$16,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Year Long Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries which occurred as a result of a so-called ‘low velocity‘ impact.
In this week’s case (Ram v. Rai) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  The crash resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Defendant testified that the impact involved  ‘very little force‘ although the Court rejected this finding that the Defendant’s version of events was “ internally inconsistent and generally unconvincing.“.  The court went on to find that the Plaintiff suffered a year long soft tissue injury.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $16,000 Mr. Justice Holmes provided the following reasons:
[47]         As I find, at the time of the accident Ms. Ram was an active and healthy young woman of 21 years of age, who was busily engaged not only in full-time post-secondary studies but also in two part-time jobs.  She had an active social life with friends that involved playing several different sports as opportunities presented.  She enjoyed gym workouts and doing workout exercise tapes at home.
[48]         As I find, the accident left Ms. Ram with throbbing pain in her back, neck, and head that became intermittent over time, with occasional numbness in her legs.  The pain in the various areas gradually resolved within a year, the back pain last of all.
[49]         The effects of the injuries caused Ms. Ram to miss work and some school during the few days or a week after the accident.  They made her withdraw from social activities over a longer term, so that she seemed to her family to be withdrawn and reclusive, no longer her bubbly self.  These effects resolved as her injuries resolved, within about a year…
[55]         On all the evidence, I conclude that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages in this case is $16,000. 

$20,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Relatively Mild But Likely Permanent" Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with damages for minor soft tissue injuries following a so-called ‘low velocity impact‘ collision.
In the recent case (Wallner v. Uppal) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision. Fault was admitted.  The collision was relatively minor causing just under $450 worth of vehicle damage.  Despite this the Plaintiff suffered a soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulder.  Her symptoms were “mild” but were expected to linger into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein provided the following reasons:
[14]         The plaintiff’s claim is for damages for a permanent partial disability relating to her intermittent ongoing neck, upper back and shoulder pain and left arm pain, and numbness and tingling she says is caused by the accident.  The plaintiff acknowledges her condition is relatively mild but maintains it is persistent and likely permanent.  She claims she experiences pain and discomfort while commuting to work, at work, doing household work, and during recreational activity.  She complains of intermittent weakness and lack of sensitivity in her left hand.  She claims she is unable to predict when she will be symptomatic.
[15]         In this case, in addition to minimal cosmetic damage to the vehicles, the plaintiff’s subjective complaints were not objectively verifiable, and in any event her injuries were minor and of minimal impact on her life.  The plaintiff has not missed any work and has no claim for past wage loss or for loss of future earning capacity despite maintaining a permanent partial disability.  The evidence establishes the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries of a minor nature, with continued minor, intermittent numbness and tingling in her left arm and fingers, which injuries have had and will have minimal impact on her life.
[16]         In the result, based on an assessment of the evidence and considering the authorities relied on by counsel, the plaintiff is awarded general damages in the amount of $20,000.  In addition, she is awarded special damages in the amount of $283, with court order interest.  With the agreement of counsel, costs are set pursuant to Supreme Court Civil Rules, R.15-1(15)(c) at $11,000 and disbursements.

$4,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 4 month long soft tissue injuries

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for modest soft tissue injuries caused by a Low Velocity Impact.
In last week’s case (Naidu v. Gill) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  The crash resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Plaintiff alleged he had injuries caused by the crash which were on-going at the time of trial.  The court found that the plaintiff was an “unreliable historian” and did not accept that the Plaintiff’s ongoing complaints were related to the crash.  The Court did, however, accept that the crash caused a modest soft tissue injury which resolved 4 months following the collision.  In doing so Mr. Justice Kelleher provided the following reasons:
[36]         Mr. Naidu suffered soft tissue injuries in the 2008 motor vehicle accident.  The injuries were not severe.  It is significant that no prescription medication was suggested or prescribed; Mr. Naidu has been able to work throughout the period since then.  No report of an injury was made to ICBC for over a year.  Mr. Naidu was able to travel to Asia on three occasions in 2010.  Mr. Naidu made three visits to a physician in early 2009 and made no mention of pain symptoms from the accident.  Finally, while the extent of the damage to the vehicle is not determinative for the reasons I just explained, it is not irrelevant that the damage to the vehicle was minor.  
[37]         The evidence does not establish causation for the symptoms persisting past approximately January 2009.  It is at least equally likely that the symptoms which resulted in his complaints in April 2009 and September 2009 were caused by physically demanding work as a security guard…
[39]         I conclude that the symptoms from the September 2008 accident persisted into early 2009.  The plaintiff has not discharged the onus of proving that his symptoms since that time were caused by the accident.  I have reviewed a number of authorities including Bagasbas v. Atwal, 2009 BCSC 512; Gradek v. Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Canada Inc., 2009 BCSC 1572; Ostovic v. Foggin, 2009 BCSC 58; and Ceraldi v. Duthie, 2008 BCSC 1812.
[40]         An award of $4,000 is appropriate.

