$36,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Rib Injury

Reasons for judgment were released last Thursday (Grier v. Saadzoi) awarding a Plaintiff just over $46,000 in total damages as a result of injuries suffered in a 2004 British Columbia motor vehicle collision.
The crash happened in Surrey, BC.  The collision resulted in significant vehicle damage totalling the Plaintiff’s car.  The Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries and rib pain.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $36,000 Mr. Justice Brooke summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[24]            I find that the plaintiff was a credible witness, who neither exaggerated nor diminished the injuries that she sustained or the continuing pain and discomfort she has.  She was a reliable historian.  She struck me as a person who is getting on with her life, despite having to put up with some pain and discomfort.  I am also satisfied that she has followed the advice that she has been given in terms of stretching and exercise and that she avoids, where she can, physical activity which will trigger any discomfort in the area of her rib.

[25]            The plaintiff has made a good recovery from the soft tissue injuries that she sustained in a forceful motor vehicle collision.  I find that the pain associated with the lower left rib was caused by the collision and that whether Dr. Vallentyne is correct, that the pain is a result of subcostal muscular involvement or Drs. Luoma and Coghlan are correct, that the pain is associated with the first floating rib, that the injury and its consequence is likely permanent.  Fortunately, however, the result is a modest impairment of her overall capacity and it can be controlled, to some extent, by avoiding certain physical activity, as well as involving herself in an exercise and stretching program and taking medication to assist her in sleeping and to moderate the pain.

[26]            Non-pecuniary damages are a “once and for all” award to compensate a plaintiff for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the injury to the date of assessment and for the future.  In assessing damages, the ranges of damages awarded in comparable cases can be a useful guide, but in each case, the court must fashion an award that provides compensation to the plaintiff.  This is not a case like Price v. Kostryba, [1982] 70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.), or Butler v. Blaylock Estate, [1981] B.C.J. No. 31 (S.C.), where complaints of injury continue long after the normal period for recovery, but rather one where the injury is real and continues to cause pain and discomfort and will likely do so for the foreseeable future.  I assess non-pecuniary damages at $36,000.

One aspect of this judgment that interested me was the court’s summary and analysis of the surveillance evidence the defendant’s used during the trial.  Video surveillance is commonly used by ICBC in the course of defending soft tissue injury claims and this judgement shows that surveillance video is not always a damaging thing.  

In today’s case the video showed the Plaintiff doing various physical activities including riding a motorbike.  This did not appear to hurt the Plaintiff’s case any as this video did contradict her evidence about her limitations.  The surveillance evidence was summarized at paragraph 19 as follows:

[19]            As part of the case for the defendant, a series of videos was put in evidence showing the plaintiff riding a motorbike off road and shopping and going about her normal household activities.  Clearly, the videotape was made surreptitiously and without the plaintiff’s awareness.  While the tape does not display any particular discomfort evinced by the plaintiff, her activity is restrained when compared to the activity of her husband who was with her.  She says that before the accident, they operated their motorbikes off road and on rugged and uneven terrain.  What was depicted in the video was the operation of the motorbikes on a relatively level gravel road.  It was noted that the plaintiff’s husband took the motorbikes out of the truck and that the plaintiff played no role in that.  Nevertheless, the videotapes do demonstrate that the plaintiff is able to continue at least some of her former activities, although perhaps not with the same intensity nor without pain.

As I’ve previously postedVideo surveillance does not in and of itself hurt a personal injury claim, overstating the effects of injuries does. It does not matter if you’re painting your house, lifting weights, or doing any number of physical activities that are caught on film. If you can be active and not aggravate your injuries that is a good thing. If, on the other hand, a personal injury claimaint tells others that they are limited and video surveillance shows otherwise, that could be very damaging. This goes to a person’s credibility. If a person is caught in a lie with respect to the effect of their injuries that will have a very negative effect on the value of an ICBC claim.

Grier v. Saadzo, privacy, rib injury, rib pain, soft tissue injuries, surveillance, video evidence

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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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