$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:

[51]         Applying those factors, Mr. Gill is now 49 years old and he has been suffering from his injury for almost four years. The treating doctors and Dr. Tarzwell opine that Mr. Gill’s psychological problems continue and will not be cured. Mr. Gill is isolated from his peers. Mr. Gill’s ambition and drive towards his career goals have dissipated. Mr. Gill’s future career prospects, if there are any, will likely include work that is less challenging, interesting or rewarding for him. Mr. Gill has lost his own sense of self-worth and confidence. Mr. Gill’s degree of emotional suffering has been extreme and reflects a lonely, frustrated, and frightened individual. Mr. Gill’s family, marital and social relationships have been directly impaired, as have his physical and mental abilities. Mr. Gill has completely lost his pre‑accident lifestyle. Mr. Gill is unable to bear his loss stoically.

[52]         The defence argues that the experts have made a positive diagnosis in that the plaintiff can improve and can be rehabilitated to return to his pre-accident employment status. The defence argues that it is probable, although not certain, that Mr. Gill will return to longshoreman’s work.

[53]         The expert opinions are not optimistic about Mr. Gill’s recovery or his return to work. Though the most recent residential treatment program demonstrates some glimmer of hope, it is just that. It is reasonable that Dr. Tarzwell acknowledges Mr. Gill may get better, but he does not suggest that it is likely. That evidence does not meet the balance of probabilities standard.

[56]         Mr. Gill’s physical symptoms have been secondary to his psychological injuries. The psychological injuries have had a devastating impact on every aspect of his life. He was a happy, healthy, ambitious person. He was involved in a loving marriage and had close relationships with both his children. He was pursuing a job that he loved. He enjoyed socializing, he was concerned about his appearance, and he was physically active. His future was bright. That is no longer the case. Mr. Gill is a shadow of his former self. His interaction with his friends and family is non‑existent. The effect of these injuries on his day-to-day functioning is profound. Some of his family, friends, and the experts described that Mr. Gill is unable to even engage in basic health self-care and personal hygiene.

[57]         Mr. Gill has suicidal ideation that manifested itself in his attempt to take his own life in January 2018.

[58]         I have reviewed the authorities provided by the parties. I find the decision of Felix v. Hearne, 2011 BCSC 1236 to be apposite. In that case, the plaintiff suffered from the combined effects of physical injuries along with a “pervasive emotional disorder” that was “devastating to [her] personal and vocational life” (at para. 47). The court found that the plaintiff was no longer self-reliant and could not engage in her pre-accident activities or social life. Non-pecuniary damages were assessed at $200,000.

[59]         I have taken a global approach to non-pecuniary damages and consolidate both Mr. Gill’s physical and psychological injuries in assessing Mr. Gill’s non‑pecuniary damages at $200,000.

$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.

 

$170,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Physical and Psychological Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic physical and psychological injuries following a vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Niessen v. Emcon Services Inc.) the Plaintiff was involved in a serious highway collision in 2013.  The Defendants accepted fault.  The crash resulted in a multitude of injuries to the Plaintiff, many of which had a poor prognosis for further recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $170,000 Mr. Justice Brundrett provided the following reasons:

[212]     I am satisfied on the basis of all of the evidence that the plaintiff’s headaches, tinnitus, cognitive difficulties, sleep disruption, anxiety, and depression were caused by the motor vehicle accident on October 20, 2013. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff also sustained various musculoligamentous injuries to the neck and lower back which, though they persisted for an extended period of time, have now largely resolved. However, the tinnitus, headaches, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, and cognitive problems are ongoing and chronic.

[213]     The plaintiff’s symptoms diminished his ability to operate at the same high level in the plumbing and heating business, caused him to fail his advanced gas fitter course, and led to drastic changes in his personality and behaviour. I accept that his injuries have generally reduced the plaintiff’s enjoyment of life including his social, recreational, and employment pursuits.

[214]     The multiplicity of the plaintiff’s chronic injuries creates difficulties for treatment going forward. For instance, Dr. Prout indicated that he would be very surprised if treating the headaches removed the tinnitus. There is some possibility for treatment of the plaintiff’s depression symptoms through medication or further cognitive behavioural therapy, but I accept the consensus of medical opinion that the plaintiff’s symptoms are now well-established, and while further treatment is possible it cannot be said that such treatment will probably be effective.