Courts Do Not Share ICBC's Views About Low Velocity Impact Injuries

As discussed many times, the ‘low velocity impact‘ defence is not particularly compelling and is often judicially frowned upon.  Certainly there is no legal principle which states that minimal impact forces result in no compensable injuries.  This was demonstrated yet again in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s case (Sourisseau v. Peters) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Defendant advanced the LVI Defence highlighting that the impact caused under $1,000 in repair costs to both vehicles and further that the impact was likely at speeds below 8 kmph.  With this evidence in hand the Defendant argued that the plaintiff “sustained no compensable injury“.
Mr. Justice Greyell rejected this line of reasoning and found the Plaintiff was indeed injured in the low velocity impact and awarded $22,5000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[54] While the significance of the damage sustained in a collision may be a factor with which the Insurance Corporation is concerned it is not a matter which necessarily has a direct relationship to the plaintiff’s injuries. The issue for determination is whether the plaintiff’s injuries were caused or contributed to by the accident, Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (BCSC); Boag v. Berna, 2003 BCSC 779.

[55] In this latter connection, the defendant called Mr. Goudie an engineer who testified the change of velocity at the time of the collision was probably less than 8 km/h.

[56] In my opinion, in the circumstances of this case, the change of velocity alone is of little significance. At the time of impact Ms. Sourisseau had her head turned sideways. The evidence clearly establishes she had had pre-existing difficulties with neck and back pain. It likely took very little by way of an impact to trigger a recurrence of that pain. The defendant called no medical evidence to suggest otherwise…

60] Accordingly, I find the plaintiff suffered pain and suffering from soft tissue injuries for approximately 14 months with the odd flare-up continuing thereafter until early 2010 when she testified she felt she had returned to her pre-accident status.

[61] After reviewing the authorities submitted by counsel I award the plaintiff $22,500 for non-pecuniary damages.

Soft Tissue Injury Damages Round Up – The Kelowna Road Edition

As regular readers of this blog know, I try to avoid ‘round up‘ posts and do my best to provide individual case summaries for BC Supreme Court injury judgements.  Sometimes, however, the volume of decisions coupled with time constraints makes this difficult.  After wrapping up holidays in the lovely City of Kelowna this is one of those times so here is a soft tissue injury round up of recent BC injury caselaw.
In the first case (Olynyk v. Turner) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision.  Fault was admitted.    He was 43 at the time and suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.  His symptoms lingered to the time of trial although the Court found that the Plaintiff unreasonably refused to follow his physicians advise with respect to treatment.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 (then reduced by 30% to reflect the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’) Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following reasons:
[83]I find that Mr. Olynyk suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and low back. I would describe the former as mild and the later as moderate. There is no necessary correlation between the amount of medication consumed, the frequency of visits to the doctor, or the nature of the attempts to mitigate the effects of one’s injuries and the severity of those injuries and their consequences. There may be many explanations for such a lack of congruity: a person may be particularly stoic or may have an aversion to taking medication for example. On the one hand, in the absence of such an explanation, when there is a significant disconnect between these two things, that can be a reason for treating self reports of pain and limitation with caution…

[87]Given that it is now three years post accident, I am satisfied that Mr. Olynyk’s pain is likely permanent, although as Mr. Olynyk told Dr. Laidlow in the fall of 2011, his symptoms improved in the years since the accident, inasmuch as his level of pain declined as did the frequency of more significant episodes. Leaving aside the issue of his pre-existing back problems, and in view of the authorities referred to above, I consider that an award of non-pecuniary damages of $40,000 is appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, I have taken account of the dislocation that the plaintiff’s loss of employment has caused him. That loss is greater than the mere loss of income that it occasioned and for which separate compensation is in order. The plaintiff had to move to a different community to take a job that he was physically able to do. That is a matter of some consequence.

