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$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For SI Joint Injury With Flare-Ups; LVI Defence Rejected

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for a sacroiliac joint injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In last week’s case (Bartel v. Milliken) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  Although the Defendant challenged the Plaintiff’s credibility arguing she “is exaggerating her injuries and their effect” the Court rejected this submission and found the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which continued to flare with activity.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $35,000 Madam Justice Gerow provided the following reasons:

[26] It is apparent from a review of the whole of the evidence that Ms. Bartel suffered injuries to her neck and back in the accident which had resolved for the most part by February 2009, although she was still experiencing intermittent pain in her sacroiliac joint areas. Since then she has had flare-ups, the October 2009 incident being the most significant. Although there is some evidence of ongoing shoulder problems, the evidence is that Ms. Bartel suffered from shoulder problems prior to the accident. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that her ongoing shoulder problems are as a result of the motor vehicle accident.

[27] Both Dr. Kelly and Dr. le Nobel are of the opinion that Ms. Bartel’s prospect for full recovery is guarded. However, Dr. le Nobel is of the opinion that Ms. Bartel may have significant improvement if not complete resolution of her symptoms with injections into her back and an exercise program.

[28] Based on the evidence, I have concluded that Ms. Bartel suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to her neck, back and sacroiliac joint which resolved for the most part within seven months with occasional flare-ups. The injuries Ms. Bartel suffered have restricted her ability to engage in gardening and walking in the manner she could prior to the motor vehicle accident. It is likely there will be ongoing restrictions on her gardening as a result of the injuries…

[35] Having considered the extent of the injuries, the fact that the symptoms were largely resolved within seven months with occasional flare-ups and the ongoing restrictions on Ms. Bartel’s gardening, as well as the authorities I was provided, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non pecuniary damages is $35,000.

Another noteworthy aspect of the judgement was the Court’s rejection of the so called LVI defence.  The Defendant argued that since there was modest vehicle damage the injury itself was modest.  In rejecting this submission the Court provided the following comments:

[23] Finally, the defendants point to the fact that the accident was not severe enough to cause the ongoing symptoms Ms. Bartel complains of. The defendants’ proposition that a low velocity accident cannot cause any significant injury to a plaintiff has not been accepted in a number of cases, including Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.); Lubick v. Mei, 2008 BCSC 555; and Jackman v. All Season Labour Supplies Ltd., 2006 BCSC 2053. As stated in Gordon at paras. 4 and 5:

I do not subscribe to the view that if there is no motor vehicle damage then there is no injury. This is a philosophy that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may follow, but it has no application in court. it is not a legal principle of which I am aware and I have never heard it endorsed as a medical principle.

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slip and falls. Conversely, accidents causing extensive property damage may leave those involved unscathed. The presence and extent of injuries are to be determined on the basis of evidence given in court. Objectivity is thus preserved and the public does not have to concern itself with extraneous philosophies that some would impose on the judicial process.

[24] Although the severity of the accident is a factor that should be taken into consideration when determining whether Ms. Bartel suffered injuries in the motor vehicle accident and the extent of those injuries, it is not determinative of either issue. Rather the whole of the evidence must be considered in determining those issues.

Bartel v. Milliken, bc injury law, Madam Justice Gerow, sacroiliac joint injury