$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Persistent" Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for ‘persistent’ soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Smith v. Evashkevich) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 rear end collision that the Defendant admitted fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck and shoulder which persisted at the time of trial and were expected to continue into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $50,000 Mr. Justice Steeves provide the following reasons:

[74]         Considering the expert evidence summarized above with the evidence at trial, I conclude that the plaintiff continues to have complaints of pain and stiffness in his neck, shoulders and back as a result of the June 2010 accident. This is supported by medical findings of tenderness on palpation. The plaintiff, his family and close friends also describe the plaintiff’s discomfort with his neck and shoulders.

[75]         These have always been soft-tissue symptoms, albeit persistent ones. The plaintiff was prescribed with a muscle relaxant on July 5, 2010 for the accident injuries. After that he has used over the counter medication.

[84]         In summary the plaintiff continues to suffer from soft tissue injuries in the neck, shoulder and back that can be causally related to the 2010 accident. While there are flare-ups he manages the symptoms well and he does not miss work as a result of them. He does not golf or snowboard like he did before the accident and he is more withdrawn in his relationships. There is some general anxiety as a result of the chronic nature of the plaintiff’s symptoms but anything more is related to his feeling of being overwhelmed at work.

[85]         In these circumstances I conclude an award of $50,000 for non-pecuniary damages is appropriate.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Persistent but Not Disabling Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for persistent moderate soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Matharu v. Gill) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision which the Defendant was found liable for.  She suffered moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder which persisted to the time of trial and were expected to linger for sometime after although the ultimate prognosis was generally favorable.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:

[30]         When I consider the medical opinions and the evidence regarding the nature and duration of Ms. Matharu’s symptoms, I arrive at the following conclusions:

a)       Ms. Matharu suffered a moderate soft tissue strain to her neck and shoulders. She also suffered a mild low back strain.

b)       Ms. Matharu’s pre-existing conditions have affected the length of time it has taken and will take for her to recover from the injuries. In particular, the inflammatory polyarthropathy made her more susceptible to persistent soft tissue pain. Her mild anxiety condition has also had some impact on the persistence of her symptoms.

c)       In spite of persistent pain for three years, Ms. Matharu has continued with most activities at home and at work. She has managed to do this with the assistance of family, friends and work colleagues. She can fairly be described as somewhat stoic.

d)       Ms. Matharu did not follow Dr. Sanghera’s recommendations to continue with physiotherapy and active rehabilitation for about 12 months. Similarly, prior to the accident, she did not take part in recommended regular exercise. Her failure to do so for a period of time after the accident has likely resulted in some prolongation of symptoms. However, it is unlikely her symptoms would have resolved by trial, even if she had continued with the recommended therapy.

f)        Ms. Matharu continues to experience symptoms related to the injuries suffered in the accident. The symptoms will continue to resolve and there is a good chance they will fully resolve within the next one to two years.

[37]         When I examine the circumstances in this case and the factors highlighted in Stapley, the important factors here are the length of time Ms. Matharu has suffered ongoing soft tissue pain, the extent of that pain, and the impact it has had on her ongoing activities. In that regard, I accept that she is stoic and has continued to do most things. However, I also find that she was frail and somewhat limited in what she could do before the accident. Accordingly, the injuries have imposed a limitation on her activities and lifestyle which has impacted her more than such injuries would have done to someone who was more vigorous and did not suffer from inflammatory polyarthropathy.

[38]         In all of the circumstances, I conclude that a fair award for non-pecuniary damages is $45,000. However, that does not end the matter. Ms. Matharu did not follow Dr. Sanghera’s recommendations and I have accepted his evidence that had she done so she would likely have had some improvement in her symptoms. Accordingly, I find the defendant has satisfied the onus to prove that Ms. Matharu failed to mitigate her loss. I would accordingly reduce the non-pecuniary damage award by 10%.