[88]The next issue is the effect of the plaintiff’s pre-existing back problems. According to Dr. Laidlow because of the plaintiff’s spondylolisthesis, and given the heavy nature of his work, he likely would have experienced back problems similar to those he now experiences in 10 years even if he had not been involved in an accident.

[89]As noted above, such future risks or contingencies are taken into account through a combination of their likely effect and the relative likelihood of them coming to pass (Athey at para. 27). I find that there was a 60 percent likelihood that Mr. Olynyk would experience the same symptoms he now experiences in 10 years in any event. It is not appropriate to reduce the award for general damages by 60 percent to account for that likelihood because the pre-existing condition would not have given rise to symptoms and limitations for 10 years. Mr. Olynyk is now 47 years old. I think it reasonable to reduce the award for general damages to account for his pre-existing condition by 30 percent.

[90]The plaintiff is entitled to $28,000 in general damages ($40,000 less 30 percent). That amount must be further reduced to account for Mr. Olynyk’s failure to mitigate. The net award of non-pecuniary damages is therefore $22,400.


In the second case released this week (Scoffield v. Jentsch) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision on Vancouver Island.  Although the Defendant admitted fault there was “a serious dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant as to the severity of the force of impact“.

Mr. Justice Halfyard noted several ‘concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility‘ and went on to find that the impact was quite minor finding as follows:

[201]I find that, after initially coming to a full stop, the defendant’s vehicle was moving very slowly when it made contact with the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff’s car was not pushed forward. The damage caused by the collision was minor. The force of the impact was low. The defendant backed his car up after the collision, and the bits of plastic picked up by the plaintiff some distance behind her car, fell away from his car as he was backing up. I do not accept the plaintiff’s estimate that the closest pieces of plastic on the roadway were eight feet behind the bumper of her car.

Despite this finding and the noted credibility concerns, the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back and awarded non-pecuniary damages of $30,000.  In doing so Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[202]The defendant admits that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of her neck, upper back and shoulders as a result of the collision of April 9, 2009. I made that finding of fact. But the plaintiff alleges that the degree of severity of the injury was moderate, whereas the defence argues that it was only mild, or mild to moderate in degree…

[221]I find that, from April 16, 2009 until August 9, 2009, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from working. After that, she was able to commence a gradual return to working full-time, which took a further two months until October 10, 2009. For the first four months after the accident, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from engaging in her former recreational and athletic activities. She gradually resumed her former activities after that time. I find that, by the spring of 2010, the plaintiff had substantially returned to the level of recreational and athletic activities that she had done before the accident. After that time, any impairment of the plaintiff’s physical capacity to work or to do other activities was not caused by the injury she sustained in the accident on April 9, 2009…

[226]The plaintiff must be fairly compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that she has incurred by reason of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. In light of the findings of fact that I have outlined above, I have decided that the plaintiff should be awarded $30,000.00 as damages for non-pecuniary loss.


(UPDATE March 19, 2014 – the BC Court of Appeal overturned the liability split below to 75/25 in the Plaintiff’s favour)

In this week’s third case, (Russell v. Parks) the pedestrian Plaintiff was injured in a parking lot collision with a vehicle.  The Court found that both parties were to blame for the impact but the Plaintiff shouldered more of the blame being found 66.3% at fault.

