ICBC Claims, Wage Loss, and Loss of Overtime Opportunities

In reasons for judgement released today Madam Justice Dillon of the BC Supreme Court awarded an injured Plaintiff just over $200,000 in damages as a result of a ‘hit and run’ accident.
The Plaintiff was 56 at the time of the BC car crash. He was on his way to work when he was rear-ended. The crash was significant enough to push the Plaintiff’s car the length of a city block prior to coming to a stop. The Defendant ‘took off around a corner” after the collision.
The Plaintiff is an apparently stoic man who returned to work despite being injured in this crash. He continued to work for several days ‘before (his) neck and back pain, headaches and dizziness steadily increased to the point that (he) was unable to perfrom the heavy work of a millwright.’
The Plaintiff was off work for almost 6 months prior to returning to work full time. Once returning he struggled and needed assistance from his work partners. He also struggled in taking advantage of over-time opportunities.
As in many ICBC injury claims that go to trial, the court heard from various doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon, a physiatrist, a neurologist and the Plaintiff’s GP. Again, as is common in ICBC injury claims, the doctors testifying had varying takes on the nature and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries and their connection to the car accident.
No issue was taken a trial as to who was at fault for this rear-end accident. The trial focused on quantum of damages (value of the injuries). The theory advanced by ICBC’s expert was that, while the Plaintiff was injured, the Plaintiff ‘probably would have had these problems regardless of the accident because of his underlying degeneration of the cervical and lumbar spine‘.
The court heard evidence from the Plaintiff’s doctors that he had various injuries that would likely impact him well into the future.
The court’s key finding as to the extent of injury can be found at paragraph 28 where Madam Justice Dillon noted that:
[28] There is no medical opinion that the plaintiff would have suffered from chronic neck or back pain, to the extent and severity that he has incurred, but for the accident. Gold has developed severe and disabling chronic neck and back pain, which significantly limits movement. He continues to have headaches. His condition plateaued within two years after the injury and has not improved despite reasonable effort on his part. This has had a significant effect on his ability to work overtime to the extent that he did before the accident and requires cooperation with his work partners to fulfill the mandate of his job without formal accommodation being made. He has suffered a loss of lifestyle and recreational activity.
The court awarded $80,000 for ‘general damages’ (pain and suffering).
The court also made an award for past wage loss, past loss of overtime opportunities and loss of future earnings.
This case raised some common issues which often arise in ICBC claims. Particularly the amount of past loss income when a Plaintiff returns to work but is not able to work as many overtime shifts. I recommend this case for anyone involved in an ICBC injury claim who has missed overtime work as a result of injuries. This case gives an example of how this issue can be dealt with at trial. The personal injury lawyer representing the Plaintiff capably called evidence addressing wage loss and overtime and in the end the court addressed this loss fairly.
In awarding money for loss of future wages, the court noted that “there is more than a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will be unable to work overtime at his historical pre-accident rate into the future.’ and also that, given the Plaintiff’s age and injuries, that he would have ‘a difficult time finding work if his (current) job ended‘, As a result of this the court awarded $70,000 for loss of future earnings / loss of earning capacity.
Lastly, the ICBC lawyers argued that “damages should be reduced by 25% because the plaintiff failed to start an exercise programme as recommended by his general practitioner, his physiotherapist, and the rehabilitation medicine specialist
This argument is known in law as ‘failure to mitigate’. If a person injured in an ICBC claim does not take reasonable steps to recover from their injuries the value of compensation can be reduced.
The court summarized the law of ‘failure to mitigate’ as follows:
[44] To succeed in this submission, the third party must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the plaintiff failed to undertake the recommended treatment; that by following that recommended treatment he could have overcome or could in the future overcome the problems; and that his refusal to take that treatment was unreasonable (Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146, 16 D.L.R. (4th) 1; Maslen v. Rubenstein, [1994] 1 W.W.R. 53 at 57-58, 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.); Fox v. Danis, 2005 BCSC 102 at para. 37). The remedial programme must be likely to achieve resolution of the problem or at least have a positive effect on the plaintiff’s injury arising from the accident (Hepner v. Gill, [1999] B.C.J. No. 1755 at paras. 5 and 7 (S.C.) (QL); Briglio v. Faulkner and Reichel, 1999 BCCA 361, 69 B.C.L.R. (3d) 122 at para. 44; Wong v. Stolarchuk, [1997] B.C.J. No. 2837 at para. 48 (S.C.) (QL)). The reasonableness of a refusal to undertake a recommended programme depends upon the risk that such a programme would impose, the gravity of the consequence of refusing to participate, and the potential benefits to be derived from it (Janiak v. Ippolito, supra).
The court rejected ICBC’s failure to mitigate arguments.
This case illustrates just how important credibility is in ICBC injury claims. The court clearly liked the Plaintiff and he made a good impression on the judge. His stoic attitude certainly helped. Contrary to what some believe, having a tough attitude in the face of injuries does not hurt the value of an ICBC case, as this case illustrates, this postitive attribute can in fact add to the credibilty of an injured person and help result in a good trial result.

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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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