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries sustained in two collisions.
In today’s case (Niijar v. Hill) the Plaintiff was involved in two collisions, the first in 2010 the second in 2012.  The Defendants admitted fault for both.  As a result she suffered from chronic neck and back soft tissue injuries which lingered to the time of trial and were expected to continue into the future.  The Court assessed non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 but reduced this number by 15% finding the Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by following some of her physicians advice.  In reaching this assessment Madam Justice Baker provided the following reasons:

[147]     I conclude that Ms. Nijjar suffered soft tissue injuries to the muscles of her neck and back in both the first and the second accident.  The injuries caused by the second accident were more significant and Ms. Nijjar experienced more intensive pain and discomfort of longer duration following the second accident.  She also had pain on the left side of her face, jaw and some left arm pain caused by the inflation of the air bag on her left side and also reported some hip pain.  These complaints resolved within a short time.  Her most significant ongoing symptoms were pain in her neck and upper back; and in her lower back.

[148]     I conclude that Ms. Nijjar made a good recovery following the first accident, although she continued to experience mild symptoms of discomfort, aggravated by certain activities, up to the time of the second accident.   She did not miss work as a security guard after the first accident.  She did take time off from a job with Sears for a period of about two months and did not do any janitorial work for a period of about three months.  She was sufficiently recovered to travel to India three months after the accident and remained there for about two months.  On her return from India she resumed working as a security guard and doing janitorial work.  She attempted to return to the Sears job but was not re-hired.

[149]     Ms. Nijjar had more severe symptoms following the second accident and continued to be symptomatic at time of trial.  Dr. Hershler opined that she suffered soft tissue injuries involving both muscles and ligaments; and a right-sided small cervical disc protrusion caused by the accident that may be contributing to her symptoms; although this remains a matter of uncertainty.  Ms. Nijjar also continues to experience periodic headache which Dr. Hershler believes is cervicogenic.

[150]     The symptoms Ms. Nijjar experienced were not severe enough to cause her to seek relief from prescription medications for more than a couple of months following the May 23, 2012 accident and at times she has not required the use of even non-prescription medication to manage her symptoms.

[151]     I accept that Ms. Nijjar continued to experience neck and lower back pain at time of trial.  Although I have concluded that she exaggerated the severity of her symptoms when testifying at trial, I accept that she continues to have symptoms from time to time.  I accept that she will continue to experience symptoms in future, although I accept Dr. Arthur’s opinion that there will be further improvement with the passage of time; and that the symptoms will also lessen if Ms. Nijjar engages in a regular exercise program designed to improve her back and core body strength.  I conclude that the symptoms in future will generally be mild and episodic and that Ms. Nijjar will be able to alleviate most or all of the symptoms with use of non-prescription analgesic medications…

[194]     Having considered all of the evidence and the range of damages suggested by these authorities, I conclude that an award of $90,000, before deduction for a failure to mitigate, is warranted.  I reduce that award by 15% for the failure to mitigate, and award the sum of $76,500. 

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Soft Tissue Injury With Associated Headaches

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 for chronic soft tissue injuries with associated headaches.
In today’s case (Hinder v. Yellow Cab Company Ltd) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision.  The Defendant denied liability but was found fully at fault at trail.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries, some of which resolved.  She continued to have neck symptoms with associated headaches at the time of trial (some five years later) which were expected to linger into the future.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey provided the following reasons:

[140]     The Plaintiff is a young woman, age 29 at the time of the accident. While her soft tissue injuries did not appear to be severe and some resolved, she has been left with neck pain and headaches that regularly progress to become very painful and disabling, forcing her to stop whatever she is doing. The medical evidence is that even with significant medical intervention, the neck pain and cervicogenic headaches are likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Debilitating headaches occur about every two weeks. The Plaintiff is not a complainer. She is stoic, a hard worker and she carries on despite the pain. Her home life and recreational activities have been impaired to a significantly lesser degree than likely would have been the case for a less strong and stalwart person. That does not mean, however, that she does not suffer while incapacitated by the neck pain and headaches; and she clearly misses pursuing her sports activities, particularly downhill mountain-biking, with her pre-accident intensity. She has maintained her family and social relationships because of her positive attitude and how well she generally manages her chores and commitments at home and at work in the face of her neck pain and headaches…