The Plaintiff suffered a fracture to the fifth metacarpal of his right foot and a chronic soft tissue injury to his knee.  The latter injury merged with pre-existing difficulties to result in on-going symptoms.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 (before the reduction to account for liability) Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:

[63]I make the following findings of fact based on my consideration of the evidence both lay and expert as a whole:

(a)      the plaintiff’s “original position” immediately prior to the Accident included the following:

·being significantly overweight and deconditioned;

·having a hypertension condition which had existed for many years;

·asymptomatic degenerative osteoarthritis to both knees, more significant to the right than the left; and

·symptomatic left foot and ankle difficulties.

(b)      prior to the Accident, the plaintiff’s weight and deconditioning, together with the left foot and ankle difficulties caused him to live a rather sedentary lifestyle. Although he was able to work from time to time and participate in certain leisure activities, these were lessening as he grew older.

(c)      the Accident did not cause the degenerative osteoarthritis in the right knee to become symptomatic. It did, however, cause a soft-tissue injury which continued to affect the plaintiff to some extent at the time of trial.

(d)      the plaintiff’s ongoing difficulties are multifactoral. They include:

·his ongoing weight and conditioning problems. Although Mr. Russell’s pre-Accident weight and lack of conditioning would likely have affected his work and enjoyment of the amenities of life even if the Accident had not occurred, the injuries which he did sustain exacerbated that pre-existing condition;

·the plaintiff’s pre-existing but quiescent cardiac condition would have materialized the way it did even if the Accident had not occurred. This condition would have affected his long term day-to-day functioning including his ability to earn an income;

·notwithstanding this, the injuries sustained in the Accident, particularly the right knee, continue to affect his ongoing reduced functioning. This will continue indefinitely, to some degree, although some weight loss and an exercise rehabilitation program will likely assist him;

·an exercise and weight loss program would have been of benefit to the plaintiff even if the Accident had not occurred.,,

[73]From the mid range amount of approximately $60,000 I must take into account the plaintiff’s original position and the measurable risk the pre-Accident condition would have affected the plaintiff’s life had the Accident not occurred. Accordingly, I award non pecuniary damages in the amount of $45,000.


In the final case (Hill v. Swayne) the 35 year old Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision.  Fault was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.   The Court noted some reliability issues with the Plaintiff’s evidence and found his collision related injuries were largely resolved by the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[68]Mr. Hill suffered a neck strain and lumbar strain and received 13 physiotherapy treatments ending February 2, 2010. He was absent from work from December 14, 2009 to January 4, 2010..

[74]I accept that an injury of the type suffered by Mr. Hill was particularly troublesome in light of the heavy work in his role as a journeyman/foreman roofer. A back injury to a person in his circumstances, even if not disabling in itself, would require extra care and watchfulness on the job to ensure that the injury is not exacerbated. In considering the criteria in Stapely, it is significant that Mr. Hill, who was a heavy lifting labourer, injured his back and that the injury has lingering effects. The injuries have minimally impacted his lifestyle, and he has dealt stoically with his employment.

[75]The severity of his pain was modest and the extent to which the duration of his discomfort was related to the accident is uncertain. However, I accept that there is some connection between the collision and his ongoing complaints.

[76]I have considered various cases cited by counsel and additionally referred to the Reichennek case. Although comparisons are of some assistance, I am to focus on the factors set out by the Court of Appeal and the specific circumstances of the plaintiff in this particular case. In the final analysis, I would award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $20,000.

LVI Defence Rejected Again; Damages Awarded for Modest Injuries

In an all too familiar development reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Surpeme Corut, New Westminster Registry, considering and rejecting ICBC’s “Low Velocity Impact” defence.
In last week’s case (Hoy v. Harvey) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 rear-end collision.  The impact resulted very minor vehicle damage.  The defendant argued that the Plaintiff “could not have sustained his claimed injuries from such a minor impact“.  Madam Justice Fitzpatrick rejected this logic and provided the following reasons:

[46] As in most motor vehicle injury cases involving soft tissue injuries, the defence cites the oft quoted decision in Price v. Kostryba (1982), 70 B.C.L.R. 397, where Chief Justice McEachern, as he then was, stated that the Court must exercise caution in respect of subjective complaints of pain in respect of those soft tissue injuries (at 399).

