$40,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for TMJ, Hip Injury and STI's

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court (Pavlovic v. Shields) awarding a Plaintiff just over $134,000 in total damages as a result of injuries sustained in 2 separate motor vehicle collisions.
The first collision was in 2006 and the second in 2007.  Both were rear-end crashes and the Plaintiff was faultless in both collisions.  Often in ICBC Injury Claims involving multiple collisions where fault is not at issue damages are assessed on a global basis and that is what occurred in this case.
Mr. Justice Rice found that the Plaintiff had pre-existing back and shoulder pain before these accidents that that even without these accidents the Plaintiff would have continued to have pain in these areas.  The Court made the following findings with respect to the Plaintiff’s injuries and awarded $40,000 for her non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering / loss of enjoyment of life):

[59]            In this case, the plaintiff had back and shoulder pain pre-dating both accidents.  This is a “crumbling skull” situation.  It is more probable than not that the plaintiff would have experienced ongoing problems with back pain, for which she had already seen a Dr. Ansel Chu on several occasions in 2003.  The plaintiff claims these injuries were fully resolved, and relies on Dr. Chu’s report of August 14, 2003, in which he states that the plaintiff had had good relief from pain following a series of trigger point injections.  However, Dr. Chu does not state that her injuries had resolved, merely that she was “doing quite well” and that she could make a further appointment with him if the pain flared up again.  That the plaintiff made no further appointments is likely explained by the fact that she went to Europe for an extended period shortly after her last appointment with Dr. Chu. 

[60]            The evidence from Dr. Petrovic’s report is that only two permanent injuries from the accidents are likely: the TMJ and the right hip.  He would defer to the experts on those and has a guarded prognosis for the remainder of her injuries.  Dr. Epstein testified that the TMJ injury is likely to improve with continued treatment.  Dr. Smit was of the opinion that the right hip would require surgery.   

[61]            I accept that the plaintiff had no pre-existing hip or jaw complaints and that these are her principal injuries.  The hip may require surgery and her jaw will require ongoing management and treatment.  The defendants are fully liable for these injuries.  Her other injuries – the neck, shoulder and back pain – are likely to improve over the next year.   The effects of the concussion resolved nine months after the accident.  Taking these factors into account, I consider an award of $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages appropriate in the circumstances, the bulk of which reflects the injuries to the jaw and hip, discounted by 20% to reflect the plaintiff’s pre-existing chronic back pain, for a total of $40,000.

Mr. Justice Rice also did a good job explaining 2 legal principles which often arise in ICBC Injury Claims – the ‘thin-skull’ principle vs. the ‘crumbling skull’ principle.  He summarized these as follows:

[54]            The defendant does not go so far as to deny that the accident caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.  The concern is as to the extent.  The issue is whether this is a “thin skull” or a “crumbling skull” situation.  Both address the circumstances of a pre-existing condition and its effect upon the accident victim.  The law is that the defendant need not compensate the plaintiff for any debilitating effects of a pre-existing condition if the plaintiff would have experienced them regardless of the accident: Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458 at para. 35, 140 D.L.R. (4th) 235.  The court requires “a measurable risk” or “a real or substantial possibility and not speculation” that the pre-existing condition would have manifested in the future regardless of the plaintiff’s negligence.  The measurable risk need not be proven on a balance of probabilities, but given weight according to the probability of its occurrence: Athey v. Leonati, at para. 27.

[55]            The injury is deemed “thin skull” when there is a pre-existing condition that is not active or symptomatic at the time of the accident, and that is unlikely to become active but for the accident.  If the injury is proven to be of a thin skull nature, then the defendant is liable for all the plaintiff’s injuries resulting from the accident. 

[56]            A “crumbling skull” injury is also one where there is a pre-existing condition, but one which is active or likely to become active regardless of the accident.  If the injury is proven to be of a crumbling skull nature, then the plaintiff is liable only to the extent that the accident caused an aggravation to the pre-existing condition.