[215]     The descriptions of third parties and the plaintiff’s physicians accord with the plaintiff’s own account of the pre- and post-accident changes in his personality and behaviour.  The nature of the changes in the plaintiff’s personality and behaviour are such that they have adversely impacted his work-related abilities, as well as his earning capacity in future years.

[249]     I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he suffered headaches, tinnitus, depression, social withdrawal, sleep disruption, cognitive problems including an inability to concentrate and impaired memory, anxiety, and symptoms consistent with PTSD as a result of his motor vehicle accident. Most if not all of these symptoms are chronic. The plaintiff’s neck and back pain persisted for longer than usual, but I accept that those injuries are now resolved. There is no evidence that his headaches, depression, cognition problems, and tinnitus were pre-existing conditions. I find that, apart from the neck and back pain, it is unlikely that the plaintiff will fully recover from any of the above mentioned injuries.

[250]     I find that the plaintiff’s symptoms had a significant impact on his social, recreational, and employment-related functioning, his emotional well-being, and his enjoyment of life. His symptoms also affected his personality, work ethic, and general attitude toward life.

[251]     There has been a fair amount of discussion among the experts and between counsel as to whether the plaintiff qualifies for a diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. There is disagreement about whether he qualifies for such a diagnosis, though he certainly has lingering symptoms of a kind that are sometimes associated with a concussion.

[252]     I agree with plaintiff’s counsel that while certain diagnoses or labels may assist in the analysis, the focus remains on the plaintiff’s symptoms, their endurance, and their overall effect upon the plaintiff’s life. As noted in Bricker at para. 123:

[123] I would add, however, that in assessing Ms. Bricker’s claim for damages, the issue for the court is not so much the label or diagnosis attached to a particular condition, but rather the extent to which the condition has affected a plaintiff in his or her social, recreational and employment pursuits (see Bagnato v. Viscount, 1995 CanLII 418, [1995] B.C.J. No. 2752 at paras. 28-29, … (S.C.)).

[253]     Having regard to the precedents cited before me, the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s symptoms in this case, his age, and the guarded possibilities for improvement, I would assess general damages at $170,000.

$85,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic PTSD and Post Concussive Issues

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic issues following a concussive injury.
In today’s case (Curtiss v. The Corporation of the District of West Vancouver) the Plaintiff fell into an open meter box on a sidewalk owned by the Defendant.  The Defendant denied liability but was found negligent at trial.  The fall resulted in a concussive injury with post concussive difficulties and PTSD.  The Plaintiff was expected to have lingering symptoms into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Mr. Justice Marchand provided the following reasons:

[92]         As a result of her fall, Ms. Curtiss suffered cuts, scrapes and/or bruising to various parts of her body, including her forehead, nose, upper lip, hands, lower legs and left inner thigh. She also experienced balance issues, dizziness and headaches.   Ms. Curtiss’ cuts, scrapes and bruises all healed within the first one to three months.  Her throbbing headaches lasted the better part of a year, and she still gets headaches when she experiences high levels of stress. She still has occasional balance problems.

[93]         Ms. Curtiss has received psychological counselling and acupuncture treatments since her fall and her condition has improved over time. She has recently returned to daily walking and working in her garden. Nevertheless, her self-reports, and the reports of those who are close to her, clearly establish that Ms. Curtiss is not the same person she was prior to her fall. She has trouble sleeping. She has become anxious and forgetful. She is less confident and self-sufficient. She is no longer able to multi-task. She is less active, occasionally walks with a cane, looks down during walks and gardens far less.

[94]         Two family physicians were involved in Ms. Curtiss’ post-accident care, Drs. Dean Brown and Brian Brodie. Based on her loss of consciousness, memory loss, headaches, dizziness, imbalance, agitation and anxiety, both diagnosed Ms. Curtiss as having suffered a concussion as a result of her fall. In his April 7, 2017 report, Dr. Brown’s prognosis was that Ms. Curtiss’ symptoms would gradually improve with a full resolution within a year or so. In his September 8, 2017 report, Dr. Brodie’s prognosis was that Ms. Curtiss was highly likely to “go on to suffer some symptoms of post traumatic disorder”.

[95]         Ms. Curtiss also submitted a report dated August 25, 2017 prepared by Registered Psychologist, Dr. William Koch. As a result of Ms. Curtiss’ vigilance to danger when walking or driving, excessive startle response, avoidance of conversations about her fall, disturbed sleep, and anxiety-related concentration deficits, Dr. Koch has concluded it is probable that Ms. Curtiss suffers a “subsyndromal” Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). Dr. Koch noted a number of positive and negative prognostic indicators in Ms. Curtiss’ case. He concluded that Ms. Curtiss’ prognosis for further improvement is “negative” unless she receives further psychological treatment. Dr. Koch recommended a further 20 hours of therapy, which Ms. Curtiss had started by the time of trial.

