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BC Court of Appeal – Scientific Evidence Not Needed in LVI Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal (Pacheco v. Antunovich) overturning a trial judgement which dismissed an injury claim following a so-called low velocity impact.  The Court found the trial judge made palpable and overriding errors in his assessment of the evidence.  In reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeal provided the following comments:
[35]         As previously noted, the judge found the appellant’s claim of injuries arising from the accident not to be reasonable or credible in the absence of independent or scientific evidence of how the mechanics of such a minor collision could have caused the injuries claimed. With respect, in my view the judge erred in finding that the appellant only “thought” her car was pushed forward in the collision when she in fact said that it was pushed forward (although she did not know how far). He also misapprehended her evidence that the collision caused two black dents to her bumper by describing them as “two small scratches” (a description advanced by defence counsel). He did not consider or he overlooked the appellant’s evidence that at the time of the collision her hands were on the steering wheel and her right foot on the brake, and how that positioning of her body might be relevant to the mechanics of the collision and her subsequent complaints of lower back and right side gluteal pain. Most significantly, however, he appears to have ignored the opinions of each of the appellant’s doctors that her lower back and right side gluteal pain were caused by the collision, which the respondents did not counter by any evidence to the contrary…

[43]         The need to carefully examine any inconsistencies and contradictions in a plaintiff’s evidence, with the evidence as a whole, before rejecting that party’s evidence based on demeanor alone, was echoed in Jezdic. In that case, which also involved a minor collision, Sigurdson J. dismissed the action based on a negative assessment of the plaintiff’s credibility. That assessment, however, included identifying “significant inconsistencies” in the plaintiff’s evidence, both internally and with his findings of fact (para. 41), noting all the while that “there is no rule of law or physics that a person cannot be injured in a low speed collision” (para. 33).

[44]         In this case, the judge did not assess or find any inconsistencies or contradictions in the appellant’s evidence, either internally within her evidence or with other established facts. With respect, his findings of credibility seem to be driven, in large part, by his inference from the appellant’s demeanor at trial that she was exhibiting pain exaggeration behaviour and, also, from his erroneous findings of fact as noted above.

[45]         In the result, the appeal must be allowed and a new trial ordered.

bc injury law, credibility, Pacheco v. Antunovich


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