$150,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Pain and Somatic Symotom Disorder

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a vehicle collision.

In the recent case (Verjee v. Dunbrak) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2009 on Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge.  The Defendants admitted fault.   She suffered chronic soft tissue injuries and subsequently developed psychological symptoms including depression and a somatic symptom disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 Madam Justice Marzari provided the following reasons:

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$130,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Depression and Somatic Symptom Disorder

Adding to this site’s archives of psychiatric injury assessments, reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic depression and somatic symptom disorder.

In today’s case (Broomfield v. Lof) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2014 rear end collision.  The impact was “significant” and the Defendant admitted fault.

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ICBC Expert Witness Rejected Due to “Selective View of the Facts”

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a Plaintiff’s injuries and rejecting expert evidence retained by ICBC.

In today’s case (Wong v. Draaistra) the Plaintiff was injured in two separate collisions.  Fault was admitted by the Defendants for the crashes.  In addition to physical injuries the Plaintiff developed “psychiatric or emotional problems that have likely increased and prolonged her physical pain, and have caused her life to shrink to near-isolation in an unmaintained home behind almost permanently closed blinds“.

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$200,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Disabling Chronic Depression and PTSD

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for chronic and disabling psychiatric injuries.

In the recent case (Gill v. Aperdoorn) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2015 collision.  The Defendant admitted liability.  The crash resulted in severe depression and PTSD.  The injuries were disabling and the prognosis for further improvement was not optimistic.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 Madam Justice Gropper provided the following reasons:

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$125,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Complex" Psychological Injuries With Pain

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for the victim of a hit and run collision.
In today’s case (Crozier v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2013 collision caused by an unidentified motorist.  ICBC admitted statutory liability for the crash.  The Plaintiff suffered both physical and psychiatric injuries which were partially disabling and had a poor prognosis for full recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $125,000 Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:

[99]         The physical and psychological injuries Ms. Eros suffered include pain in the neck, back, shoulders, rib and chest; headache; dizziness and nausea; post-traumatic stress disorder, together with symptoms of depression and anxiety; fatigue, and problems with concentration and memory, either as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury (not confirmed through neuropsychological testing), or a combination of the physical and psychological/psychiatric injuries. Ms. Eros suffers from some residual headache and rib and chest pain. Fatigue remains a concern. She has significant chronic pain in the thoracic spine, and her psychological injuries continue. She is significantly disabled from working fully in her chosen field of massage therapy, and from engaging in physical labour of the type she did with SCRD. Her physical activity is limited. She can only do light housework.

[100]     I also consider the following factors as particularly influential in the damages award. Ms. Eros avoids driving where possible. She is not the joyful, outgoing person she used to be. Her self-identity as a strong and fearless person is gone. She lost the chance of pursuing her relationship with Mr. Johnson. Her relationship with her mother deteriorated after the accident. She is more socially isolated.

[101]     The defendant’s suggested range of $60,000 to $80,000 for Ms. Eros’ non-pecuniary damages, and the case law submitted in support of an assessment in that range, are premised on the substantial improvement of Ms. Eros’ physical injuries within 12 months of the accident, and of the psychological injuries within 18 months. The defendant’s submissions do not come close to acknowledging the devastating psychological effects of the accident, the continuing functional limitations imposed by the plaintiff’s pain, and the complex interrelationship of the pain condition and the post-traumatic stress disorder…

[104]     I find an appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages is $125,000.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Aggravation of Pre-Existing Somatic Symptom Disorder

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for an aggravation of a pre-existing psychiatric condition from a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Hrnic v. Bero Investments Ltd.) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collison that the Defendants accepted fault for.  The crash caused both physical injury and an aggravation of a pre-existing somatic symptom disorder.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Saunders provided the following reasons:

[35]        I find the plaintiff suffered physical injuries in the accident. I am not persuaded that the purely physical injuries were significantly disabling in respect of the plaintiff’s activities of daily living, or her employment, for more than approximately 18 months following the accident. There is no reason to believe that there is a physical, i.e. orthopaedic or neurological, cause of Ms. Hrnic’s current symptoms.

[36]        However, I find that the plaintiff also suffered at the time of the accident from a pre-existing, but not disabling, psychiatric condition – somatic symptom disorder – that was aggravated by the accident, and which, superimposed on the actual physical injuries she did temporarily suffer, has become functionally disabling.

[37]        I do not find any real or substantial possibility that the pre-existing somatic symptom disorder would have become disabling, but for the subject accident. In that respect, the defendants “take the victim as they find her”, and there is no discounting of the defendants’ degree of liability on account of the plaintiff’s original position as regards the claims for loss of past and future earning capacity.

