ICBC Claims, Ruptured Discs and Causation

Reasons for judgment were released today involving a disc injury with 2 potential causes.
The Plaintiff was involved in 3 car accidents. This lawsuit involved the second accident. The Plaintiff was ultimatley diagnosed with a ruptured disc in her back. The issue at trial was whether the ruptured disc was caused by the first or second accident (apparently no-one blamed the third accident as a potential cause).
“Causation” is often a key issue at many ICBC claims and frequently ICBC takes the position at trial that while a Plaintiff is injured the injury would have existed even without the car accident as it was caused by previous or subsequent events.
In this case a physiatrist and a GP testified on behalf of the Plaintiff. No defence medical evidence was called, instead, the defence relied on their lawyer’s cross examination of the Plaintiff experts.
The Plaintiff had an MRI which showed a moderate sized diffuse disc bulge or protrusion at L-4/5 with associated disc desiccation or drying.
The court was not satisfied with the Plaintiff’s experts explanations linking the disc protrusion to the second car accident. The court instead found that it is more likely that the disc injury was caused by the first car accident and the second accident aggravated this injury for a period of time.
For the aggravation of this disc injury the court awarded general damages (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) of $30,000. The Plaintiff’s claim for loss of earning capacity and cost of future care were dismissed on the basis that the disc injury was not caused by the accident and any exacerbation of the injury caused by the accident ended in 2005.
This case shows that nothing should be taken for granted when taking an ICBC claim to trial.  Here both doctors seemed in agreement that the second car accident caused the disc injury and no medical experts disagreed with this finding.  After hearing this evidence first hand in court the trial judge did not agree with the Plaintiff’s experts and dismissed the allegation that the second car accident caused the disc injury.  Even where the medical evidence is not contradicted you cannot guarantee that a court will accept it!  This is the risk of trial and cross-examination.  Trial risks need to be accounted for when considering ICBC claim settlement and valuing fair payment for injuries.

ICBC Claims, Limitation Periods and Infants

Let me begin by saying that when people talk about “ICBC claims” they typically refer to two different types of claims. The first has to do with ‘own insurance’ that is, you are insured with ICBC, something occurs that requires you take advantage of this insurance and you apply for your own insurance benefits. This is commonly referred to as a ‘first party claim’.
The second, and perhaps more frequently discussed, has to do with ‘third party insurance.’ That is, someone insured by ICBC injures you and you claim pain and suffering and other monies from that person, who in turn, is insured by ICBC and thus you deal with ICBC in that capacity.
The main focus of my blog has to do with ICBC third party claims, however, interesting reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing limitation periods and ICBC first party claims.
The following facts are taken from the reasons for judgment based on the Plaintiff’s pleadings.
The Plaintiff was involved in a serious accident in 1995 when he was 6. His bicycle was involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. He suffered serious injuries including a head injury.
The Plaintiff was insured with ICBC and advanced a first party claim. In April 2003 ICBC refused to fund further services recommended for the Plaintiff’s brain injury ‘because Part 7 benefits were no longer available to the Plaintiff because legal action had not been commenced in a timely way‘.
This case focused on the Limitation Act (Which postpones certain limitation periods from running until a person’s 19th birthday in BC) vs. s. 103 of the Insurance (vehicle) Act which provides a 2 year limitation period in many circumstances to advance a claim against ICBC for first party insurance benefits.
I strongly recommend that this case be reviewed along with the applicable limitation periods for any parent involved in an ICBC claim on their children’s behalf. If you don’t have a lawyer for your child’s ICBC claim, it is vital that you are well aware of these potential limitation periods.
In this case the Plaintiff sued ICBC, not claiming his PArt 7 benefits, rather, claiming that ICBC was negligent ‘in adjusting the Plaintiff’s claim for PArt 7 benefits and that ICBC breached its duty to act in good faith‘.
ICBC brought an application to strike out portions of the Plaintiff’s statement of claim.  In other words, tried to dispose of the lawsuit even before it could go to trial.  The trial judge dismissed parts of ICBC’s application and ICBC appealed.
In this case the BC Court of Appeal held that “It is my view that section 103 does not apply to a non-contractual claim against ICBC as long as the claim is not an indirect attempt to enforce the contractual right to benefits. In this case, although ICBC’s alleged breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff failing to obtain Part 7 benefits, the loss of those benefits is not the damage claim being pursued by the Plaintiff. Rather, the plaintiff is seeking damages for his worsened condition as a result of his failure to obtain those Part 7 benefits.”
In terms of whether ICBC has to tell an injured ‘insured’ person about the limitation periods ICBC argued that ‘it is plain and obvious that (ICBC) did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff to advise him or his mother regarding the coverage available to them under Part 7 of the Regulation (including advice about the kind of therapy and treatment that could be funded and the existence of the section 103 limitation period).”
Our BC Court of Appeal disagreed with ICBC and stated that “It is not plain and obvious that the present situation is not sufficiently analogous to Fletcher for the court to recognize the duty of care in the present case…..I would not give effect to ICBC’s submission that the court should strike out the allegation in the statement of claim that ICBC owed a duty of care to advise the Plaintiff or his mother of the plaintiff’s entitlement to benefits under Part 7 of the Regulation and of any limitations on his entitlement‘.
The Court of Appeal, however, did not go so far as to state that ICBC does owe a duty of care to tell it’s insured about limitation periods for first party claims. All that was decided was the Plaintiff was allowed to have his day in court to decide this issue.
The bottom line is that ICBC may not have to tell you your limitation periods (even if you are the parent of a brain injured child involved in an ICBC claim) and it is noteworthy that ICBC argued in court that ‘it is plain and obvious’ that ICBC does not have to advise this brain injured child’s parents of the limitation period. SO KNOW YOUR LIMITATION PERIODS OR GET LEGAL ADVICE!

