Can Injuries in an ICBC Claim be Worth Less for Failing to Lose Weight?

The short answer is yes.  In BC, if a Defendant who negligently injures you can prove that the extent of your injuries would have been less if you took reasonable steps to ‘mitigate’ your loss then the value of your damages can be reduced accordingly.  This principle of law is called ‘failure to mitigate’.
Failure to mitigate can include failing to follow a reasonable treatment or rehabilitation program such as a weight loss program.  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating the ‘failure to mitigate’ principle in action.
In today’s case (Rindero v. Nicholson) the Plaintiff was injured when seated as a rear-seat passenger in a pick up truck which struck a vehicle that ran a red light.  Fault was admitted leaving the court to deal with the issue of quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s injuries and loss). In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $36,000 Mr. Justice Meiklem found that the Plaintiff suffered from Patellofemoral pain (knee pain), a slight exacerbation of pre-existing post traumatic stress disorder and recovered soft tissue injuries to the neck and shoulders with accompanying headaches.
The Court found that the Plaintiff’s knee injury was the most serious of the injuries and summarized its effect on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:
The plaintiff’s knee injury is probably chronic and not likely to fully resolve. It is troublesome and painful when he stands for long periods, sits for long periods, or overextends any vigorous physical activity….The most significant limiting effect on his activities that he mentioned in relation to his knee pain was restriction on his style of big game hunting, and fishing. He hunts only from roads as opposed to hiking off into the bush as he sometimes did, and he avoids fishing areas that involve difficult access.
In arriving at the $36,000 figure the court reduced the damages by 20% for the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate, specifically the failure to lose weight which would have reduced the extent of the knee pain.  Mr. Justice Meiklem summarized and applied the law of failure to mitigate as follows:

[30] The defendants argue that the plaintiff’s failure to significantly reduce his weight has contributed to the severity and persistence of his knee pain and amounts to a failure to mitigate, which should reduce his award. There can be no doubt that the plaintiff would suffer less with knee pain that is increased with physical activity if he lost weight. The medical evidence confirms this elementary physical principle. At an estimated 265 pounds at trial he was about 25 pounds heavier than he was when examined by Dr. McKenzie in July 2008. I note that in July 2008 his left knee pain, which is his primary injury, was less prominent than his right knee pain. I appreciate that sore knees would probably make it more difficult to engage in the vigorous exercise that is usually part of a weight loss program, but the plaintiff has demonstrated that he can lose a considerable amount of weight when he changes diet and lifestyle, and that his left knee pain was lessened when he weighed less.

[31] I note that the plaintiff told Dr. McKenzie that he experienced knee pain when riding his mountain bike more than an hour as soon after the accident as June 2005, which, apart from showing that his knee injury was not very disabling,  shows that exercise is not out of the question for him. I find that the defendant has established a failure on the part of the plaintiff to mitigate his damages.

[32] The extent to which damages should be reduced is obviously not amenable to any precise calculation on these facts, but I note that in the Collyer case cited by the plaintiff, an award of $80,000 was reduced by $10,000 for a comparable failure. In the Crichton case cited by the defendants a 30% discount was applied for failure to participate in group psychotherapy sessions recommended by a psychiatrist and a family doctor, which would address an anxiety disorder and thereby assist in dealing with chronic pain. I find that a discount of 20% to the award I would otherwise make to account for failure to mitigate is appropriate.

On another note, this case contains a useful discussion of plaintiff credibility and some of the factors courts look at when gauging this.  Additionally, this case contains a very useful discussion of the law of ‘diminished earning capacity’ (future wage loss) at paragraphs 35-39.

BC Injury Claims, Expert Evidence and The Duty to the Court

One of the Rules regarding the conduct of expert witnesses in the BC Supreme Court is that they owe a duty to the court to be ‘independent’ and ‘unbiased’ in their opinions.  If experts fail to discharge this duty their evidence can be given little weight or even held inadmissible.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this principle of law.
In today’s case (Rizzolo v. Brett) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motorcycle accident when a left turning driver proceeded in front of the Plaintiff in an intersection in Maple Ridge, BC.  The defendant was found fully liable for this collision (the case contains a good discussion of the duties of left turning motorists and is worth reviewing for anyone interested in this area of the law).
The Plaintiff suffered significant fractures of his tibia and fibula which required surgical intervention.  Damages of over $560,000 were awarded including $125,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) for the injuries which were summarized by Madam Justice Allan as follows:

[41] Mr. Rizzolo`s altered position, arising from the Accident caused by the defendant’s negligence, is characterized by continuing pain, changed mood, loss of ability to work effectively and happily, and a much-reduced capacity to engage in recreational sports.  He must take pain killers and anti-inflammatories although they upset his stomach, requiring him to take additional medication.