BC Personal Injury Claims Round-Up

On Friday the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement dealing with awards for pain and suffering in 3 separate motor vehicle accident cases.
In my continued efforts to create an easy to access data-base of ICBC related claims for pain and suffering here are the highlights of these cases:
In the first case (Driscoll v. Desharnais) the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, back and shoulder in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.  In justifying an award for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) of $55,000 the court summarized the injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:

[101]        The trial occurred about five years following the accident.  Mr. Driscoll continues to suffer pain, significant sleep disturbance, and restrictions on his activities.  He is stoic and is inclined to push through pain until it becomes intolerable.  He has a reduced capacity to work, and despite his preference for working alone, he cannot operate his business without hiring other workers.  He is no longer able to participate in some of the activities he enjoyed, such as motorcycle riding, full-contact ball hockey, golf, and rough-housing with his children.  

[102]        The evidence demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that these problems were caused by the accident.  Although Mr. Driscoll had received physiotherapy prior to the accident, the treatments were all at least 18 months prior to the accident, and were for short periods.  All the problems had resolved prior to the accident.  The injury he suffered on the toboggan appeared to be a brief flare-up of his back symptoms, rather than a new injury.

A highlight of this decision for me was the court’s discussion of credibility.  One of the tricks of the trade for ICBC defence lawyers in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims is to challenge the credibility of the Plaintiff.   That appeared to be a tactic employed in this case and the Defendant asked the court to consider the following well-known principle often cited in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Cases:

[6]                The case of Price v. Kostryba (1982)70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.), is often cited as a reminder of the approach the court must take to assessing injuries which depend on subjective reports of pain.  I quote portions of pages 397-399 of those reasons for judgment:

The assessment of damages in a moderate or moderately severe whiplash injury is always difficult because plaintiffs, as in this case, are usually genuine, decent people who honestly try to be as objective and as factual as they can. Unfortunately, every injured person has a different understanding of his own complaints and injuries, and it falls to judges to translate injuries to damages.

Perhaps no injury has been the subject of so much judicial consideration as the whiplash. Human experience tells us that these injuries normally resolve themselves within six months to a year or so. Yet every physician knows some patients whose complaint continues for years, and some apparently never recover. For this reason, it is necessary for a court to exercise caution and to examine all the evidence carefully so as to arrive at a fair and reasonable compensation. Previously decided cases are some help (but not much, because obviously every case is different). …

In Butler v. Blaylock, decided 7th October 1981, Vancouver No. B781505 (unreported), I referred to counsel’s argument that a defendant is often at the mercy of a plaintiff in actions for damages for personal injuries because complaints of pain cannot easily be disproved. I then said:

I am not stating any new principle when I say that the court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.

An injured person is entitled to be fully and properly compensated for any injury or disability caused by a wrongdoer. But no one can expect his fellow citizen or citizens to compensate him in the absence of convincing evidence — which could be just his own evidence if the surrounding circumstances are consistent – that his complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury.

Fortunately for the Plaintiff a positive finding was made as to his reliability and damages were assessed accordingly.

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The second case released on Friday (Eccleston v. Dresen) involved a 2002 collision which took place in Salmon Arm, BC.  The injuries included chronic soft tissue injuries of moderate severity and a chronic pain syndrome.  Both liability and quantum of damages (value of the ICBC Injury Claim) were at issue.   The Plaintiff was found 60% at fault for the collision.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $108,000 Mr. Justice Barrow made the following findings:

[127]        I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back.  Further, I am satisfied that she developed and continues to suffer chronic pain as a result.  I am also satisfied that she is depressed and that the proximate cause of her depression is the pain she experiences.

[128]        I am not satisfied that her complaints of pain are motivated by any secondary gain; rather, I am satisfied that she has met the onus of establishing that, as Taylor J.A. in Maslen v. Rubenstein (1993), 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131, 33 B.C.A.C. 182, at para. 8 put it:

…her psychological problems have their cause in the defendant’s unlawful act, rather than in any desire on the plaintiff’s part for things such as care, sympathy, relaxation or compensation, and also that the plaintiff could not be expected to overcome them by his or her own inherent resources, or ‘will-power’.