[38]        Given the longstanding nature of the plaintiff’s disorder, and given her resistance to recommended medical treatment, I find it likely that her disability will not substantially improve up to her previously planned retirement age of 65, and beyond. There is some possibility that Ms. Hrnic may undergo some spontaneous improvement, and some possibility that she may elect some form of medical treatment that will benefit her. But these are very modest possibilities, and are properly accounted for as contingencies through very modest reductions in damages…

[52]        I award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $85,000.

$105,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Major Depression and Conversion Disorder With Seizures

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, assessing damages for chronic psychological injuries following a collision.
In today’s case (Chevalier v. Gray) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2014 collision.  It was a t-bone type impact and the Defendant accepted fault.
As a result of the crash the plaintiff suffered a major depressive disorder along with conversion disorder with accompanies seizures.  Prognosis for full recovery was poor and the injureis were partially disabling.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $105,000 Mr. Justice Tindale provided the following reasons:

[258]     In this case the plaintiff suffered musculoligamentous strains of the cervical spine as well as mild headaches, a mild strain of the thoracic area and a muscular strain of the lumbar spine. She also sustained a wrist injury.

[259]     The defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff to take reasonable care to avoid causing her physical and mental injuries.

[260]     The plaintiff certainly had pre-existing vulnerabilities to her mental health. Dr. Tomita however opined that the MVA was a predominant cause of both her conversion disorder and major depression. Dr. Udamaga opined that the MVA was a predominant factor that precipitated a decline in her mental health leading to a diagnosis of conversion disorder.

[261]     The evidence discloses that the plaintiff thought her vehicle was on fire when she was trying to extricate her elderly mother from the vehicle. She developed a sense of guilt about causing her mother’s injuries and ultimate death even though she was not at fault for the MVA.

[262]     Both Dr. Tomita and Dr. Udamaga testified that it was unlikely that the plaintiff would have developed conversion disorder absent the MVA.

[263]     The evidence discloses that the effects of the mental injuries to the plaintiff have been pronounced, long-lasting and debilitating.

[264]     The evidence also discloses that symptoms of the conversion disorder in the form of the plaintiff’s legs twitching regularly and for a prolonged period of time and as Mr. Chevalier described her shivering as if she was cold started shortly after the MVA. These symptoms became very pronounced in September 2014.

[265]     Taking into account all the evidence on this case the MVA was a material contributing cause to the plaintiff’s physical injuries and to her psychological injuries. The plaintiff was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident where she was physically injured and witnessed her ailing mother being injured. It is reasonably foreseeable that the plaintiff would suffer psychological injury.

[266]     But for the MVA the plaintiff would not have received the physical injuries that she did as outlined by Dr. Laidlow and would not have developed a major depressive disorder and a conversion disorder with seizures…

[270]     Taking into account the plaintiff’s condition prior to the MVA, the plaintiff’s injuries and poor prognosis, the effects that her psychological injuries have had on her personal and work life and the case authorities provided by the plaintiff an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $105,000.  This takes into account the real and substantive future possibilities, both positive and negative that could impact the plaintiff’s life.  In this case, it is primarily the negative possibilities caused by her pre-existing chronic pain and intermittent mood disorders that must be accounted for.

$110,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Pain Coupled With Psychological Injury

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries following a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Evans v. Keill) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision that the Defendants admitted fault for.  The crash caused a variety of soft tissue injuries which developed into chronic pain coupled with psychological injury.  The consequences impacted her vocationally with a poor prognosis for recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $110,000 Madam Justice Matthews provided the following reasons:

[166]     I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Ms. Evans has suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, which will continue into the foreseeable future and from which she is unlikely to ever fully recover.

[167]     As a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident, Ms. Evans suffered from soft tissue injuries to her mid-back, upper back, neck and shoulder. She now has chronic pain in her neck and upper back. The pain is exacerbated by lifting and many different postures, including sitting, standing, certain neck angles and some yoga postures. It is exacerbated by physical activities where her neck or back bears weight, or involves lifting or working with her arms above a certain height. She experiences headaches and migraines. Over the course of two years after the accident the pain has gradually improved by about 60% but has plateaued at its present level. It is permanent and not likely to improve. She has been prescribed analgesics and has taken over-the-counter medications to cope with her pain.

[168]     Before the accident, Ms. Evans’ mood was good and she enjoyed being physically active and social. She hiked several times a week, sometimes with friends, and regularly did yoga. She had a career that she enjoyed and was justifiably proud of given her eligibility for further promotion and that she achieved it without graduating high school. Her injuries rendered her unable to do her job.

[169]     Due to the accident injuries, Ms. Evans suffered two major depressive episodes and somatic symptom disorder. She withdrew socially from her friends. She attempted suicide twice. She drank excessively.