[42] At present, Mr. Rizzolo experiences constant pain in his left ankle, which is exacerbated by his work activities.  His left foot swells and he experiences occasional pain in his left knee.  He limps when he is tired or in severe pain.  He takes the following medication: Advil once or twice a week for pain management; Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory, daily; and amitriptylene, an antidepressant, twice a week to help him sleep.  He receives periodic cortisone injections from Dr. Dhawan.

[43] Mr. Rizzolo’s injuries are permanent and they affect his entire life – his job, his recreational and family life, and his sense of well-being.  I do not find that he exaggerated his symptoms and he is highly motivated to be as active as possible.

In advancing his claim the Plaintiff called evidence of an expert witness, an occupational therapist, who had conducted a functional capacity evaluation of the Plaintiff to assist the court in determining a fair award for cost of future care.  The expert employed a ‘unique motion capture system known as the Functional Assessment of Biomechanics System [FAB] to measure biomechanical forces.’  In cross examination evidence came out that this expert was ‘an inventor of FAB‘.  Having this fact revealed in cross examination (as opposed to being revealed up front) appaears to have caused the presiding judge to reject all the evidence of this expert.

In rejecting the evidence of this occupational therapist Madam Justice Allan summarized and applied the law of objectivity of expert witnesses as follows:

[104] In R. v. Mohan, [1994] 2 S.C.R. 9, the Court reiterated that expert witnesses have duties and responsibilities.  In particular, an expert witness is expected to provide an independent, unbiased opinion that is adequately researched and falls within his or her ambit of experience.

[105] I consider Mr. McNeil’s failure to disclose the fact that he is the principal of Biosyn and that he was an inventor of FAB to represent a shocking lack of candour.  As he has testified in the courts on numerous occasions, he is well aware that the duty of an expert is to assist the court with an independent and objective opinion on a particular issue.  To withhold such relevant information misleads the court and, as I have no choice but to reject all of his written and verbal evidence, constitutes a substantial waste of time.   It is impossible to parse out Mr. McNeil’s evidence as a qualified expert from that as an undisclosed salesman for Biosyn.

[106] I do not fault counsel for the plaintiff as I accept Mr. Kazimirski’s statement that he was unaware of Mr. McNeil’s association with Biosyn before Mr. Joudrey’s cross-examination.  While the plaintiff will be entitled to his costs in the result, he may not claim any costs relating to Mr. McNeil’s reports or attendance in court.  Counsel may address the issue of whether the defence is entitled to costs for two days of trial.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome

Reasons for judgment were released yesterday (Fortin v. Cousins) by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $300,000 in damages as a result of a 2004 BC Car Crash.
The Plaintiff’s main injury involved his knees and was described by his orthopaedic surgeon as follows:
In the motor vehicle accident of March 28, 2004, Mr. Fortin’s principal injury for which there are ongoing symptoms is contusion of the right and left knees.  It is the writer’s opinion that Mr. Fortin must have sustained anterior blunt trauma to the right and left knees.  He presents with ongoing symptoms consistent with patellofemoral degeneration.

Currently, the discomfort in the right and left knees related to presumed chondromalacia patellae (post traumatic), is not impairing Mr. Fortin in his work.  He obviously is very happy about his present employment.  He has aspirations to, at some time, own his own company and not have to do hands on work.  It is the writer’s opinion that if Mr. Fortin continues in his current occupation long term as a pipefitter, he will experience progressive problems with the right and left knee.

I reviewed with Mr. Fortin the job requirements of a pipefitter in stainless steel.  The requirements are obviously quite rigorous and all his co-workers have musculoskeletal complaints related to the occupation.