[129]        Further, I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s condition is likely permanent; although it is more likely than not that it will moderate if she follows the advice of Dr. O’Breasail.  He is of the view that with intensive psychotherapy for at least a year, followed by two further years of less intensive therapy coupled with a review of her medications and particularly anti-depressant medication, there is some hope that she will either experience less pain or be better able to cope with the pain she does experience, or both.

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The final motor vehicle accident case addressing pain and suffering released on Friday (Murphy v. Jagerhofer) involved a Plaintiff who was injured in a 2004 rear end collision in Chilliwack, BC.   The injuries included a moderate to severe whiplash injury with associated chronic pain, disturbed sleep and headaches.  In justifying a non-pecuniary damages award of $100,000 Mr. Justice Warren made the following factual findings after a summary trial pursuant to Rule 18-A:

[112]        The issue of causation in this case is determined by applying the factors in Athey.  Here the defendants argue that there were pre-existing conditions that would have affected the plaintiff in any event.  I disagree.  I find on the evidence of both Dr. Porter and Dr. Bishop that the plaintiff was asymptomatic of the complaints he now has which have arisen from the injuries he suffered in this accident.  Using the rather macabre terms found in other cases, this plaintiff had a “thin skull” rather than a “crumbling skull” and on my reading of those medical opinions I prefer, I find there was no “measurable risk that the pre-existing condition would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future. . . .” Athey, per Major, J. at para. 35. 

[113]        Accordingly, I find that the presenting complaints of the plaintiff were caused by the negligence of the defendant driver and I turn to address the issue of appropriate compensation.  In this, I am strongly influenced by the opinions of Drs. Porter and Longridge and the opinion of Mr. Koch.  The plaintiff suffered a moderate to severe whiplash type injury which had a significant physical and emotional effect upon him some of which have persisted to the day of trial and will continue into the future.  The back and neck pain caused him considerable pain and caused sleeplessness, headaches and general body pain for which he was prescribed pain medication.  Many of these symptoms continued well into 2005 despite his participation in a Work Hardening Programme in the fall of 2004.  I accept that he has tried every mode in an effort to alleviate his symptoms.  In his opinion, Dr. Bishop dismissed passive therapies, but I conclude it was understandable that the plaintiff would follow other professional advice and give these therapies every chance to help.  I say that with the exception of the later cortisone injections, which are painful and of very limited result, and also the later chiropractic attention.

[114]        Added to his back and neck pain, the plaintiff has experienced some hearing loss, tinnitus and episodes of dizziness.  These are frustrating and to some extent debilitating.  He also has jaw, or temporal mandibular joint arthralgia and myofascial pain.  He was given an oral appliance which he is to wear on a daily basis yet he continues to experience jaw stiffness and fatigue. 

[115]        It is understandable that these conditions have affected him emotionally.  The opinion of Mr. Koch corroborates the plaintiff’s evidence.  I accept the opinion of Mr. Koch that the plaintiff “downplays” the difficulties in his life and that the plaintiff has a phobia of motor vehicle travel, post-traumatic stress disorder and related repressive symptoms. 

I hope these case highlights continue to be a useful resource for my readers in helping learn about the value of non-pecuniary damages in ICBC Injury Claims.  As always, I welcome any feedback from all my visitors.

$75,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Frozen Shoulder, STI's and Headaches

In lengthy reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court (Peake v. Higo) Mr. Justicer Brown awarded a 52 year old Plaintiff approximately $170,000 in total damages as a result of a 2003 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff had pre-existing pain in her neck and back and these were aggravated as a result of this collision.  Additionally, the Plaintiff suffered a frozen left and right shoulder as a result of this collision.
In justifying a non-pecuniary damages award (pain and suffering) of $75,000 the court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[145]        Considering all the pertinent evidence before me, I find that the plaintiff suffered an aggravation of pre-existing neck and low back pain that she had been experiencing at the time of the accident, together with the imposition of some new soft tissue injuries in those areas.  I find that when she was experiencing neck and back pain in the month or so preceding the accident, she was in a highly emotional psychological state that was magnifying her perception of pain at that time.  To take her symptoms at this time as representative of her physical health would be inaccurate and unfair, given her medical history as a whole and the accepted evidence of witnesses who testified about her pre-accident functioning and activities.  The plaintiff herself acknowledges that 90% would be a fair representation of her pre-accident health.  The evidence of Dr. Regan, which I have accepted with some minor qualification, is clear that the 2003 accident cannot be burdened with all of Mrs. Peake’s on-going post accident neck and back symptoms and headaches.