[149]     For these reasons, I find that an award of $60,000 in non-pecuniary damages is appropriate in the present case.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Mechanical Neck Pain

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing damages for a chronic neck injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Renaerts v. Renaerts) the 24 year old Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a 2009 collision.  She sustained a variety of injuries that made a quick recovery but also sustained a neck injury which remained symptomatic to the time of trial and had a generally guarded prognosis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Brown provided the following reasons:
[215]     Given accepted evidence as a whole, I agree with Mr. Shew that rehabilitation should focus on healthy activity, core strengthening, and a guided exercise program. I do not see this form of therapy requires only one assessment, off you go, and good luck to you. A kinesiologist and properly trained fitness instructor would encourage the plaintiff to expand her functioning and strength within safe medical limits and increase her confidence. Further, the plaintiff would benefit from instruction from her family physician, at no cost, on how to make the most effective choice and use of pain medication. The plaintiff had consumed six to eight pills a day…
[218]     In summary, while the plaintiff’s symptoms and limitations are likely to be permanent, and the general tenor of the opinions on prognosis is at best guarded, there are also reasonable grounds to expect that through strengthening exercises, increased activity, and appropriate use of the treatment modalities and the program just outlined, the plaintiff’s symptoms and level of functioning could see some improvement on a more sustained basis…

[241]     Chronic mechanical back pain is her only really significant injury, as the others cleared up within a couple of months or so of the accident. The record shows that she made some improvement with chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy, but I agree with those medical opinions that have opined the emphasis should be on strengthening, fitness and suitable activities. I do not see chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy and the assistance of a kinesiologist and fitness instructor as the means of a cure, rather, as the means of helping her progress, and through strengthening, building self-confidence, be better able to cope with her limitations and reduce them, to some degree. This is not a case where the plaintiff has had to give up on her recreational activities. She is capable of independent living, albeit, she will require some limited assistance with housekeeping, such as annual cleaning. I have made some allowance for loss of homemaking capacity; but in my view, considering the nature of her homemaking limitations, $5000 is a reasonable representation of her loss in that area.

[242]     The plaintiff has sought to get on with her life to the best of her ability, with the encouragement of her friends, who amply attest to her limitations and the pain and limitations she has experienced. It is important to note that the plaintiff sustained these injuries at a time when she was somewhat vulnerable, not living at home, supporting herself and having to manage what was a fairly complex life and difficult set of responsibilities.

[243]     I award the plaintiff $75,000 for non-pecuniary damages, inclusive of loss of homemaking capacity.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Neck and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries caused by two collisions.
In today’s case (Larsen v. Moffett) the Plaintiff was injured in two collisions, the first in 2010, the second in 2012.  ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the defendants in both cases.  The crashes caused soft tissue injuries to the Plaintiff’s neck and back which continued to the time of trial and interfered with his ability to work as a painter and drywaller.  His symptoms were not expected to improve.   In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $70,000 Mr. Justice Steeves provided the following reasons:

[46]         In summary this 44 year old man has suffered two soft tissue injuries to his neck and back and he has developed related headaches. These injuries cause ongoing and severe pain and they limit his daily activities, including his social life and work. With respect to the former, the plaintiff’s pain contributed significantly to the breakup of a potentially long-term relationship he started with Ms. Briere. Prior to the 2010 and 2012 injuries the plaintiff took over his father’s contracting business and, despite some personal difficulties and problems with record keeping, he was able to feel confident that he had a business that would look after him, as it did his father. That is now in significant doubt.

[47]         All of this has had a negative effect on the plaintiff’s sense of self-worth and emotional well-being. The experts are unanimous that this situation will continue into the future. The defendants’ expert suggests that there may be future improvement but this is put in very guarded terms.