The writer does not anticipate there will be spontaneous improvement in the complaints referable to the right and left knee.  Currently, Mr. Fortin is following instructions with regard to the protection of his knees throughout the course of his activities as a pipefitter.

The long term prognosis is guarded if Mr. Fortin remains in precisely his current role as a pipefitter.  One could anticipate that in 10 to 20 years in this particular occupation, he might become disabled for (sic) continuing on.  At the present time there are no operative interventions which would prolong the life of either the right or the left knee.  Mr. Fortin is already making plans to attempt to advance to a supervisory position and eventually, to be an independent contractor of a pipefitting company.  Were Mr. Fortin to follow this career path, it is in the writer’s opinion that his knees would not be a barrier to his future employment.

In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) at $70,000 Mr. Justice Harvey noted the following:

49] The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is “to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023 at ¶134; see also Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229 at 260-265; and Kuskis v. Hon Tin, 2008 BCSC 862 at ¶135.  While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as guides to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis at ¶136.

[50] Russell J. discussed this process in Hoang v. Smith Industries Ltd. et al., 2009 BCSC 275 at ¶33:

There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  Justice Kirkpatrick, writing for the majority, in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines the factors to consider, at para. 46:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)        age of the plaintiff;

(b)        nature of the injury;

(c)        severity and duration of pain;

(d)        disability;

(e)        emotional suffering; and

(f)        loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)        impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)        impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)         loss of lifestyle; and

(j)         the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54 (B.C. C.A.))

[51] Here, Mr. Fortin has suffered significant injuries as a result of a horrific accident.  Happily, with the exception of the problem with his knees, which is permanent, his other complaints resolved over time.  Approximately one year following the accident, Mr. Fortin’s other injuries had resolved and no longer were interfering with either his employment or his enjoyment of life.

[52] His knee symptoms, although mild at present, will create ongoing problems for him both in his vocational and recreational pursuits.  The more he is obliged to work “on the tools”, the greater the interference with both.

[53] Counsel for the plaintiff suggests an award of $90,000 to $100,000 for non-pecuniary loss.  Counsel for the defendant distinguishes the authorities relied upon for the plaintiff and suggests, instead, a range of $30,000 to $45,000, noting, amongst other things, that there has been no surgery to the plaintiff’s knees nor is it anticipated that such will occur in the future.

[54] Both counsel cited Gernitz v. Mowat, 1992 CarswellBC 2460 (S.C.) [Gernitz], presumably because the facts there were remarkably similar to the facts in this case but for the plaintiff’s age.  In Gernitz, the award for non-pecuniary loss was $35,000.  Counsel agreed that grossing up the award from 1992 to present day value results in an award of approximately $47,000.

[55] The major distinguishing factor in Gernitz was the age of the plaintiff who was 56 at the time of trial.  Here the plaintiff is 27 and will be subject to a much longer period of pain and restriction in his social pursuits.  Accordingly, having regard to all of the authorities cited by counsel on the question of non-pecuniary damages, I award the sum of $70,000 under this heading of loss.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Back and Knee Injuries

(Please note the past wage loss award in the case discussed below was varied slightly on appeal.  The BC Court of Appeal Judgement can be found here)
Here is the latest in my effort to continue to grow this online database of ICBC and other BC Personal Injury Cases addressing damages for pain and suffering.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Bradshaw v. Matwick) awarding a Plaintiff $268,389 in total damages as a result of injuries and losses suffered in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.
The crash was a rear end collision which occurred in Port Coquitlam.  Liability (fault) was admitted focusing the trial on quantum of damages (value of the injuries).
The Plaintiff was a 41 year old metal fabricator.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $70,000  Mr. Justice Groves summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[32] By the time of trial, the plaintiff’s injuries were close to three years old.  I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he continues to suffer from some level of disability resulting from the accident—he continues to suffer pain and he continues to have a disability which prohibits heavy lifting, prolonged standing, neck flexion, and sustained and repetitive reaching.  I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that at present, he continues to put all of his physical energies towards his work.  When he is not at work, he is resting and preparing for the next day of work.  The effect of the injuries caused by the accident have created a significantly lower quality of life for the plaintiff.