[146]        Mrs. Peake exhibited pre-accident degenerative changes in her cervical spine.  Dr. Webb commented that Mrs. Peake’s degenerative cervical spine, exhibited by x-ray and MRI imaging, pre-disposes her to more intense symptoms and prolonged recovery.  Just the same, she had already experienced symptoms in the neck (and low back) together with headaches pre-accident, with no recent physical trauma and only a heightened emotional state to partly explain the intensity of her symptoms at that time.

[147]        Further, the effect of Mrs. Peake’s emotional state in May 2003 on her symptoms, and the fact that, as Dr. Webb comments, Mrs. Peake has suffered depressed mood, anxiety and frustration in relation to her symptoms since the accident, is a factor that I should take into account in assessing the extent to which her symptoms have been influenced by her emotional state post accident—and that this bodes positively for further future improvement as her emotional state continues to improve.

[148]        Both Dr. Regan and Dr. Sovio’s opinions negate a direct relationship between Mrs. Peake’s lower back flare-ups and the accident.  This is a mechanical condition and the plaintiff has not established that her ongoing back flare-ups, certainly past the summer of 2006, are attributable to the accident.  At the same time, Mrs. Peake testified that her low back symptoms are different and more intense then those experienced pre-accident.  I find that some small portion of Mrs. Peake’s ongoing lower back symptoms relate to the 2003 accident.

[149]        There is little question that the 2003 accident caused Mrs. Peake’s left shoulder injury and frozen shoulder.  I accept Mrs. Peake’s sworn testimony that she continues to experience mild periodic situational discomfort and some functional limitation in the use of her left shoulder.

[150]        With respect to the more problematic question of the causation of Mrs. Peake’s right frozen shoulder, with recovery from that predicted to extend to some time in 2010, albeit in a less problematic way then was the case for the left shoulder, I find that the plaintiff has proven that her right shoulder injury and eventually frozen state was caused by the accident….

[154]        Turning to Mrs. Peake’s neck symptoms and headaches, and Mr. Pankratz’ submission that “but for the subsequent traumatic events of 2006, this condition “would have” resolved completely,” Dr. Regan did not testify that the condition “would” resolve; but “should” resolve.  I note that when he wrote his second report, he was aware of ongoing neck complaints and headaches; but made no skeptical comments about their having continued her he last saw Mrs. Peake.  Mrs. Peake continues to experience neck pain and headaches that frequently cause her to awaken in the middle of the night with a “terrible headache” that can last for a few days – bearing in mind that Mrs. Peake has a history of pre-accident headaches.  Further, Mrs. Peake confirms ongoing improvement; and indeed in the summer of 2006 experienced extended pain-free periods, as stated earlier.  I bear in mind as well that she has suffered a right frozen shoulder, but  that continues to improve and should resolve completely by 2010; and with improvement in that condition she should see further relief in her neck, noting that she saw considerable improvement when her left shoulder pain and limitation more or less resolved.

[155]        The evidence does not support the gloomier aspects of Dr. Webb’s prognosis considering Dr. Regan’s expectations that Mrs. Peake’s neck pain and accompanying headaches, should eventually recover and Dr. Regan’s opinion that negates a continuing connection between her lower back symptoms and the accident.  In my assessment of non-pecuniary damages, and considering Mrs. Peake’s pre-accident condition, I see the medical and other evidence going so far as to support a finding of a possibility that Mrs. Peake will in future continue to suffer some minor residual neck sequelae and headaches that are attachable to the accident, although the most likely outcome is complete recovery from those within two years, insofar as the effects of the 2003 accident are concerned.