[47] I agree that the extent of this collision is relatively minor and that this is a factor to be considered when assessing Mr. Hoy’s claims of injury. However, it is equally clear that even low impact collisions may cause injuries. In Lubick v. Mei and another, 2008 BCSC 555, Mr. Justice Macaulay stated:

[5]        The Courts have long debunked as myth the suggestion that low impact can be directly correlated with lack of compensable injury. In Gordon v. Palmer, [1993] B.C.J. No. 474 (S.C.), Thackray J., as he then was, made the following comments that are still apposite today:

I do not subscribe to the view that if there is no motor vehicle damage then there is no injury. This is a philosophy that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may follow, but it has no application in court. It is not a legal principle of which I am aware and I have never heard it endorsed as a medical principle.

He goes on to point out that the presence and extent of injuries are determined on the evidence, not with “extraneous philosophies that some would impose on the judicial process”. In particular, he noted that there was no evidence to substantiate the defence theory in the case before him. Similarly, there is no evidence to substantiate the defence contention that Lubick could not have sustained any injury here because the vehicle impact was slight.

[6]        I am satisfied that Lubick sustained an injury in the collision in spite of the low impact.

[48] Generally speaking, I found Mr. Hoy to have given his evidence in a straightforward and direct manner. His subjective complaints of pain were confirmed by objective testing by both his family physician, Dr. Yong, and his physiotherapist, Ms. Mattiello. It is accepted that prior to the accident, Mr. Hoy was in good health and was suffering none of the complaints that arose just after the accident.

[49] In these circumstances, I am satisfied that the injuries suffered by Mr. Hoy in the accident were caused by the accident and that accordingly, causation has been proven.

The Court went on to note that the Plaintiff suffered minor soft tissue injuries which went on to make full recovery.  In awarding $7,000 for non-pecuniary damages the Court provided the following reasons:
[71] In this case, Mr. Hoy’s most significant injuries can be said to have been resolved fairly quickly. His neck injury was only significant for a period of approximately two months which coincided with his last treatment by his physiotherapist, Ms. Mattiello. Thereafter, he would have pain only once per month for four further episodes. His back pain persisted to the point of affecting his lifestyle only for a period of approximately three months, when he returned to work full-time and began to resume his sporting activities. All symptoms were completely resolved by May 2011, or within 11 months…
[77] I award the sum of $7,000 for non-pecuniary damages.
Lastly, paragraphs 93-104 of the reasons for judgement are worth reviewing for the Court’s analysis in declining to award the Plaintiff costs finding there was no sufficient reason to bring this modest claim in Supreme Court.  You can click here to read other decisions addressing this discretionary issue.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for C-7 Disc Herniation With Radiculopathy

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for injuries sustained in a collision.
In this week’s case (Coutakis v. Lean) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision in 2008.   The crash was of ‘considerable force‘.  While there was competing evidence as to the exact speed of impact the Court made the following common sense observation “The precise speed does not matter.  What does matter is that there is no evidence that the force of the collision, given the defendant’s estimated speed, would have been insufficient to cause the injuries complained of“.
The collision caused low back soft tissue injuries in addition to a C-7 disc herniation with nerve root impingement causing pain and weakness in the Plaintiff’s arm.

The Plaintiff was a retired maintenance engineer but made spare money in his retirement painting houses.  The injuries disabled him from this work.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:

[47]In summary, Mr. Coutakis was an active and relatively healthy person prior to the motor vehicle accident, with no significant low back pain other than the occasional flare-ups which we are all subject to, and with every reason to expect a healthy and active retirement.  His plan to keep working at painting was reasonable, and there is a significant probability to be attached to his thought of continuing to work, health permitting, approximately to age 75.  His current complaints disable him from pursuing his employment as a painter.  I find that his current complaints were materially contributed to by the accident.  There is no basis, on the evidence, for concluding that any pre-existing degenerative changes in his cervical or lumbar spines – the cervical herniation, and the lumbar disc bulging – would have become symptomatic but for the accident, and certainly not to the present level of dysfunction and disability.

