Car Accidents, Post Trauma Headaches and ICBC Claims

Short clear reasons for judgment were released by Mr. Justice Savage of the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff compensation for car accident related headaches.
This is one of the crispest judgements I have read in quite some time.  I recommend reading the full judgment for anyone advancing an ICBC pain and suffering claim for headaches as the issues are succinct in this case and it does not get bogged down in legalese.
The Plaintiff was injured when she was 4 years old.    She was in a proper infant car seat in her family van when it was broadsided by the defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  The accident was in 2002 and the claim finally went to trial in 2008.  For those of you not well versed in ICBC injury claims I should point out that there is nothing unusual about this timeline.  In infant injury claims in BC, most limitation periods are delayed until the infant’s 19th birthday.  One of the reasons for this is because doctors often can’t give a prognosis for an infant’s injuries until they reach adulthood.
In this case most of the Plaintiff’s injuries were not disputed.  She suffered from a broken tooth, some injury to her legs which healed in a few months, soft tissue injuries to her neck and back which took about one year to heal.
What was at issue was headaches.  The Plaintiff claimed that she had on-going headaches over 5 years after the accident and that these were caused by the accident.  The defendant said there are other potential causes for the headaches such as migraines or other trauma.  It is worth pointing out that such a ‘causation’ argument is typical in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.  Usually the court hears competing theories about the extent of injury and the cause of injury.  (click here to see an example of just how far apart 2 sides can be in an ICBC injury case involving headaches)
The court accpeted that the ongoing headaches were indeed caused by the accident and summarized the accident related injuries as follows: “very mild injuries post-accident that have completely resolved with ongoing significant but somewhat sporadic headaches continuing requiring the occasional use of Tylenol.”
Mr. Justice Savage noted that the headaches have persisted for some six years althogh there has been some improvement.  He went on to value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for these headaches at $35,000.

$1.065 Million Awarded to Brain Injured Plaintiff

In highly anticipated reasons for judgement released today, following a 4 week trial in late 2007, Mr. Justice Maczko awarded a severely injured Plaintiff over $1,000,000 in compensation as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
The issues to be decided at trial were liability (who was at fault) and quantum (the value of the injuries) as a result of a significant accident which occurred in West Vancouver, BC in 2004.
The Plaintiff, who was 26 years old at the time, was standing in a roadway in West Vancouver when he was struck by a Hummer SUV driven by the Defendant. The Plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury, scalp wound, bilateral wrist and jaw fractures, the loss of several teeth, and soft tissue injuries to the neck and back. The traumatic brain injury was the most significant of these in terms of the Plaintiff’s employability and need for future medical care.
In the end the court found the Defendant entirely at fault an awarded over $1,000,000 in damages to the Plaintiff.
Addressing the issue of liability at paragraph of 127 of the judgement, the court held as follows:

[127] The Hummer travelled too quickly for the existing conditions. Mr. Samieian was negligent in moving his vehicle too quickly and travelling around the cube van when his view of his path was obscured. It is more likely that the accident arose from driver error than from a complete failure of all controls on the Hummer. It is unlikely that steering, braking and acceleration all malfunctioned at once, and without leaving anything detectable on inspection after the accident.

[128] As a result, the defendants are entirely responsible for the accident and for the losses it caused Mr. Dikey.

As is often the case in ICBC claims involving brain injuries, the court heard from numerous expert physicians including neurologists, a neuropsychologist, and a Physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist).
In the end the court made the following findings regarding the Plaintiff’s injuries:

[109] In summary, Mr. Dikey suffered many injuries as a result of the accident. The most significant injury in terms of functioning was the traumatic brain injury. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the injury was moderate when it occurred, but this is of little assistance in determining the long-term impact of the injury.

[110] Mr. Dikey’s continuing cognitive problems include significant limitations with memory, planning, organizing, attention, concentration, awareness, judgement, decision-making, language, reasoning, abstract thinking, mental flexibility, and calculations. He forgets to eat and take his medications regularly, and forgets appointments. He also suffers depression, isolation and limited social support and interactions. He has minimal initiation and motivation.

[111] Mr. Dikey suffered serious head and jaw injuries. Dr. Goldstein recommends investigating jaw reconstruction, likely requiring refracturing the jaw on both sides, and tooth replacement. Mr. Dikey and his family were undecided for several years about whether to pursue that treatment, owing to the risk of damage to a facial nerve. The evidence suggests that the risk is small and any damage that might occur would probably be temporary.

[112] Mr. Dikey suffered two broken wrists. His left wrist healed appropriately, but the right wrist did not. He does not have pain-free full range of motion of his right wrist owing to the way the fracture healed. The suggested surgery will give him a very good chance of increased range of motion without pain.

[113] Mr. Dikey suffered injury to his right knee. The recommended surgery for his right knee would have a good likelihood of relieving his right knee pain.

[114] Mr. Dikey has continuing pain from his soft tissue injury to his neck and back. His cuts and bruises have healed, but he has a visible scar on his forehead and in his scalp. His primary complaint is of headaches, which can be so bad at times that they lead to vomiting. They are his most frequent and significant cause of pain.

The court summarized the profound effects of the injuries as follows:
[142] Mr. Dikey’s life has changed profoundly as a consequence of the accident. He is unlikely to work, and has lost the self-esteem, enjoyment and income that is available from work. While he retains the ability to walk and talk and engage in the activities of daily living, his cognitive problems are such that he will require some assistance for the rest of his life. His most significant loss is the loss of cognitive abilities. He also suffers severe headaches. He has chronic pain in the neck. His pain and the lost function of his right wrist are likely to improve following surgery. He will likely have on-going problems with his neck and back.
In the end damages were assessed as follows:
$215,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering)
$500,000 for lost future earning capacity
$350,000 for cost of future care
If you have questions about an ICBC claim or a brain injury claim that you would like to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer feel free to contact Erik Magraken for a free consultation.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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