$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Whiplash and likely Zygapohyseal Joint Injury
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of a BC car crash resulting in whiplash claim with a likely zygapophyseal joint injury.
Zygapophyseal joints (also known as facet joints) are the interconnecting joints joining vertebral bodies to one another and it is not uncommon for injury to occur to these joints in motor vehicle collisions.
In this week’s case (Lamont v. Stead) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision caused by the Defendant in Burnaby, BC. Fault was admitted leaving the Court to deal with the extent and value of the injury claim. The Defendant accepted he injured the Plaintiff however argued that these injuries substantially resolved within 9 months. The Plaintiff disagreed giving evidence that her neck injury symptoms were ongoing through trial.
In support of her case the Plaintiff advanced evidence from Dr. Rhonda Shuckett, a well respected BC rheumatologist. Dr. Shuckett testified that the Plaintiff likely had permanent injuries explaining as follows:
I suspect her left neck injury since the MVA is mainly attributable to soft tissue and perhaps zygapophyseal joint injury…It is already approaching two years since the subject MVA and she remains symptomatic. I think there is a good chance that she is going to continue with her current level of pain. She is not disabled but is impaired to some degree…
Mr. Justice Bernard accepted this evidence and awarded the Plaintiff damages accordingly. In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $60,000 the Court made the following findings:
 The evidence establishes that the plaintiff’s prospects for any significant improvement in her neck pain are poor. As a consequence, she faces a considerably altered future; particularly as it relates to her life outside the workplace. Her chronic pain deprives her of much of the enjoyment she found in being physically active, in attending to her family, and in participating in family activities…
 In summary, I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s pain is chronic, partially disabling, and likely permanent. Similarly, I am satisfied that the evidence establishes that the plaintiff’s neck pain was caused by the defendant’s negligence, in the sense that it directly caused or materially contributed to it. There is a substantial connection between the plaintiff’s chronic neck pain and the collision, and the plaintiff has shown, on a balance of probabilities, that but for the negligence of the defendant, she would not have chronic neck pain: see Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7,  1 S.C.R. 333…
 The loss of enjoyment of life due to chronic neck pain is undoubtedly greater for Ms. Lamont than it would be for a person who has led a more sedentary lifestyle. Ms. Lamont has been actively engaged in strenuous sport throughout her adult life, and this has been a significant feature of life with her husband and children. It is, understandably, a source of great frustration and sadness to her that she has been deprived of the capacity to engage in most of the activities she loved, and to experience them with her family.
 Given the relatively profound nature of the loss to this plaintiff (including compromised household management and parenting), the chronic pain which she must endure, the age of the plaintiff, and the very poor prospects for significant improvement, and, having regard to the similarities between the cases cited by the parties and the case at bar, I assess the non-pecuniary losses of the plaintiff at $60,000.
chronic pain, facet joint, Lamont v. Stead, Mr. Justice Bernard, non-pecuniary damages, pain and suffering, Rhonda Shuckett, whiplash injury, Zygapophyseal Joint