$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Low Back Pain With Poor Prognosis
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $64,000 in total damages as a result of BC car crash.
In this week’s case (Elgood v. Ellison) the Plaintiff was injured in 2006 when he was struck by a vehicle in Langley, BC. The Plaintiff was walking in a marked cross-walk with the right of way when the Defendant driver made a left hand turn and struck the Plaintiff. Fault was admitted and the trial focused solely on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff suffered minor injuries to his legs and neck which quickly and fully recovered. His most serious symptom was low back pain which persisted from the time of the accident through trial. The evidence accepted by the Court was that the Plaintiff had mechanical pain around the lumbar spine and that these symptoms may be an ongoing problem for the Plaintiff.
(highlighted portion of illustration depicts the lumbar spine)
In awarding the 65 year old Plaintiff $35,000 for his non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Bracken made the following notable findings:
 Dr. Hirsch concluded that the plaintiff has made a full recovery with respect to his legs and that he had a relatively minor neck injury that has now essentially resolved.
 The more difficult problem is the lower lumbar spine area and Dr. Hirsch said that this condition was likely caused by the accident. He described it as likely mechanical in nature and that it is exacerbated by stress or loading on the back. He believes that the plaintiff should continue his home-based exercise program and perhaps attend for structured appointments with a kinesiologist or physiotherapist. He also thought that some exercise such as tai chi, yoga, pilates or water-based exercises would be helpful.
 He concluded that the plaintiff’s restrictions were attributable to chronic low back pain that was caused by the accident and that the prognosis for complete recovery was guarded given the plaintiff’s age and the duration of the symptoms.
 He did believe that the plaintiff should be capable of performing his domestic chores but that he may have to pace himself and that he will have ongoing problems with more strenuous activities such as lifting, snow shovelling or completing significant household repairs. He did not foresee any need for future care or for any surgery.
 In summary, it appears that the plaintiff’s leg and shoulder injuries resolved very quickly and his neck pain diminished gradually over time, to the point where it is now only occasional pain and of a non-debilitating nature. He had some early headaches which have now become occasional.
 The significant pain that the plaintiff suffers is chronic low back pain that Dr. Hirsch predicts will likely be with him for the foreseeable future. No doubt the low back pain will prevent him from doing many jobs, particularly those that require long periods of sitting. Given his age and background, it is most likely that sedentary jobs will most likely be what are available to him. He has sharply reduced his recreation, although some of the intense recreational and physical activities engaged in by the plaintiff would likely diminish in intensity over time due to the normal aging process regardless of his injury. He will likely still have the ability to engage in mild recreational activities. The plaintiff says that even mild recreation or physical activity is too painful for him.
 As Dr. Hirsch pointed out at p. 6 of his January 20, 2009 report:
Three years have elapsed since Mr. Elgood suffered his low back injury in the subject motor vehicle accident. Given the duration of his symptoms, the prognosis regarding complete resolution of his low back pain has to be viewed as guarded at this juncture. Given the temporal profile to date, I would consider it more likely than not that Mr. Elgood will experience low back pain indefinitely. Low back symptoms of sufficient intensity will probably limit his ability to perform tasks which biomechanically stress his low back…
 While the plaintiff has been able to carry on with work, he and his wife both said that he has only been able to do so by enduring a level of chronic pain. Based on the opinion of Dr. Hirsch, which I accept, his condition is not likely to be alleviated over time. Bearing in mind his age and the impact of his injuries on his personal life and work life since the accident, in my view, the range of damages is between that of the plaintiff and defendant and I assess general damages at $35,000.