[33] As for the knee injury, the plaintiff continued to walk with a significant limp in court.  This is consistent with what is reported by:  his spouse, Sandra Bennett; his co-workers Rune Akerbakk and Ron Philbrook; and by his less than sympathetic employer, Rob Charland.  The evidence is suggestive that the medial tear may be repairable by surgery.  Of note, it took considerable time, despite the plaintiff’s desire early on for a MRI, to have the MRI performed.  There is no evidence before me as to when or if surgery to repair this knee is possible or scheduled…

[43] The plaintiff suffered injuries to his back, neck, shoulder and left knee.  He was unable to return to work for over three months after the April 26, 2006 accident, and then only with difficulty and on reduced hours.  Close to three years after the accident, the plaintiff continues to experience considerable pain in his neck and shoulder, back and knee.  The evidence is clear that his job as a metal fabricator involves physically demanding tasks which exacerbate these injuries.  He has not been able to return to his pre-accident performance levels at work.

[44] Two of the expert witnesses, Dr. Spooner and Dr. Vaisler, testified that the plaintiff may have a permanent disability as a result of the accident injuries.  The injuries and the corresponding pain levels have significantly affected the plaintiff’s quality of life and his relationship with his family, as he has little energy or ability to remain active outside of work hours and is frequently irritable and short-tempered as a result of the pain.

[45] The plaintiff’s lifestyle has been dramatically affected by the injuries he suffered in the accident.  The plaintiff, prior to the accident, was an active outdoorsman who regularly went fly fishing with his daughter at remote locations around the Lower Mainland and in southern British Columbia.  Since the accident he has completely curtailed this activity and his relationship with his daughter has suffered.  Prior to the accident, he was an active father with his young son, enjoying activities with his son in the yard, and in the home.  Since the accident his relationship with his son has resorted to playing video games or other activities which involved sitting and lying down, with no physical exertion.

[46] Ms. Bennett describes the plaintiff, prior to the accident, as a “fabulous 100% dad”.  She described that her daughter viewed him as “her god”.  Now the daughter does not want to hang around with her father any longer.

[47] The evidence suggests yard work and snow removal is simply left undone, as the plaintiff can no longer do it.

[48] Ms. Bennett describes her relationship with the plaintiff as “hell”.  She says that when the plaintiff is at home, the family is “walking on eggshells”.  The plaintiff is in near constant pain.  He has to immediately lie down after work.  His interaction with the family is minimal.  He is completed affected by the pain.

[49] His relationship with his wife, Ms. Bennett, who testified, has become tenuous at best.  Prior to the accident they enjoyed an active sex life—they no longer do.  For close to 2½ years, because of his injuries, the plaintiff slept on the living room floor rather than with his wife.  Prior to the accident, the plaintiff vacuumed, did dishes, and cleaned up around the house and was completely responsible for outside yard activities.  The plaintiff and his wife purchased a home on a quarter acre lot.  The home was, to use the vernacular, a “fixer upper”.  The home was repaired by considerable efforts of the plaintiff and the quarter-acre yard was completely landscaped by the efforts of the plaintiff.  Since the accident he has been unable to participate in home repairs or landscaping work.

