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$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Low Back Injury With Nerve Root Irritation

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic low back injury.

In today’s case (Suc v. Skelton) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision that the Defendant admitted fault for.  The crash caused a bulged disc in the Plaintiff’s low spine which contacted his nerve root at L5-S1.  His prognosis for recovery was poor.  The injury caused significant limitations in the types of activities the Plaintiff could participate in.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons:

[35]         Based on his assessment of Mr. Suc over time, Dr. Hershler was of the opinion that Mr. Suc is unlikely to return to a pain-free state in the future. He says that, due to the fact that over time Mr. Suc’s symptoms and physical findings are unchanged, he is of the opinion that Mr. Suc has sustained a permanent injury, and will remain symptomatic indefinitely.

[36]         Dr. Heran noted that Mr. Suc had improved since the accident. He noted that Mr. Suc did have persisting symptoms, and that he must avoid certain tasks and movements which would aggravate his condition. He was of the view that Mr. Suc would require assistance for heavier duties if his condition does not improve any further. Dr. Heran stated, “From a future perspective, he is definitely at increased risk for exacerbations or aggravations of site of persisting symptoms, notably in the lumbosacral level.”

[37]         I find on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Suc will remain symptomatic over his lifetime, and that his current level of function is contingent on Mr. Suc modifying his behaviors to avoid movements and tasks which have the potential to aggravate his symptoms…

44]         Mr. Suc was 37 at the time of the accident. His injuries are serious and have had a serious impact on his life. As a result of the accident, he suffers from ongoing pain in his back from a disc bulge that is contacting his nerve root. While his daily pain levels have improved, he has also restricted his movements so as not to aggravate his pain. He also experiences excruciating pain from time to time. His pain has affected his sleep and his mood.

[45]         Mr. Suc used to be a strong and healthy man, who could successfully take on physical tasks. He enjoyed and excelled in sports. It is unlikely his back pain will ever completely resolve, and he will not be able to resume his former level of activity. However, Mr. Suc is able to manage his day to day pain reasonably well. He is able to work full time. He can participate in some sporting activities, although not competitively or at the level he did before the accident.

[46]         Mr. Suc lost his job with RAS as a result of his injuries. This resulted in a period of financial insecurity for him and his young family, where they lost their house and had to move into their pastor’s home. Mr. Suc and his family have received generous support from their church, but it has been psychologically difficult for him to be unable to properly care for them. Mr. Suc has a new job which allows him to provide for his family, but this job is not ideal from the perspective of his family as it requires him to work weekends and evenings. He is no longer able to share responsibility with his wife for childcare and household responsibilities.

[47]         I find that an award of $70,000 is appropriate for non-pecuniary damages.

bc injury law, L5-S1 Disc Herniation, madam justice baker, nerve root irritation, Suc v. Skelton