[48]There is some reason to hope for some modest resolution of Mr. Coutakis’ complaints with continuing conservative treatment.  However, the only expert witness to express any significant degree of optimism is his family physician, Dr. Cox.  Dr. Cox is not a specialist and I am not inclined to give his optimism a great deal of weight.  He did not have the benefit of Dr. Rothwell’s report, when he examined Mr. Coutakis in September 2010.

[49]I regard the possibility of Mr. Coutakis making any really significant recovery to the level of having a pain-free life, as small.  Even if he were to recover to the level where he might be physically able to resume work, the question at that point would be whether he would be inclined to do so, given his age; with all that he has been through, at that point it would be entirely reasonable for Mr. Coutakis to retire fully and enjoy what is left of his healthy retirement years…

[52]I assess non-pecuniary damages at $45,000.

LVI Defence Rejected, $27,500 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Soft Tissue Injuries

In my continued effort to highlight the judicial treatment of the Low Velocity Impact defence, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing such a strategy.
In last week’s case (Guzman Gonzalez v. Dueck) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 rear-end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash but denied the Plaintiff suffered injury arguing the the crash occurred at “about one kilometre per hour” and that if felt like “a little love tap“.
Mr. Justice Burnyeat rejected this evidence finding as follows:
[6] The damage to the respective vehicles was $1,270.80 to the vehicle of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez and $1,001.52 to the vehicle of Mr. Dueck.  Mr. Dueck described the damage to his vehicle as being “a little damage to the front-end bumper”, “it got pushed down”.  I do not accept the evidence of Mr. Dueck that his vehicle was only going one kilometre per hour and that the collision only involved “a little love tap”.  Although the damage to the vehicles was not extensive and although I can conclude that this was a low impact collision, I cannot reach the conclusion that the respective damage to the vehicles could have been caused by the collision described by Mr. Dueck.
In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $27,500 the Court made the following findings:

[28] On the basis of the testimony of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, the expert opinions of Drs. Tong and O’Connor, and the testimony and reports of Mr. Snip, I can conclude as follows regarding the extent and the duration of the pain and suffering of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez caused by the accident:

(a) Regarding the low back pain experienced by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, I conclude that he had fairly constant pain for the first month or so, but that his complaints had resolved by the time Mr. Guzman Gonzalez saw Dr. Tong on October 21, 2009.

(b) Regarding the headaches suffered by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, while Mr. Guzman Gonzalez testified at his Discovery that he had his last headache in December 2010, I am satisfied on the basis of the medical legal opinion of Dr. O’Connor that any headaches associated with the accident were common daily for the first three months, but had largely resolved within three to four months so that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez now only experiences headaches every so often.

(c) Regarding the pain experienced in his shoulder, Mr. Guzman Gonzalez confirmed that there is only pain when he lifts his arm above his head or when he sleeps on that particular shoulder.  I take into account the following evidence to come to the conclusion that the neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident lasted in the neighbourhood of six to eight months, although it was particularly acute during the first two months after the accident:  (i) by December 5, 2009, Mr. Guzman Gonzalez was reporting to Dr. Tong that there was only “occasional flareup” associated with the “tightening up of the muscles”; (ii) the clinical notes of Dr. Tong did not record any complaint by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez about neck and shoulder pain for the December 5, 2009 through February 20, 2012 visits; (iii) in his February 20, 2012 medical legal opinion, Dr. Tong noted that there was neither “residual neck musculo-ligament tenderness” on palpation, that the left shoulder exhibited “slight decreased external rotation and abduction”, and that there was “no tenderness on the anterior aspect of the left shoulder”; (iv) neck pain and left shoulder pain was described by Dr. O’Connor in his December 16, 2011 legal opinion as being “about 50% better”; and (v) in his December 16, 2011 opinion, Dr. O’Connor states that the neck pain was “initially triggered by musculoligamentous strain to the neck, and likely aggravation of the cervical facet joints at the mid-cervical spine”.

