96]         The defendants should not be responsible for the contribution to the diminishment in the enjoyment of her life caused by her knee or other health issues arising well subsequent to the accident. I have taken that into account in assessing Ms. Verjee’s award for non-pecuniary damages, and have not included losses to Ms. Verjee that are more properly attributable to her lack of physical mobility or the osteoarthritis in her knee…

[101] I am satisfied that the range of damages awards for the chronicity of Ms. Verjee’s pain are in the range suggested by Ms. Verjee, and that those cases where there is a diagnosed or determined mental injury, such as depression of SSD, the award is generally higher.

[102] I find $150,000 to be the appropriate of non-pecuniary damages in this case. In making this award, I have taken into consideration the impact of the chronic pain on Ms. Verjee’s life, including the significant change it has made to her participation in her work, her volunteerism, her faith community, her physical activities, and her relationship with her family, while also being careful to exclude any contribution her osteoarthritis in her knee has made to her current condition and ongoing mental injury.

bc injury law, chronic pain, depression, Madam Justice Marzari, Somatic symptom disorder, Verjee v. Dunbrak