$70,000 Non Pecuniary Damages for Disc Herniation and Labral Tear

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff close to $120,000 in damages as a result of a 2006 BC car accident.
The accident occurred when the Defendant failed to see the Plaintiff’s vehicle and struck the driver’s side door of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
All the doctors who gave evidence at trial agreed that the Plaintiff ‘suffered a slight tear to the cartilage of her left hip (a labral tear) and a disc bulge in the lumbar spine, and that these two conditions contribute to her ongoing pain…’
The issue at trial was one of causation, that is, did this accident (which apparently did not cause a lot of vehicle damage) cause the Labral tear?  After hearing from several medical witnesses Madam Justice Gerow concluded that there was a causal connection, finding that ‘I accept the opinions of Dr. Gilbart and Dr. Sahjpaul that the accident either caused the disc herniation and the labral tear, or caused those asymptomatic conditions to become symptomatic, and that (the Plaintiff’s) degenerative disease is minimal at this point.’
Dealing with the argument ICBC often makes at LVI trials (low velocity impact) that ‘the force of the accident was not such that it could have caused the injuries to the lumbar spine’ Madam Justice Gerow stated as follows:

35]            The evidence is that the defendants’ vehicle struck the driver’s side of Ms. Grant’s vehicle.  The defendants argue that the cost of repair of approximately $1200 indicates that this was a relatively minor accident and, therefore, unlikely to have caused the plaintiff’s ongoing injuries. 

[36]            Although the force of the impact is a factor to be considered in assessing the injuries sustained in an accident, it is only one factor to be considered.  The nature and extent of the injuries suffered by a plaintiff should be assessed on the basis of all of the evidence.

[37]            As noted by Thackray J. (as he then was) in Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.):

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slips and falls.  Conversely, accidents causing extensive property damage may leave those involved unscathed.

In the end, damages were assessed as follows:

Non Pecuniary Damages: $70,000

Past Wage Loss: $13,452

Loss of Earning Capacity: $30,000

Special Damages: $1,498

Cost of Future Care: $5,000

This case is worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC claim where the issue of causation of a disc bulge is at issue to see the types of competing positions that can be advanced by the doctors at trial along with the analysis that a court can engage in to navigate the waters of expert opinions.

disc bulge, disc herniation, ICBC claims, labral tear, Low Velocity Impact, LVI

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ERIK
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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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