 

$60,000 Pain and Suffering for Chronic Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgment were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $73,000 in total damages as a result of injuries and loss sustained in a 2005 BC vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended.  The collision was significant with enough force to brake the seat assembly in her vehicle.  She was 59 years old at the time of impact. The Plaintiff suffered injuries to her neck, shoulder, wrists, knee and elbow. Most of her injuries healed in short order.  The Plaintiff’s neck and shoulder injuries did not and she testified that those areas were painful everyday  some 3 years after the collision.
The Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect are summarized well at paragraph 14 of the judgment which I reproduce below:
[14]            The main complaints of the plaintiff are that she has suffered significant, ongoing, chronic and permanent left neck and shoulder pain, and continuing anxiety, all caused by the motor vehicle accident.  She has kept working throughout, for the most part.  She has continued to work long hours, and at the same time has, on the advice of her doctor, tried a number of different kinds of therapy.  She has gone for two different kinds of physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and has sought the services of a kinesiologist, a certified personal trainer.  She also went once for counselling to a psychologist with regard to her anxiety.  She applies ice and heat to alleviate her pain, and uses medications, with apparently limited results.
The Plaintiff called her husband to give ‘before and after’ evidence along with her treating chiropractor and family physician.  The defence called no evidence which is somewhat unusual in a contested injury claim.  In most ICBC injury claims that proceed to trial the court hears from both Plaintiff and Defence expert medical witnesses who provide opinion evidence as to the extent of injury and its relationship to the trauma in question.  It appears here that the defence was content to simply rely on their cross examination of the Plaintiff’s physicians.
The court found that the Plaintiff and her husband were ‘extremely credible’.   The court accepted that the Plaintiff’s ongoing complaints were caused by the collision.  In justifying an award of $60,000 for pain and suffering Madam Justice Morrison made the following comments:
[58]            In my view, there has been a significant loss of enjoyment of life for this plaintiff.  She suffers the pain and discomfort that she has described while working, and particularly while sitting at a computer, which involves much of her day.  She will continue to work.  Perhaps even more significantly, she has and will continue to suffer the loss of enjoyment of life that has occurred in her life beyond work.  There has been a significant and negative change in the lifestyle of Mrs. Larlee, ranging from her day-to-day household activities, her passion for gardening, her lifelong involvement with the piano and the accordion, and an active lifestyle which involved vacations and other activities.  Her pain is chronic and ongoing.

Pain and Suffering for Dislocated Shoulder / Elbow and Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding damages as a result of injuries and loss from a 2002 BC motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a passenger.  He was involved in a single vehicle accident.  The collision was significant and is described at paragraph 2 of the reasons for judgment as follows:
                The thirty-two year old plaintiff was travelling from Prince Rupert to Terrace as passenger with three children in a car driven by the defendant, Crystal Caroline Bird (“Bird”), when Bird lost control of the vehicle after encountering ice on the highway.  The vehicle, a 1998 Toyota van owned by Bird, crossed the centre line of the highway and rolled twenty feet down an embankment, flipping over before it landed.  According to Wilson, he lost consciousness briefly in the accident and felt pain in his shoulder, elbow and left knee immediately.  He bled from his head, having hit the window.  His back hurt.  A passing driver was hailed and managed to open the passenger door.  Wilson got out of the vehicle and sat, waiting for the ambulance.  The vehicle was very significantly damaged.
The Plaintiff sustained some fairly serious injuries and these, along with their recovery, are summarized well at paragraph 31 of the judgement which I reproduce below:
The plaintiff suffered a dislocated right shoulder, dislocated left elbow, contusion and sprain of the left knee, mild sprain of the cervical spine, and multiple contusions and bruises in the motor vehicle accident of November 30, 2002.  I accept Dr. Kokan’s assessment that the plaintiff’s left knee was not dislocated in the accident but was probably sprained and has fully recovered.  The right shoulder had largely resolved by August 2003 but remains vulnerable to re-injury.  The left elbow has been the greatest problem, heightened by the lengthy wait for surgery.  The plaintiff has lost about ten percent of the movement in this elbow and has residual tenderness.  The incapacity is, however, mild and the plaintiff still has a good range of motion in the elbow.  The left knee had largely resolved to its pre-accident state by June 2005.  It is difficult to ascribe continuing lower back pain to the accident.  I conclude that there was some accerbation of the historical back pain in the accident but do not find that continuing problems can be attributed to the accident.  The plaintiff’s scalp laceration and facial abrasions have healed.
In awarding $85,000 for the Plaintiff’s Pain and Suffering the court made the following observations:
[34]            Wilson’s injuries here are more significant that in either Thorp or Foreman.  The plaintiff required two surgeries for the left elbow dislocation (including a closed reduction) and a closed reduction of the dislocated right shoulder, among other injuries described above.  Wilson has greater permanent restriction in movement of the left elbow than did the plaintiff in Thorp and still has nagging pain.  He is stoical about the continuing pain and discomfort.  Although I do not find that the permanent elbow restriction hinders recreational activity, the plaintiff’s right shoulder injury caused pain when swimming until June 2005.  The plaintiff suffered while he waited for surgery between 2003-2006.  I assess non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.