[96]         In cross-examination, Dr. Koch agreed with a list of further positive prognostic indicators put to him by counsel for the District. Specifically, Dr. Koch agreed that the following were positive prognostic indicators: Ms. Curtiss was open to treatment; Ms. Curtiss had returned to treatment; Ms. Curtiss reported benefitting from treatment; Ms. Curtiss had returned to daily walking; and Ms. Curtiss would soon no longer be involved in litigation. On the last point, Dr. Koch indicated that while litigation stress may soon stop, “other stressors may pop up.”

[97]         Based on all of the evidence, I accept that Ms. Curtiss’ life has been significantly adversely affected by her fall. Though her cuts, scrapes and bruises healed relatively quickly, her post-concussion symptoms and subsyndromal PTSD have persisted. While I have optimism for further improvement, given the length of time her symptoms have persisted, the efforts she has already put into her recovery and her age, I doubt that Ms. Curtiss will ever fully return to her pre-accident condition…

[109]     The cases cited by counsel support an award of non-pecuniary damages within the range suggested by Ms. Curtiss of $75,000 to $90,000. In my view, an award of $85,000 will adequately compensate Ms. Curtiss for the profound impact her fall has had on her physical and emotional wellbeing. Before her fall, Ms. Curtiss was an exceptionally happy, active and productive 74-year-old woman. The accident, however, caused a significant decline in her performance at work, her level of activity, her confidence in herself, and the joy in her life. As I have stated, in my view, though Ms. Curtiss will continue to make improvements, she will not fully return to her pre-accident condition.

Chronic Pain and Depression With Guarded Prognosis Leads to $180,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic injuries caused by a collision.
In the recent case (Ali v. Padam) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle struck by a commercial van.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  The crash resulted in chronic physical and psychological injuries with a poor prognosis for substantial recovery.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $180,000 Mr. Justice Blok provided the following reasons:

[230]     From the evidence at trial I conclude that in the immediate aftermath of the accident Ms. Ali had pain in her right chest, right wrist, right shoulder and her back.  The other areas resolved reasonably soon but the back pain gradually increased to the point, three months post-accident, of periods of very severe pain.  This pain worsened and she began to have symptoms in her left leg.  She could not walk or stand for any extended length of time.  She soldiered on at work but avoided lifting or bending, and by the end of the work day she was exhausted.

[231]     Ms. Ali’s left leg symptoms became worse.  She was now dragging her leg as she walked.  Her back pain became worse as well.  She had disc decompression surgery, focused on her leg symptoms, in June 2014.  Her left leg symptoms improved although her back pain remained.

[232]     Ms. Ali fell into depression, and was ultimately diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  She has anxiety and nightmares and in that respect has been diagnosed with PTSD.  Her chronic pain and depression combine and aggravate one another.  She does little in the way of activities with her son aside from walking him to and from school.  She is at least somewhat dependent on others for such things as bathing, dressing and going to the toilet.

[233]     As noted earlier, Ms. Ali’s reports of her physical difficulties are, to some extent, at odds with her actual level of functioning, particularly as shown in surveillance video.  I do not suspect she is being untruthful, but instead I conclude that she sees herself as more disabled than she actually is.

[234]     Formerly a cheerful and active person, Ms. Ali has isolated herself from her loved ones.  She is irritable and ill-tempered.  Her relationship with her husband is poor.  She feels a sense of worthlessness and has had thoughts of suicide.  She does, however, have some good days when she is happy.

[235]     In brief, as a result of the accident Ms. Ali has chronic pain, PTSD and major depressive disorder that combine in a debilitating fashion and have severely affected all aspects of her life.  Although there is a consensus amongst the medical professionals that Ms. Ali should have and participate in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary rehabilitation program, those professionals essentially agree that her prognosis for recovery is “guarded” and her prognosis for a substantial recovery is poor.

[237]     I conclude that the plaintiff’s cases, in particular Sebaa and Pololos, were broadly similar to the present.  In both cases non-pecuniary damages of $180,000 were awarded.  Accordingly, I conclude that $180,000 is a proper assessment of non-pecuniary damages in this case.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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