$64,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment Following "Low Velocity" Collision

Adding to this site’s archived judgments dealing with ‘low velocity’ collisions, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such an incident.
In today’s case (Park v. Abd El Malak) the Plaintiff was involved in 2010 rear end collision caused by the Defendant.  The impact was not severe but did cause the Plaintiff injuries.  The Defendant argued it was a low velocity impact and therefore the Plaintiff’s injuries must be from other causes.  In rejecting this defense and awarding $64,000 in non-pecuniary damages for the Plaintiff’s injuries Mr. Justice Davies provided the following reasons:

[73]         Counsel for the defendant has submitted that all aspects of Mr. Park’s ongoing back problems are related to his pre-existing disc problems that would have occurred in any event. He also submits that the low velocity of the collision supports that finding.

[74]         I do not agree.

[75]         The defendant’s submission ignores the overwhelming cumulative effect of the evidence of Dr. Heran, Dr. Craig and Dr. Kim, all of whom have opined that Mr. Park’s injuries were caused by the collision and that his pre-existing back conditions were asymptomatic at the time of the collision and were rendered symptomatic by the collision…

[95]         I reach that conclusion with specific reference to the following evidence which I accept:

1)    Dr. Kim’s prognosis that despite all medical measures undertaken, Mr. Park’s symptoms persist and have now persisted for more than five years and will continue to with perhaps some (but gradual) improvement.

2)    Dr. Heran’s prognosis and recommendations as recorded in his opinion of June 26, 2014, that:

The recommendations that Dr. Craig makes for management based on the fact that he does not believe that Mr. Park has reached maximal medical improvement in his primary medical legal report are somewhat conflictual as clearly Mr. Park has developed L4 radiculopathy into his right leg likely before and definitely after the assessment with Dr. Craig and this confounds any abilities to recover overall. The myofascial components of his pain definitely have improved. The optimistic approach to him being able to do all of his usual activities back in a setting where only intermittent exacerbations would be incurred is therefore not supported by the presence of the L4 radiculopathy either. Dr. Craig does appropriately note that there is potential for slightly increased risk of accelerated degenerative changes in his neck and back due to the injuries from this accident. This is more importantly for the lumbar spine where he already has prominent degenerative changes already resulting in narrowing of the space where the nerves pass through in a setting where he has already been symptomatic in such distribution.

In my opinion Mr. Park is now well over two to three years out from the motor vehicle accident which is the time one would expect him to be plateaued from his myofascial injuries. Your records support that he has reached a point where he has intermittent neck pain, albeit not a major concern by the time he saw me, as well as persistent low back pain, albeit much improved than when it first started following the motor vehicle accident. What I don’t know is whether the L4 radiculopathy i.e. the radiation into his right leg, will improve with time. This is possible, however, not probable, given the imaging abnormalities. Subsequent MRI scan has not yet been performed. A comparative MRI scan which I have already ordered, requesting this to be performed around December 2014, will be valuable for further delineation of true causation for the right sided L4 radiculopathy as it is likely to be from height loss, disc settling and osteophytes as opposed to a disc herniation, with the former not getting better with time. If it were to persist, then a recommendation for intraspinous device for decompression of the nerve root indirectly is what I would propose. I would not recommend an aggressive surgery with instrumentation or aggressive open surgery with laminectomy for decompression. For this reason I would like to see Mr. Park following his MRI scan of around December 2014.

At this point in time I feel that Mr. Park is limited from all moderate to heavier activities yet is able to participate in all of his usual daily activities of light to moderate nature. Assistance would be required for heavier lifting, repetitive activities requiring bending and twisting maneuvers. His recreational activities have also been affected and this is well outlined.

3)    Dr. Craig’s prognosis to which I earlier referred and quoted at para. 57 of these reasons.

4)    Mr. Park’s evidence which I accept, that he is now able to be less physically active and unable to enjoy outdoor activities that he used to enjoy, is burdened by headaches when trying to read historical treatises which he used to very much enjoy, and finds that he is more tired from the standing his work requires and also less able to do the heavier lifting that he previously did.

[96]         I do, however, find that Mr. Park’s pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are less than that suffered by the plaintiffs in those cases in which the plaintiffs were awarded general damages of $100,000.

[97]         Although Mr. Park has suffered pain that is chronic, it does however, wax and wane. He is also still able to enjoy travel to Asia although of a more sedentary nature than before the collision. He is still also able to make the long drive from Valemount to Vancouver although with more frequent stops and discomfort. The sparse evidence of the need for future surgical or other invasive medical intervention is also insufficient to establish entitlement to compensation for such eventualities.

[98]         In all of the circumstances I find that an award of $80,000 would appropriately compensate Mr. Park for his past, present, and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

[99]         By application of the 20% reduction I have previously found to be necessary to compensate him only for the change from his “original” position that has been caused by the defendant’s negligence, I award Mr. Park $64,000 to compensate him for his non-pecuniary losses.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Davies, Park v. Abd El Malak

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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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