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$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Back Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, assessing damages for a chronic soft tissue injury following a collision.
In the recent case (Cartwright v. Cartwright) the 15 year old plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a single vehicle collision.  The driver admitted liability.  The Plaintiff suffered a soft tissue injury to her back which resulted in chronic symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Fisher provided the following reasons:
[20] There is no question that Ms. Cartwright suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and back in the motor vehicle accident on June 17, 2007, which resulted in ongoing pain symptoms. She had pain immediately following the accident and has continued to have pain throughout her back since that time. The issue is the extent to which this ongoing pain has affected and will continue to affect her life…

[22] I found Ms. Cartwright to be a credible witness but a poor historian about the nature and intensity of her pain symptoms and how they affected her life and her work. I agree with the defendant that she provided little detail about her symptoms. At the time of the accident, she said that her neck and shoulders were “sore” and her back was “just stiff”. She said it was painful working in that she had to rely on others to do things like move tables and chairs and carry pallets of cutlery. Other than that, she described things as being “difficult” or “painful”, and said that she was not able to work because of “back pain.”  Surprisingly, she said nothing about the effect of her pregnancy on her back pain. She said that she can get headaches two to three times a week and migraines “at least a couple a month”, but said nothing about how intense they are or how they affect her. She said that she went to a counsellor “a few times for anxiety about the accident” and she still has anxiety “towards vehicles” without describing in any way the anxiety and how it affects her.

[23] This lack of any detail makes it difficult to assess the nature and severity of Ms. Cartwright’s ongoing pain. However, I am satisfied that her evidence, along with the medical evidence, establishes that she suffered strain to the muscles and ligaments of the thoracic and lumbar regions and strain to the muscles of the cervical region as a result of the accident. I accept Dr. Farren’s description of Ms. Cartwright’s back pain as “moderate in severity and chronic in nature”. There is no evidence about the severity and nature of her headaches or the nature and extent of the anxiety she experienced as a result of the accident.

[24] These injuries have caused her ongoing and chronic symptoms of myofascial back pain, some tension headaches and a modest exacerbation of a pre-existing tendency towards migraines. The chronic back pain will likely continue but there is a substantial possibility that it will diminish with proper rehabilitation that includes a regular exercise program…

[48] Ms. Cartwright has been moderately affected by her chronic back pain and will continue to be affected by it in the future, but there is a substantial possibility that the pain will diminish and be quite manageable with proper rehabilitation and regular exercise. Given the evidence and relevant factors in this case, it is my view that a fair award of non-pecuniary damages is $60,000.

bc injury law, Cartwright v. Cartwright, Madam Justice Fisher