[29] The x-ray arranged by Dr. Tong in late 2009 indicated “moderate osteoarthritis of the  acromio-clavicular joint” and that this “may cause impingement”.  There is no medical evidence which would allow me to conclude that the accident caused an acceleration of the osteoarthritis or that this would not have developed but for the accident.  In the circumstances, I find that the condition described by Dr. O’Connor was the result of a degenerative condition in the AC joint which had previously not caused pain to Mr. Guzman Gonzalez but is presently causing pain during or after what Dr. O’Connor described as “overhead reaching”.  The prognosis of Dr. O’Connor is that there is an increased risk of injury or aggravation of the left shoulder with any heavy lifting or overhead reaching or carrying required in the occupation of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez.  I find that this ongoing problem is attributable to the osteoarthritis and not to injuries caused by the negligence of Mr. Dueck.

[30] As a result of the injuries caused by the negligence of Mr. Dueck, I find that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez was not able to play tennis for about six months, that he had limited ability to play soccer, that he was less active on the dance floor for six to eight months, but that, after about eight months, he was fully able to carry on with all of his previous recreational activities.  I find that any further limitations regarding his recreational activities can be attributed to a problem that Mr. Guzman Gonzalez has with his knee which is in no way associated with the results of the injuries he suffered as a result of the accident.

[31] Taking into account the injuries suffered by Mr. Guzman Gonzalez as a result of the accident and the duration of the pain and suffering of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez, I assess the non-pecuniary damages of Mr. Guzman Gonzalez at $27,500.

Supreme Court of Canada Clarifies Law of Dangerous Driving

The Supreme Court of Canada released reasons for judgement this morning clarifying the required elements of the Criminal Code offence of Dangerous Driving.
In today’s case (R v. Roy) the Defendant was driving a motor-home carrying a passenger. Visibility was limited due to fog and the road they were on was relatively steep, snow?covered, and slippery. He pulled out from a stop sign to turn onto a highway.  As he did so he pulled into the path of an on-coming tractor-trailer resulting in a serious collision killing his passenger.  He was convicted of Dangerous Driving Causing Death at the trial level.  The BC Court of Appeal upheld his conviction.  The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the conviction and in doing so provided the following exchange highlighting that something beyond mere negligence is required to cross the threshold into criminality:
[30] A fundamental point in Beatty is that dangerous driving is a serious criminal offence.  It is, therefore, critically important to ensure that the fault requirement for dangerous driving has been established.  Failing to do so unduly extends the reach of the criminal law and wrongly brands as criminals those who are not morally blameworthy.  The distinction between a mere departure, which may support civil liability, and themarked departure required for criminal fault is a matter of degree.  The trier of fact must identify how and in what way the departure from the standard goes markedly beyond mere carelessness.

[31] From at least the 1940s, the Court has distinguished between, on the one hand, simple negligence that is required to establish civil liability or guilt of provincial careless driving offences and, on the other hand, the significantly greater fault required for the criminal offence of dangerous driving (American Automobile Ins. Co. v. Dickson, [1943] S.C.R. 143).  This distinction took on added importance for constitutional purposes.  It became the basis for differentiating, for division of powers purposes, between the permissible scope of provincial and federal legislative competence as well as meeting the minimum fault requirements for crimes under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (O’Grady v. Sparling, [1960] S.C.R. 804; Mann v. The Queen, [1966] S.C.R. 238; Hundal).  Thus, the “marked departure” standard underlines the seriousness of the criminal offence of dangerous driving, separates federal criminal law from provincial regulatory law and ensures that there is an appropriate fault requirement for Charter purposes.

[32] Beatty consolidated and clarified this line of jurisprudence.  The Court was unanimous with respect to the importance of insisting on a significant fault element in order to distinguish between negligence for the purposes of imposing civil liability and that necessary for the imposition of criminal punishment…

[37] Simple carelessness, to which even the most prudent drivers may occasionally succumb, is generally not criminal.  As noted earlier, Charron J., for the majority in Beatty, put it this way: “If every departure from the civil norm is to be criminalized, regardless of the degree, we risk casting the net too widely and branding as criminals persons who are in reality not morally blameworthy” (para. 34).  The Chief Justice expressed a similar view: “Even good drivers are occasionally subject to momentary lapses of attention.  These may, depending on the circumstances, give rise to civil liability, or to a conviction for careless driving.  But they generally will not rise to the level of a marked departure required for a conviction for dangerous driving” (para. 71).