[48]         Taking this into account with the authorities cited to me I assess the non-pecuniary damages in this case to be $70,000.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Neck and Shoulder Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic and plateaued soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Mothe v. Silva) the Plaintiff was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer operated by the Defendant.  Fault was admitted.  The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck and shoulder and his symptoms persisted to the time of trial and were expected to continue.  The Plaintiff suffered other symptoms which cased some hardship in his life but the court found these were unrelated to the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Madam Justice Ross provided the following reasons:

[106]     I agree with the submission of the defendants that the functional limitations described in Mr. Shew’s analysis are either in whole or in large part the consequence of the chronic left wrist problems stemming from the Workplace Injury or the consequence of the C7 radiculopathy. I have found that the motor vehicle accident did not cause or contribute to this condition. However, Mr. Mothe does suffer neck and shoulder pain and headaches as a consequence of the motor vehicle accident. With respect to these injuries, his recovery has plateaued and the condition is chronic. These injuries have not, with the modest exception discussed below, prevented Mr. Mothe from working but he does so in pain. These injuries have contributed to fatigue and a discouraged, pessimistic outlook. They have reduced his enjoyment of recreational activities and his family life.

[107]     In all of the circumstances, I award $40,000 for non-pecuniary loss.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Aggravation of Pre-Existing Neck Symptoms

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a chronic aggravation of a pre-existing neck injury.
In today’s case (McCartney v. McArthur) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2010 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the crash.  The 62 year old Plaintiff had a 20 year history of occasional neck complaints.  The collision aggravated these and led to chronic symptoms which impacted the Plaintiff’s functioning.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Bowden provided the following reasons:
69]         I am satisfied that the defendant’s negligence, which has been admitted, contributed to the injuries complained of by the plaintiff. While the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition resulted in symptoms in his neck area that had some similarity to those he experienced after the accident, the degree of pain experienced by him clearly increased after the accident and, I find, became chronic in nature. In particular, Dr. Gittens testified that the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition, involving some degenerative changes in his spine, was aggravated by the accident. He said that his pain, which he described as neuropathic, occurs after the underlying trauma has resolved and is extremely difficult to resolve. He said it may be a permanent condition. In my view the evidence establishes that the symptoms suffered by the plaintiff after the accident were different and worse than before the accident. His neck condition was significantly aggravated by the accident…

[76]         I have concluded that the plaintiff suffered aggravation to his neck pain as a result of the accident and his pain has become chronic in nature. For the first time, the pain that the plaintiff suffers imposes some functional limitations on him.

[77]         The evidence also establishes that the plaintiff went from an outgoing pleasant person to someone who was easily irritated by other people. This has interfered with his ability to work effectively as a cabinet salesman.

[78]         I am satisfied that the accident has negatively affected the quality and enjoyment of the plaintiff’s life and that may continue indefinitely. He will likely continue to suffer pain, together with the associated deleterious effects on his enjoyment of life.

[79]         After considering the relevant case law referred to by counsel and keeping in mind that the award in each case is very dependent upon the unique facts of the case, I award the plaintiff $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for "Moderate To Severe" Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries from a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Farbatuk v. Lagrimas) the Plaintiff was rear-ended in a 2011 collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained moderate to severe soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.  The Plaintiff’s physician gave evidence that the prognosis for recovery was extremely guarded although the Court rejected this finding that any lingering symptoms did not “debilitate or impair” the Plaintiff in any meaningful way.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Madam Justice Kloegman provided the following reasons:

[22]         It appears from the medical evidence that all three expert witnesses agreed that the plaintiff suffered a moderate to severe whiplash to his neck and back in the accident. It also appears that the medical experts agree there is evidence of a pre-existing degenerative condition in the plaintiff’s back and neck, whether D.I.S.H. or something else.

[23]         Dr. Miki described the plaintiff’s prognosis as “extremely guarded”, particularly in relation to the work the plaintiff has done for the previous 25 years. Dr. Richardson’s prognosis for the plaintiff’s neck and back was moderate, with no increasing risk of developing osteoarthritis. Dr. Werry stated in his report that the plaintiff will probably continue indefinitely to experience variable neck and low back pain and stiffness, but that he probably has not reached maximum medical improvement.