[170]     Overall, Ms. Evans’ life is very different from what she enjoyed prior to the accident. However, after a significant and challenging struggle, she has reworked her life into a place where she is happy.

[171]     The most significant of the Stapley factors in this case are Ms. Evans’ age; the severity and duration of the pain; the impairment of her physical abilities; her associated loss of lifestyle; and the impairment of her relationships. Ms. Evans is relatively young. She was 34 years old at the time of the accident and she was 39 years old at trial. She faces the prospect of a lifetime of chronic pain and associated functional limitations. One of the most significant impacts of her injuries has been the impact on her ability to do her job as a produce manager, which she enjoyed and which was a source of pride…

[181]     In summary, some of the cases cited by Ms. Evans involve other injuries, such as thoracic outlet syndrome, disc herniation or facet joint arthroplasty, on top of chronic myofascial pain and psychological injuries. Most of the defendants’ cases do not include cases where a psychological condition has been diagnosed and/or the chronic pain is not as functionally disabling as that experienced by Ms. Evans. The cases which are most similar are Stapley and Montgomery.

[182]     Having considered the Stapley factors and all the above authorities, I assess non-pecuniary damages at $110,000.

PTSD Claim Succeeds For Mistaken Plaintiff Belief That Defendant Killed in Crash

The law in British Columbia has developed to recognize that people witnessing a crash can be compensated in certain circumstances if the event causes psychological injury to them.  While PTSD is a common diagnosis the law developed using the term “nervous shock” and the following principle as been applied in BC
[17]         In order to show that the damage suffered is not too remote to be viewed as legally caused by Mr. McCauley’s negligence, Mr. Deros must show that it was foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer a mental injury from witnessing the accident. He has failed to do so…

[23]         The cases, to which I was referred, where damages for nervous shock have been awarded to witnesses of accidents who were not physically involved in the accidents, involve accidents or events which are more shocking than the accident in this case. All the cases involved accidents in which someone has died or been seriously injured: James v. Gillespie, [1995] B.C.J. No. 442 (S.C.); Arnold v. Cartwright Estate, 2007 BCSC 1602; Easton v. Ramadanovic Estate (1988), 27 B.C.L.R. (2d) 45; Stegemann v. Pasemko, 2007 BCSC 1062; James v. Gillespie, [1995] B.C.J. No. 442 (S.C.); Kwok v. British Columbia Ferry Corp. (1987), 20 B.C.L.R. (2d) 318 (S.C.).

[24]         As set out in Devji v. District of Burnaby, 1999 BCCA 599 at para. 75, the courts have been careful to limit the circumstances in which injuries for nervous shock are awarded:

The law in this province, as formulated by Rhodes, requires that the plaintiffs, in order to succeed, must experience something more than the surprise and other emotional responses that naturally follow from learning of the death of a friend or relative. Instead, there must be something more that separates actionable responses from the understandable grief, sorrow and loss that ordinarily follow the receipt of such information. In Rhodes, Taylor and Wood JJ.A. described the requisite experience as alarming and startling (and therefore sudden and unexpected), horrifying, shocking and frightening, and Southin J.A. referred to a “fright, terror or horror”.

Reasons for judgement were published last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, noting ICBC agreed to pay damages to a Plaintiff who developed PTSD after a collision based on the mistaken belief that the Defendant was killed.  It is worth noting that this case involves a Plaintiff and Defendant who were both involved in the crash, as opposed to a bystander, but the circumstances are such that the Plaintiff did not suffer any harm from the forces of the crash themselves or concern for their well being but rather solely based on their concern for the Defendant.
In the recent case (Lutzke v. Beier) the Plaintiff was a conductor operating a train and the Defendant pulled her vehicle into the Plaintiff’s path.  A collision occurred and the Defendant accepted fault .  The Plaintiff “thought for a time that the driver had been killed and that there had been a child in the vehicle who was either killed or seriously injured.  As it turned out, Ms. Beier was not killed and there had been no one else in the vehicle.”.
The plaintiff advanced claims for various heads of damages which were ultimately not successful.  ICBC was persuaded, however, to pay damages for the PTSD the Plaintiff suffered as evidenced by the following passage in Mr. Justice Milman’s reasons for judgement:

[2]            Liability for the accident has been admitted.  It is common ground that Mr. Lutzke developed post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) as a result of the accident and that he has since recovered sufficiently to return to work full time.  Despite his return to work, however, Mr. Lutzke says that he continues to suffer from increased anxiety and remains vulnerable to a relapse of PTSD, particularly if he experiences another traumatic event.

[3]            The parties have agreed on the quantum of all but two of the heads of damages claimed.  What remains in issue is Mr. Lutzke’s entitlement to damages for: (a) future loss of income earning capacity, including future pension benefits; and (b) the cost of future care.

 

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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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