Cyclist Found 50% at Fault For Crash After Passing Vehicle on the Right

Further to my recent article on this topic, cyclists passing a stopped vehicle on the right can be faulted for a resulting collision.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In this week’s case (Kimber v. Wong) the Plaintiff cyclist was approaching a T intersection.  A vehicle was stopped in his lane of travel leaving a gap for the Defendant who was driving in the opposite direction intending to make a left hand turn.  The Cyclist passed the stopped vehicle on the right.  At the sane time the Defendant turned resulting in collision.

Mr. Justice Pearlman found both parties equally to blame for the incident.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[66] By passing to the right of the stopped eastbound vehicles, Mr. Kimber put himself in a position where he was not visible to a left-turning driver and where his own view of traffic turning across his path was blocked by the vehicles to his left.

[67] The plaintiff maintains that he was the dominant driver with the right of way as he approached the intersection and that under s. 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, and that Ms. Wong, as the servient driver intending to turn left, was required to yield the right of way to him.

[68] As Madam Justice Ballance observed in Henry v. Bennett, 2011 BCSC 1254 at para. 73:

The dominant/servient driver analysis in Walker is predicated on the footing that the dominant driver has proceeded lawfully …

[69] Here, that analysis does not apply where Mr. Kimber was in breach of s. 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act and his common law duty to take reasonable care by keeping a proper lookout.

[70] However, that does not absolve Ms. Wong from liability.  Ms. Wong made the left turn knowing cyclists using the oncoming lane often rode to the right of vehicles.  She knew she had to keep a lookout and would have to yield to any oncoming traffic, including cyclists that presented an immediate hazard.

[71] She began her turn from a point where she was unable to see beyond the windshield of the vehicle stopped at the western entrance to the intersection.   She made a continuous accelerating turn and did not stop or pause when she reached the point, just across the centre line, where she had a sight-line that would have enabled her to see the plaintiff.  Had she inched forward or stopped when she had a clear sight-line, the plaintiff would have passed safely in front of her and the accident would have been avoided.

[72] I find that in heavy traffic and where her view of the eastbound lane was limited, Ms. Wong was negligent in failing to inch forward until she could see whether there was an obstacle to her safely completing her left-hand turn.

[73] I turn now to consider whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.  As he passed stopped traffic on the right, Mr. Kimber ought to have been alert to the potential danger.  He failed to keep a proper lookout before entering the intersection.  He failed to take reasonable care for his own safety or that of other road users.  Here, the plaintiff could have pulled into the line of slow moving or stopped vehicles and then taken his turn to pass through the intersection.  Alternatively, the plaintiff ought to have been alert to the danger of passing stopped traffic at the intersection and ought to have brought his cycle to a stop to the right of the red Hyundai where he could observe traffic turning into the intersection.  Had he done so the collision would have been avoided.  I find that the plaintiff was also negligent and that his negligence was a cause of the accident.

[74] The apportionment of liability requires a consideration of the degree to which each party is at fault.  Fault is apportioned on the basis of the nature and extent of the departure from the respective standards of care of each of the parties:  Cempel v. Harrison Hot Springs, [1997] B.C.J. No. 2853 at para. 24 (B.C.C.A.).

[75] Here, the plaintiff and the defendant were both familiar with the intersection where the accident occurred.  For her part, the defendant was aware of the risk of cyclists approaching to the right of oncoming eastbound traffic but made her left turn without maintaining a proper lookout for a known risk.

[76] For his part, the plaintiff ought to have slowed down and entered the line of eastbound vehicles before passing through the intersection, or if he remained to the right of the line of stopped vehicles, he ought to have stopped alongside the stationary Hyundai before proceeding into the intersection, where he would have had an unobstructed view of the hazard ahead.

[77] In my view, the plaintiff and the defendant are equally at fault.  I apportion liability 50 percent to each of the plaintiff and the defendant.


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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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