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$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 for chronic soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Suthakar v. Humble) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2011.  She sustained soft tissue injuries to neck, low back and shoulder.  The court accepted that the low back injury likely involved her sacroiliac complex.  The Plaintiff remained symptomatic at the time of trial  and her symptoms were expected to persist causing some interference in her daily functioning.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:

[118]     For several years now Ms. Suthakar has struggled with residual symptoms in her neck, left shoulder and low back.  Although her symptoms have improved over time and she may enjoy some modest additional improvement in the next while, they have nonetheless persisted and are susceptible to being exacerbated as a result of her work activities and daily domestic duties.  Her nagging pain leaves her exhausted at the end of her work shift.  When she arrives home, she is usually not able to do much of anything beyond taking a hot shower and resting on the couch with a hot pack.  Fortunately for Ms. Suthakar, her symptoms are manageable without medication on her days off.

[119]     The ill‑effects of the Accident have adversely impacted the quality and enjoyment of Ms. Suthakar’s interactions with her sons.  She is not able to play with them in the same way as before and is quick to anger.  Also of significance for this young woman is that her injuries have interfered with her intimate relationship with her husband.

[120]     In prior cases, I have observed that enduring pain, even when it is intermittent and mostly low-grade, can compel unwelcome adjustments to one’s work life and lifestyle and cloud the pleasures of life, as it has in Ms. Suthakar’s case.  Working in pain during the majority of her shifts has become part of Ms. Suthakar’s everyday work life and is likely to continue for many years to come, if not indefinitely.

[121]     I have reviewed the authorities placed before me by counsel.  The cases submitted by Ms. Suthakar’s counsel are more instructive than those relied on by the defendants.  In any event, the case law only provides general guidelines for what is, at its core, a highly individualized assessment.

[122]     Having regard to the Stapley factors and the other case authorities in the context of the evidence in the case at hand, in my opinion, a fair and reasonable award for Ms. Suthakar’s non-pecuniary damages is $70,000.

bc injury law, Madam Justice Ballance, Suthakar v. Humble