$35,000 Pain and Suffering for 'Plateaued' Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $45,000 in total damages as a result of a 2004 BC car crash.
The crash was significant.   The Plainitiff was travelling at 60 kilometers per hour when his vehicle was struck head on by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was destroyed as a result of the impact.
The court found that the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries as a result of this crash and that these injuries plateaued by the end of 2006 to about 90% of the Plaintiff’s pre accident level.   The court’s key findings are made at paragraphs 28-31 which I set out below:

[28]            On the whole, I found the plaintiff to be a good, credible witness. I am satisfied that he fully intended to develop a high-quality educational centre for those wishing to learn English as a second language and that he was attempting to do so when he was injured in the motor vehicle accident of March 27, 2004.

[29]            I find as well, however, that the plaintiff’s records relating to his learning centre were poor, and that his business model was unlikely to lead to significantly greater income than it generated in its best year, 2005. Clearly the plaintiff will make far more money in real estate than he could ever have made with his learning centre, and he has recognized this by restricting his claim related to the learning centre to the period from March 2004 until June 2006.

[30]            I find that the plaintiff was involved in a significant collision while travelling at approximately 60 km/h, when his vehicle rapidly decelerated after being struck head on by the defendants’ vehicle which was travelling in the opposite direction. The plaintiff’s vehicle was destroyed. As a result of the collision, I find that the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders and clavicle, which interfered with his usual exercise routine, his normal daily activities, and his ability to perform the duties required of him at his learning centre.

[31]            I find that before these injuries resolved, the plaintiff’s circumstances were further interrupted by a nerve injury affecting his arm, but that that injury was unrelated to his motor vehicle accident. I find that the injuries attributable to the motor vehicle accident continued to adversely affect (the Plaintiff) in his daily activities in an ever-decreasing manner until the end of 2006, when they plateaued at approximately 90% of his pre-accident condition. I find that the injuries related to the motor vehicle accident are now, as Dr. Hirsch described, “fairly minor” and that they only interfere in (the Plaintiff’s) usual activities on a sporadic basis, perhaps every month or so.

The following damages were awarded:

a)         non-pecuniary damages of $35,000.00;

b)         past income loss of $8,250.00;

c)         special damages of $2,786.15; and

d)         court order interest on the past income loss and special damages awards.

 

Left Turn Inersection Crashes and the Law in BC

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court concerning a 2005 intersection crash that occurred in the lower mainland of BC.
The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn from Hastings onto Willingdon.  At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle coming the opposite direction on Hastings.  A collision occurred.  There were no independent witnesses to this crash.  Both the Plaintiff and Defendant testified and as can be expected their evidence differed to several facts with each blaming the other for the crash.
Madam Justice Dardi preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence over the Defendant’s finding the Defendant testified in ‘an evasive and less straightforward manner’.
The court found that the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection on a stale yellow light and at the time the Defendant entered the intersection ‘it was not safe from him to do so on a very late stage amber or red light.  He should have stopped’.  The court found the Defendant 100% responsible for this intersection crash.
In reaching this decision Madam Justice Dardi summarized the law relating to left-hand turn intersection crashes as follows:

[34]            Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [MVA], governs the right-of-way in situations where a driver is making a left turn:

When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

[35]            An immediate hazard exists if the oncoming vehicle must make a sudden or violent avoiding action to prevent a collision: Aerabi-Boosheri v. Retallick, [1996] B.C.J. No. 143 at para. 8.