[24]         As stated earlier, Dr. Miki’s evidence was given in an advocational manner and he relied heavily on the plaintiff’s self-reporting. His prognosis of “extremely guarded” was not consistent with some of his clinical notes that had been omitted from his report. These showed steady and continuous improvement in the plaintiff’s position. His prognosis was also not consistent with the evidence of Louise Craig, functional capacity evaluator, who opined that the plaintiff’s main limitation is in his range of motion in his neck. She reported that the plaintiff felt an increase in symptoms from sustained sitting and stooping, but that he showed a tolerance for exertion of low to upper range of heavy physical strength, very good core strength and aerobic fitness, no limitation in standing, walking, crawling, kneeling, crouching, managing stairs, balancing, reaching, gripping and most importantly; he was able to carry a medium load of 50 lbs on a frequent basis which placed his ability to work in the Heavy category of occupations.

[25]         In my view, the plaintiff’s prognosis is more optimistic than either Dr. Miki or he would admit. Although 2½ years have passed since the accident and the plaintiff still complains about neck pain, back pain and limited range of motion, I am not satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that these subjective complaints are sufficiently supported by any objective evidence of continuing injury. Simply put, he has not established that his ongoing complaints are serious enough to debilitate or impair him in any way…’

[46]         I find that the plaintiff’s situation is closer to those of the plaintiffs in the above cases cited by defence. In my view, an award of $60,000 is fair compensation for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary losses.

$13,500 Assessment For Soft Tissue Injury Aggravation Of "a Number of Months"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for an aggravation of a pre-existing soft tissue injury.
In today’s case (Bains v. Park) the Plaintiff was involved in a relatively modest collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff had pre-existing injuries and the  Court found that these were aggravated for ‘a number of months’ following the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $13,500 Mr. Justice Joyce provided the following reasons:

[35]         It is Dr. Choo’s opinion that Ms. Bains suffered an aggravation of pre-existing injuries and that her pre-existing condition likely made her recovery from this collision slower than it would otherwise have been.

[36]         It is my opinion that there was a real risk that even if she had not been involved in the collision on May 18, 2010, Ms. Bains would have experienced some neck and pain discomfort from time to time. I am satisfied that the collision aggravated her condition and resulted in persistent pain and discomfort for a number of months, beyond the period of time that one might normally expect given the circumstances of the collision.

[37]         As a result of the injuries, Ms. Bains’ ability to perform her usual household chores was curtailed for a few months and her ability to fully enjoy time with her children and other leisure activities was curtailed for five or six months. She was off work until about mid-June 2010, then was able to return on a graduated return to work program that was supported by her employer.

[38]         I am satisfied that Ms. Bains had likely recovered to her pre-accident state by the fall 2010 or by February 2011, at the latest…

[41]         As the plaintiff recognizes, each case must be decided on its own particular facts and other cases can, at best, provide general assistance in determining what is just and fair compensation for this plaintiff, given her injuries and the manner in which they have affected her enjoyment of life. It appears to me that each of the cases cited by the plaintiff involve somewhat more serious injury and loss than the present case.

[42]         In addition, as I have found, the plaintiff’s pre-accident condition was such that there was a risk that she would have experienced some neck and back pain, on-and-off, even if she had not been involved in the collision on May 18, 2010, in the same way she had experienced on-and-off pain prior to that collision.

[43]         Having read and considered the cases referred to by counsel and having regard to the nature of the injuries, their duration and their effect on the plaintiff’s day-to-day activities, I am of the opinion that an award of $15,000 would be appropriate, but for her pre-existing condition and the risk that she would have experienced on-and-off symptoms even without the aggravating injuries. I will reduce that amount by10% on account of the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition.

[44]         In conclusion with regard to this head of damages, I am of the opinion that an award of $13,500 will provide Ms. Bains with fair and reasonable compensation for her pain, suffering and loss of amenities, as a result of the collision of May 18, 2010.

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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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