$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Neck/Low Back Soft Tissue Injuries
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the fair assessment of damages for chronic soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Baxter v. Jamal) the Plaintiff was involved in a ‘substantial‘ 2005 motor vehicle collision. The Plaintiff was in her vehicle in an intersection waiting to turn left. The Defendant “ran a red light and struck the driver’s side door of the plaintiff’s vehicle“.
Despite feeling no pain at the time of the accident the Plaintiff in fact was injured. Her symptoms came on shortly after the crash and some of them persisted to the time of trial. In awarding $50,000 for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) Madam Justice Boyd stated as follows:
 Dr. Witherspoon and Dr. Rosemary Nairne Stewart, a physiatrist who conducted an independent medical examination on behalf of the plaintiff in February 2009, both opine the plaintiff has suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and back. Since more than three years have passed since the injury, they expect she will continue to experience her current symptoms over the long term and that as a result, she will likely be unable to do physically demanding work. ..
I am satisfied that pre-accident, the plaintiff was asymptomatic and that since the accident, she has unfortunately been plagued by ongoing neck and back pain which now remain unresolved over four years since the accident. I accept Dr. Nairne Stewart’s opinion that her condition is either the reflection of the soft tissue injuries (suffered at the time of the accident) which remain unresolved or are the result of the trauma to her back (suffered at the time of the accident), which has rendered a previously asymptomatic condition symptomatic.
 I accept Dr. Nairne Stewart’s evidence concerning the plaintiff prognosis, namely that she is “likely to continue to experience all of her current symptoms and limitations over the long term. She will be unable to do physically demanding work because of her injury. In sedentary work, she will continue to need a good ergonomic setup in her workstation and the flexibility to change her work tasks and position periodically throughout her workday”.
 I accept that these injuries have had a significant effect on the plaintiff’s life, both in terms of her career and her recreational activities. ..
 On a revinew of all of the evidence, and considering the significant impact these injuries have had and will continue to have on this young woman, I find that an appropriate award of damages is $50,000.
An interesting part of this decision dealt with the Court’s analysis of the competing medical evidence. As is common in ICBC Injury Claims the Defence called the evidence of an ‘independent medical examiner’ (orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Maloon) who provided an opinion contrary to the Plaintiff’s treating physician with respect to the extent of the accident related injuries. The court noted that Dr. Maloon’s competing opinion was ‘obliquely stated‘ and ultimately preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s doctors. This case is worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of the competing expert evidence and the analysis of the Court in favouring the expert evidence in support of the Plaintiff’s case.