[36]            Section 128 of the MVA governs the duties of drivers when a traffic light turns yellow.  It states, as far as is relevant, as follows:

128      (1)        When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a)        the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety…

[37]            Who has the statutory right-of-way is informative; however, it does not determine liability in an accident.  Drivers with the statutory right-of-way must still exercise caution to avoid accidents where possible.  In Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 450, Cartwright J. states at paras. 46-47:

[46]      The duty of a driver having the statutory right-of-way has been discussed in many cases.  In my opinion it is stated briefly and accurately in the following passage in the judgment of Aylesworth J.A., concurred in by Robertson C.J.O., in Woodward v. Harris, [1951] O.W.N. 221 at p. 223: “Authority is not required in support of the principle that a driver entering an intersection, even although he has the right of way, is bound to act so as to avoid a collision if reasonable care on his part will prevent it.  To put it another way: he ought not to exercise his right of way if the circumstances are such that the result of his so doing will be a collision which he reasonably should have foreseen and avoided.”

[47]      While the judgment of the Court of Appeal in that case was set aside and a new trial ordered [[1952] 1 D.L.R. 82] there is nothing said in the judgments delivered in this Court to throw any doubt on the accuracy of the statement quoted.

The Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries.  The court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries at paragraph 57 as follows:
[57]            Dr. Steinson was an impressive witness.  I accept his opinion that the plaintiff has developed a myofascial pain syndrome in his neck and trapezius as a consequence of the injury in the motor vehicle accident.  I also find that the episodic pain that the plaintiff continues to experience is mild to moderate.  Dr. Steinson’s prognosis for the plaintiff is guarded.  Based on the medical evidence, the likelihood is that the plaintiff’s symptoms will continue to improve over the next few years although there is a possibility that his episodic pain may persist further into the future
The court awarded the following damages:

(1)        Non-pecuniary loss $30,000;

(2)        Loss of future earning capacity $20,000;

(3)        Cost of future care $2,000; and

(4)        Special damages $500.

ICBC Claims and Credibility

Interesting reasons for judgement were handed down today following a 2 day trial in Vancouver.
The Plaintiff was a passenger on a bus.  The bus was involved in a collision in 2005.  Fault for the accident was admitted by the negligent motorist.  Upon impact the Plaintiff apparently ‘fell from his seat behind the driver of the bus onto the floor, allegedly injuring his hips and shoulder’.
In most ICBC claims the credibility of the injured party is of great imporatance.  In this case the Plaintiff’s credibiilty was closely scrutinized.  In the course of advancing his ICBC claim he gave false information to ICBC contrary to s. 42.1(2)(a) of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act.  He was charged for this, plead guilty and was fined.
The Plaintiff admitted that he had lied to various persons including officials from ICBC, to his family doctor and to his phyisiotherpist.  During his examination for discovery the Plaintiff admitted to lying at least 6 times.
Notwithstanding all of this, the court found that the Plaintiff suffered a shoulder injury in the bus accident.  MR. Justice made the following findings:
[39] In light of the history of this claim, Gabrilo’s admitted lies, and conviction for those lies, I accept that the evidence concerning the present claim must be carefully, if not scrupulously, examined.  On balance, however, I accept that Gabrilo hurt his shoulder in the Accident.  ….
[46] In summary, the Plaintiff is entitled to damages arising from the Accident.  I am satisfied that the claim arising from his shoulder injury is one that, in the ordinary course of events, would likely have resolved by trial.  While he may have ongoing symptoms, it has not been shown that these symptoms were caused by the original Accident.  Thus, in my view, he is entitled to damages based only on a claim where the symptoms would have resolved by trial.
The court awarded $13,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages.
This case is worth reading for anyone interested in how issues of credibility come into play when advancing an ICBC claim.

