$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Damage Assessment For Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, addressing damages from a 2006 motor vehicle collision.
In last month’s case (Felix v. Hearne) the Plaintiff was driving her vehicle when her boyfriend, who was riding as a passenger, “grabbed the steering wheel causing the vehicle to leave the highway and overturn.”  He was killed in the collision and the Plaintiff suffered numerous physical injuries.
The passenger was found at fault for the crash.   The Plaintiff, who was a verbatim reporter, suffered injuries which seriously compromised her abilities both vocationally and recreationally.  Global damages of just over $800,000 were assessed including non-pecuniary damages of $200,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Grist provided the following reasons:




[30] In this case, the physical injuries continuing to affect the plaintiff include: the injury to her left shoulder, left wrist and left ankle; as well as persistent pain in her neck and back. The pain in her neck and back limits her ability to sit for any extended period of time and is associated with the onset of headaches.

[31] The residual effect of the collision, however, is markedly more significant because of the PTSD and depression that she suffers. Combined, there is significant loss in respect of her vocation, family life and social activities…

[33] Ms. Felix’s life has markedly changed following the collision. She is now reliant on her daughters to assist in keeping her home. She receives psychological therapy, is treated with anti-depressant medication and has been prescribed Ativan and Valium to allow her to sleep. She has not been able to work and has been forced to live off of disability benefits and funds realized by re-mortgaging her home. The evidence from her daughter and her two long-time friends who gave evidence on her behalf was that her level of activity and previously bright outlook on life had markedly changed. Her daughter was concerned that, at times, she seemed suicidal. She said that she noted some improvement after she attended the pain clinic in the spring of 2010 and that she seemed a little happier and better able to manage her pain, but that she had regressed since and lacked focus and initiative. She said she often appeared to be in pain, had become short tempered and withdrew from contact with family and friends.

[34] Many of the same comments were made by her friends who commented on the difficulty in getting her to attend social functions, her lack of participation and stamina, and her fragile emotional state.

[35] For a time, she formed a relationship with an individual she met through a common friend, but they have since separated which she attributed to her depression and inability to join in social activities he wanted to participate in. She relates that she began to abuse alcohol to the point she feared she was alcoholic…





[38] It is now six years subsequent to the collision and, although there have been some areas of recovery, there would appear to be, at best, only a modest hope for further improvement…
[47] On balance, I think an appropriate assessment in light of this authority in this case to be $200,000.00 in non-pecuniary damages. The combined effects of residual physical injuries, specifically the neck and back pain and associated headaches, loss of function in her left wrist, and injury to her left shoulder and ankle, along with the pervasive emotional disorder resulting from the effects of her injuries and the trauma of the collision, have been devastating to Ms. Felix’s personal and vocational life. She has lost much of her ability to be self-reliant and to participate in many of the activities that have been the foundation of her social life. The injuries are now assessed as chronic and I think she will continue to struggle with the depression and emotional upset that has marked the six years subsequent to her injuries.
It is worth noting that none of the Plaintiff’s evidence was tested through cross-examination as the Defendant’s estate did not file an appearance and ICBC, for reasons that were not clear in the judgement, “declined to participate” in the defence of the claim.  Despite this, the case still has value as a precedent for non-pecuniary damage assessments for chronic pain following a motor vehicle collision.

bc injury law, chronic pain syndrome, Felix v. Hearne, Mr. Justice Grist

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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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