Pain and Suffering for Plaintiffs With Pre Existing Injuries

How do courts value pain and suffering (non pecuniary damages) when a person with a severe pre-existing injury is injured in a subsequent event?  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, (Monych v. Beacon Community Services Society) dealing with this issue.
In today’s case the Plaintiff was initially injured in a severe motor vehicle collision in 1992.  As a result of this he was rendered a quadriplegic.  Despite this he was able to lead ‘a relatively active life until November 2006.  He regularly left his home in his manual wheelchair and in his car for exercise, hobbies, entertainment and to visit friends and family.  Prior to the November 2006 accident, Mr. Monych could use a manual wheelchair, drive a car, dress himself, bend at the waist and pick up objects, repair his vehicles and regularly engage in sexual activity with his girlfriend.  Since the November 2006 accident Mr. Monych has been unable to do most of these things. ‘
In 2006, while in the care of the Defendant, the Plaintiff was injured while being transferred from his wheelchair.  The Plaingiff fell during this tranfer.  As a result of this fall the Plaintiff broke both his legs.  Madam Justice Gerow found that the Defendants were responsible for negligently assisting in the transfer of the Plaintiff.  
The Plaintiff’s injuries and their consequences were summarized as follows:
[41]            After reviewing the evidence, I am satisfied that as a result of the fall Mr. Monych suffered fractures to both his legs.  The evidence is that the fractures have not healed and the prognosis is that it is unlikely they will.  No surgical intervention is anticipated or recommended…
[47]            As a result of the leg fractures Mr. Monych’s legs were splinted, causing him a severe restriction of his ability to move around.  While his legs were splinted, he was bedridden and he developed the ischial ulcers.  As stated earlier, Dr. Clinton-Baker’s opinion is that the long hospital stay was a result of the bilateral leg fractures and the ischial ulcers that developed for the first time while in hospital.  I accept Dr. Clinton-Baker’s opinion that the ischial ulcers developed during the long hospital stay that was necessary because of the bilateral leg fractures…
[52]            After considering all of the evidence, I have concluded that but for the accident the injuries causing Mr. Monych’s long hospital stay have resulted in a deterioration of Mr. Monych’s condition to the point where he is restricted to his bed and his electric wheelchair.  If the accident had not occurred Mr. Monych would not have suffered the increased restrictions and limitations on his activities
In valuing the Plaintiff’s losses for general damages Madam Justice Gerow noted a very important principle when determining the value of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life namely that “to rob a disabled person of what little she has left is a monstrous injury, for that little she has is, for her, the whole of her life.”
In awarding $120,000 for the Plaintiff’s general damages the court engaged in the following analysis:

[61]            The evidence from Mr. Monych, the lay witnesses and his caregivers is that Mr. Monych can no longer use a manual wheelchair, do self-assisted transfers to the toilet or shower, do independent transfers, bend at the waist to pick something up, change his own catheter bag, dress himself or drive an automobile.  He has not been able to have a shower or use a toilet since the accident.  As well, he can no longer take part in many of the extracurricular activities he used to, including visiting friends, going to the park with his girlfriend and working on automobiles.  Prior to the accident of November 4, 2006, he was able to do all those things.

[62]            As well, the evidence establishes that Mr. Monych’s personal life has been impacted.  Prior to the accident, he had an intimate relationship with his girlfriend and that has not resumed since his return home from the hospital.  Although Mr. Monych says he would like to resume a sexual relationship, the movement of the bones in his legs deters his girlfriend. 

[63]            Mr. Monych and the defendants have provided me with a number of cases to assist in determining the appropriate award for pain and suffering.  Mr. Monych submits that an award for general damages of $160,000 is appropriate, and that the range is $70,000 to $160,000.  The defendants submit that their authorities support an award for general damages in the range of $30,000.  I have considered the authorities presented by the parties.  As in most cases, there are aspects of the decisions which are helpful, but they also have features which distinguish them from this case. 

[64]            The defendants rely on Ranta v. Vancouver Taxi Ltd. (9 July 1990), Vancouver B882210 (S.C.), as support for the argument that the appropriate amount for general damages is $30,000.  In that case, the plaintiff, who was a quadriplegic, sustained a broken leg due to the negligence of a taxi driver.  In my view, the case has little application to the case at bar.  Harvey J. found that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the defendants’ negligence caused his present and continuing disability.  The injuries that were attributable to the accident were much less severe than the injuries Mr. Monych has suffered and had no long lasting impact.

[65]            I agree with the comments in Boren v. Vancouver Resource Society for the Physically Disabled, 2002 BCSC 1134 at para. 60:

Counsel for the defendant submits the award for non-pecuniary damages should be limited to a consideration of the physical injury sustained October 11.  I disagree.  Rather, the circumstances here raise issues similar to those in Bracey (Public Trustee of) v. Jahnke, [1995] B.C.J. No. 1850 (S.C.), varied on other grounds (1997), 34 B.C.L.R. (3d) 191 (C.A.), in which Oliver J. observed at para. 27 that:

To rob a disabled person of what little she has left is a monstrous injury, for that little she has is, for her, the whole of her life.