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Neck, Shoulder and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

Following a 2 day trial using the Fast Track Rule  (Rule 66), reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff as a result of a 2005 BC car accident.
The Plaintiff was injured as a passenger.  The offending motorist admitted fault and the trial focused on damages (lawful compensation) only.
The Plaintiff had a range of complaints following the accident including pain in her neck, right shoulder and low back, and a significant increase in the frequency of her pre-existing migraine headaches.
In assessing a fair award for pain and suffering the court made the following finding:

[24] I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she was injured in the August 9, 2005 motor vehicle accident.  In this regard, I note that while the physicians who examined the plaintiff also accepted the plaintiff’s assertions, the fact that they did so does not assist the court in making that finding.  Their observations thereafter are of considerable assistance in assessing the possible course of the plaintiff’s recovery, however.  It does appear, taking account of what is before me, that the plaintiff recovered functionally very quickly although she may suffer some minor aches and pains that will occasionally interfere with her activities.

[25] The plaintiff has suffered some moderate interference with her life due to pain and suffering.  The cases advanced as comparables by the parties are of some assistance in locating this case on an appropriate scale.  I assess her damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life at $25,000.

The Plaintiff also led evidence that she was able to take advantage of fewer overtime opportunities as a result of her injuries.  For this loss the court awarded $20,000.
The court found that the injuries should continue to improve but may linger for a while longer.  In addressing loss of earning capacity the court awarded $15,000 making the following findings:
She is capable of doing her work and of working considerable overtime.  On the basis of the medical evidence there is good reason to expect that she will fully recover in the next few years, with a modest chance of some limited impairment further into the future.  I think some allowance must be made for the possibility that the plaintiff may occasionally suffer losses into the future that are related to the injuries she has suffered.  I think the evidence suggests that these losses will be incurred, for the most part, in the next few years.  I fix the sum of $15,000 for loss of future earning capacity.

$40,000 Pain and Suffering for Neck, Back and Shoulder Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff close to $90,000 in damages as a result of a 2005 collision.
The Plaintiff was 25 at the time of the BC car crash.  He was not at fault for the crash and the trial focussed exclusively on the issue of damages.
The court heard from a variety of experts.  The court also viewed surveillance footage of the Plaintiff playing hockey and doing other physical activities.  Such surveillance footage often comes to light at the trial of ICBC claims, particularly those inovlving on-going soft tissue injuries.
In awarding $40,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) the court made the following findings:

[15] I am persuaded by the evidence to conclude on the balance of probabilities that (the Plaintiff) suffered a flexion extension injury to the soft tissues of his neck, back and shoulder.  Considering the persistent difficulty that he has had with his lower back, the injury is fairly described as moderate in nature.  (the Plaintiff) had back trouble related to his rugby injury and on occasion his extremely heavy work load prior to his injury for which he sought treatment, but I accept his evidence that his previous back problems were intermittent and less severe before the accident.  (the Plaintiff) had already given up rugby and snowboarding prior to his injury.  His ability to play in-line hockey demonstrates that he does not have a functional disability, his problem is that demanding activities can cause the onset of significant pain.

[16] I accept Dr. Travlos’ opinion that:

He will likely still experience intermittent pain flare ups, but should be capable of reasonable physical activity.  He will learn to avoid certain recreational activities and certain types of work activities in order to manage his pains and by doing so should have reasonable pain control.

As I have noted earlier, (the Plaintiff) had pain in his back prior to the collision and would have had it in the future if the collision had not occurred, but his motor vehicle injuries have increased his susceptibility to back pain and made that back pain worse when it occurs.  I assess (the Plaintiff’s) claim for general damages for pain and suffering which has been and will be caused by his motor vehicle injuries above and beyond that which he would have had had he not been so injured at $40,000.

Contact

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
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