$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded For Chronic Pain and Headaches

Reasons for judgement were released today (Testa v. Mallison) by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages for injuries and losses suffered as a result of a 2004 BC Car Crash.
The Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended while stopped in traffic.  The issue of fault was admitted leaving the court to deal with the issue of quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s claim).  The Plaintiff suffered injuries to her low back, her neck, shoulders, chest and headaches.
Some of the Plaintiff’s injuries fully resolved, others did not.  By the time of trial the Plaintiff complained of the following ongoing problems “constant pain in her neck from the base of her skull up and down the neck to her shoulders and radiating into her head and temple area.  The pain is lowest first thing in the morning but builds up by afternoon and can get quite severe.  She experiences crying from the pain while in her car driving home.  She can’t stand even the sound of having the radio on.  Her sleep is most often disturbed and intermittent.”
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $75,000, Mr. Justice Holmes accepted the following evidence:

[48] I accept Dr. O’Connor’s opinion that the 2004 motor vehicle accident caused the plaintiff:

1.       aggravation of a pre-existing neck condition and aggravation and worsening of her existing cervical spondylosis.

2.       cervicogenic headaches, with a migrainous component, and most likely triggered by neck pain.

3.       low mood, deconditioning and sleep disturbance.

[49] Dr. O’Connor’s prognosis is that the plaintiff’s ability to function is primarily determined by her ability to cope with her chronic pain.  That pain level has remained constant over a 2 to 3 year period and she rates it as severe.  Dr. O’Connor is of the opinion that the plaintiff’s pain symptoms are going to persist indefinitely.

[50] Treatment options are very limited.  Exercise with emphasis on core conditioning is paramount. A regime of pain and sleep medication is needed.

[51]         Dr. Shuckett examined the plaintiff September 10, 2008 and as with Dr. O’Conner was provided with comprehensive historic health care provider records of the plaintiff’s treatment for neck, shoulder, back and hip pain and headaches.  Dr. Shuckett’s diagnoses of injury in the 2004 accident are:

1.               cerviogenic headaches with migraine features

2.               whiplash injury of the neck mainly left sided neck pain but also with painfull trigger points

3. myofacial pain syndrome of neck and shoulder girdle region with painful trigger points.

[52] Dr. Shuckett considered causation and concluded at page 11 of her report:

Thus, I believe that her current pain in the neck and shoulder girdles and her headaches are predisposed to by her pre-existing history, but it sounds to me like this pre-existing history was not that significant in the three years before the subject motor vehicle accident of March 23, 2004.  She had mainly left hip girdle pain before the subject motor vehicle accident.

[53]         Dr. Shuckett’s opinion is that the plaintiff “…will be dealing with her symptoms in the long term future.

[54]         I prefer the opinions of Drs. Deernsted, O’Connor and Shuckett to that of Dr. Sauvio in regard to the plaintiff’s March 23, 2004 related injuries, their causation and consequence.

[55]         Dr. Deernsted and Dr. O’Connor have a significant advantage of treating the plaintiff over time.  Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Shuckett concluded a careful review of historic medical clinical records and specifically considered causation issues.

[56]         The plaintiff’s neck and shoulder pain and headaches prior to the March 23, 2004 accident were mainly related to her hip problem that occurred in 2001.  The neck and shoulder pain and headaches by the time of the 2004 accident were much diminished.  They had become only intermittent but she was left more susceptible to injury by subsequent trauma.

[57] The accident of March 23, 2004 aggravated those diminished but active symptoms as well as triggering some that were asymptomatic.  The combined injuries to the shoulder and neck are now very severe in their effect and likely permanent.

[58] The plaintiff’s low mood is a consequence of the injuries and their duration.  The plaintiff had a history of migraine headache experience but hey were generally stress related.  The constant migraine type headache she presently experiences is a consequence of her present injuries and triggered by her neck and shoulder pain.


[59]         The plaintiff’s life has been severely impacted by the result of her injuries sustained in the March 23, 2004 accident.  She has constant pain and headaches and suffers from sleep disturbance and altered mood.  She has experienced a substantial quality decline in her ability to work and in both her leisure and social life activities.

[60] The plaintiff is a motivated lady who will persist in using her long standing fitness and running activity to assist in controlling her chronic pain condition.  Unfortunately at most she may only be able to reduce her pain levels to more tolerable or manageable levels and is unlikely to enjoy a full recovery.

[61] I award general damages of $75,000.

cervicogenic headaches, chronic headaches, chronic pain, icbc injury claims, testa v. mallison

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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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