[66]            I am satisfied that Mr. Monych has suffered pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the November 4, 2006 accident.  As stated above, the evidence establishes that as a result of the accident, Mr. Monych suffers ongoing disabilities that have caused a severe restriction to his independence and ability to pursue the activities he was involved in prior to the accident.  He has lost the independence of being able to transfer himself, his ability to exercise and go out independently in his manual wheelchair, his ability to drive vehicles, his sex life and much of his social life.

[67]            Having considered the authorities and the evidence concerning the effect of the injuries on Mr. Monych, and allowing for the probability that his activities would have become more restricted, and his independence more compromised over time due to his ongoing medical conditions, I am of the view that the appropriate award for non pecuniary damages is $120,000.

 

$120,000 in Damages for “Gifted Athlete” Injured in BC Car Crash

Reasons for judgment were released last week (Atkison v. Niles) by the BC Supreme Court awarding just over $120,000 to a ‘gifted athlete’ who was injured in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.

The Plaintiff was 16 at the time of the collision. He was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an intersection crash. As a result he suffered a knee injury which was expected to have some permanent consequences. The injury was diagnosed as either a posterior cruciate ligament tear or damage to the trochlea groove of the femur. As a result of this knee injury it was agreed that the Plaintiff had an increased risk of developing progressive osteoarthritis eventually requiring knee replacement surgery.

The Plaintiff played as catcher for an ‘elite’ league in White Rock at the time of the crash. By the time of trial in 2009 the Plaintiff was playing at the University of New Mexico as a first baseman and had aspirations of going pro after graduating.

In quantifying the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) at $55,000 the Court noted the following facts:

[15] More significantly, he suffered a permanent injury to his left knee that has caused and will continue to cause intermittent pain, particularly with certain body positions. He will suffer the early onset of osteo-arthritis and require knee replacement surgery, likely in his 40’s. If he lived a sedentary life, as Dr. Hill recommends, the time for that surgery could be extended to the 60’s. However, the plaintiff is a gifted and active athlete. Extending the time for surgery by remaining inactive would constitute a drastic negative impact on his lifestyle. There is evidence that, because of the limited life span of a knee replacement, other surgeries may be required. While the defendant points to ongoing medical research which may provide other alternatives in future, that remains speculative at present.

[16] A significant impact for this plaintiff has been the impact on his baseball career. The evidence is that he was particularly suited to playing the position of catcher, a position he has not been able to occupy since the accident, nor will he ever. There is evidence, which I accept, is that he would have been most attractive to professional baseball had he been able to play that position. There is also evidence that, playing at first base, he does not have the size that professional baseball seeks for that position. There is also evidence that the knee injury had some impact on his foot speed, which would also diminish his chances of playing professionally.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) at $100,000 the Court noted the following:

[20] The plaintiff will be graduating from university with a general degree. Thus he has no earnings history. As earlier stated, his goal has long been to play professional baseball. That has not been a unrealistic goal given his exceptional talent.

[21] However, he is less attractive to professional baseball because of the knee injury, both because of that fact and the fact that the injury required him to move permanently to a position where he is less valuable. The evidence of professional baseball scout Mr. Archer in that regard is consistent with common sense. Measuring that lessened opportunity is a particularly difficult exercise at his youthful age, except to say that it is real and not insignificant.

[22] If that dream is not realized, the plaintiff intends to seek a career as a firefighter or in a trade, as his brother and father have done. While there is no expert evidence on the issue, It is plain and obvious that the plaintiff, with his permanent knee injury, will be less attractive to future employers, particular those occupations requiring physical exertion.

[23] Finally, I must consider the very real possibility that the plaintiff will be forced to undergo at least one major knee surgery and the effect this will have on his employability and ability to earn income in the physically demanding careers most likely open to him.

The Plaintiff’s total damages were then reduced by 22.5% because he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision and this contributed to the severity/cause of his injuries.

