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$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic, Partially Disabling Whiplash Injury

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, assessing damages for a chronic soft tissue injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision.
In the recent case (Noon v. Lawlor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist focusing the trial on the value of the case.  The Plaintiff sustained a chronic soft tissue injury to his neck and upper back.  The injury caused difficulties with the heavier aspects of the Plaintiff’s job as a journeyman plumber and his symptoms were expected to continue into the future.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[205] I find that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of his neck and upper back, as a result of the collision of January 22, 2009. The plaintiff also sustained minor injuries to his forehead and to his low back. The head injury resolved in about three weeks and the plaintiff had recovered from his low back injury, within six months. The plaintiff continued to experience headaches associated with his neck injury, but the headaches had diminished in about a year to the point where they occurred only occasionally, and were not disabling.

[206] The medical experts did not offer an opinion as to the severity of the whiplash injury to the plaintiff. I find that the impact of the collision was violent and that the forces exerted on the plaintiff’s body were capable of causing significant injury. On all of the evidence, I find that the injury was at least moderate in severity.

[207] There is some medical evidence which I accept and which, tends to confirm the plaintiff’s assertion that he has been experiencing ongoing symptoms of pain. The findings of tenderness on palpation and restricted range of motion in the plaintiff’s neck are partly objective and partly subjective. But they do provide some support for the plaintiff’s trial testimony on this issue. But, in my view, the medical evidence does not confirm the plaintiff’s trial testimony as to the degree of the pain that he has been experiencing, and only partly confirms his evidence as to the extent to which his pain has impaired his physical capacities. In a case of this kind, I doubt whether any medical expert could express any conclusive opinion on these issues. To a considerable extent, medical experts must accept and rely on the plaintiff’s complaints as being true…

[225] I find that there is a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will continue to experience his present symptoms and their associated effects, indefinitely. There is no suggestion that the plaintiff’s condition will deteriorate in the future. The plaintiff is still a young man, and in my opinion, the evidence establishes a substantial possibility that he will achieve significant improvement over time. But there is also a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will never again be able to do the heavy overhead work required of a sprinkler fitter, on a regular basis…

[228] The plaintiff must be compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that he has incurred to date, as well as the amount that he will experience in the future, as the result of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. Having regard to the findings of fact that I have made, it is my opinion that the plaintiff should be awarded $60,000 as damages for non-pecuniary loss, and I so order.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Halfyard, Noon v. Lawlor