$40,000 Pain and Suffering for "Very Unique' Ankle Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff a total of$71,060.06 as a result of personal injuries which were caused by a 2004 BC car crash.
This was a left-turn intersection case involving a semi-truck and a mini-van. The semi truck turned left in front of the mini-van at an intersection causing a collision. The Plaintiff was a passenger in the mini-van. She ‘braced herself (for the collision) by holding the sides of the seat and placing her feet on the dash’.
Fault for the accident was admitted. The issue at trial was the extent of the injuries sustained and their value.
The court concluded that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck back and jaw which ‘had all effectively cleared up within some 6-7 months after the accident‘.
The Plaintiff also suffered injuries to her knee and ankles which ‘progressed to the point where she could return to work in July, 2005‘. The exact nature of these injuries were ‘bilateral ankle bone contusions and patellofemoral discomfort‘. The court found that these injuries were chronic and that ‘she will have continuing pain from time-to-time (in her ankle) of more likely on a diminishing basis‘.
The court awarded $40,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
This case focused largely on credibility. The court concluded that the plaintiff ‘has exaggerated her ongoing pain’. This case is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim as an example of how BC courts deal with the credibility (truthfulness) of a witness.
Here the court found that the Plaintiff was not truthful when describing the extent of her pain and that she misled the court when addressing past wage loss.
Specifically, the court found that:

[56] Following the adjournment of the trial to October, it became clear from the evidence led by the defence from West Jet’s representatives and employment records that the plaintiff’s position on picking up shifts was not true. In fact, the employment records in evidence confirm that the plaintiff began picking up more work than she was scheduled within a month of returning to regular hours of employment in July of 2005. From the evidence of the West Jet supervisor the plaintiff could routinely work 30 hours a week or less simply by working the hours that she was scheduled but it is clear from the employment records she chose to work more than 40 hours per week by picking up shifts from fellow agents following her return to work in July 2005 and commencing in August 2005.

[57] From a review of her employment records relating to her employment before the accident it became crystal clear that since she began working at West Jet Ms. Polson has routinely lobbied her fellow agents for more work as evidenced from commentary in work reviews directed to her in 2005 and 2006.

[58] Primarily relative to these inconsistencies relating to her employment following the accident, I have, regretfully, come to the conclusion that the plaintiff, in her direct evidence, led the court to believe that she was unable to work additional hours that she had worked prior to the accident and wanted fewer hours of employment because of the pain working additional hours caused her when, in fact, she volunteered for and obtained additional hours notwithstanding the additional pain she asserts.

[59] Likewise, with respect to the medical evidence and her contention that the pain levels at the time of trial were in the ranges she described, this level of pain is inconsistent with her attendances at her treating physician’s office. As indicated previously, following her return to work in July 2005 I can count, from the clinical records, only one occasion prior to her attendance for a medical/legal report to be provided by Dr. Gorman some 13 months after returning to work. While there are complaints of depression, as already indicated, there is ample clinical notations to indicate pre-existing problems with depression and fatigue which cannot be causally connected to this motor vehicle accident without more.

[60] Although the plaintiff testified that she routinely suffers from pain in her neck at a 7 out of 10 pain level when at work, and frequently rubs her neck as a result, only one witness testified that she had seen the plaintiff sometimes stretching her neck, perhaps once a week, and only occasionally sitting on an exercise ball provided by her employer. With respect to rolling her ankle at work and the resulting limp thereby occasioned, Ms. Polson described herself rolling her ankle frequently at work and limping frequently at work for approximately 3 or 4 times a day, but no witness testified to having seen Ms. Polson limping or rubbing her ankle. While her co-worker Amanda Fraser-Doyle testified that Ms. Polson had slowed down since the accident, this would be inconsistent with the actual hours worked and voluntarily picked up by Ms. Polson after returning to work.

[61] One other matter of evidence also needs to be dealt with. Tricia Spencer, the administrative assistant for West Jet at the Prince George operations, testified to having observed the plaintiff at the Christmas party in December 2006 where she described the plaintiff as “enjoying herself on the dance floor for a relatively substantial time and was unable to notice any pain behaviour while she was dancing”. While Ms. Spencer agreed that she did not have much casual conversation with the plaintiff at this time, she maintained her observations of the plaintiff’s abilities on the dance floor.

Credibility of a Plaintiff is vital in all ICBC injury claims, particularly those where the injuries cannot be verified through objective measures such as X-rays or MRI findings. In such cases courts are very careful in assessing a Plaintiff’s credibility prior to awarding damages for injuries. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing if you are proceeding to trial in an ICBC injury claim to see what kinds of factors the court can consider when weighing a person’s credibility.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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