ICBC Claims, Wage Loss, and Loss of Overtime Opportunities

In reasons for judgement released today Madam Justice Dillon of the BC Supreme Court awarded an injured Plaintiff just over $200,000 in damages as a result of a ‘hit and run’ accident.
The Plaintiff was 56 at the time of the BC car crash. He was on his way to work when he was rear-ended. The crash was significant enough to push the Plaintiff’s car the length of a city block prior to coming to a stop. The Defendant ‘took off around a corner” after the collision.
The Plaintiff is an apparently stoic man who returned to work despite being injured in this crash. He continued to work for several days ‘before (his) neck and back pain, headaches and dizziness steadily increased to the point that (he) was unable to perfrom the heavy work of a millwright.’
The Plaintiff was off work for almost 6 months prior to returning to work full time. Once returning he struggled and needed assistance from his work partners. He also struggled in taking advantage of over-time opportunities.
As in many ICBC injury claims that go to trial, the court heard from various doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon, a physiatrist, a neurologist and the Plaintiff’s GP. Again, as is common in ICBC injury claims, the doctors testifying had varying takes on the nature and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries and their connection to the car accident.
No issue was taken a trial as to who was at fault for this rear-end accident. The trial focused on quantum of damages (value of the injuries). The theory advanced by ICBC’s expert was that, while the Plaintiff was injured, the Plaintiff ‘probably would have had these problems regardless of the accident because of his underlying degeneration of the cervical and lumbar spine‘.
The court heard evidence from the Plaintiff’s doctors that he had various injuries that would likely impact him well into the future.
The court’s key finding as to the extent of injury can be found at paragraph 28 where Madam Justice Dillon noted that:
[28] There is no medical opinion that the plaintiff would have suffered from chronic neck or back pain, to the extent and severity that he has incurred, but for the accident. Gold has developed severe and disabling chronic neck and back pain, which significantly limits movement. He continues to have headaches. His condition plateaued within two years after the injury and has not improved despite reasonable effort on his part. This has had a significant effect on his ability to work overtime to the extent that he did before the accident and requires cooperation with his work partners to fulfill the mandate of his job without formal accommodation being made. He has suffered a loss of lifestyle and recreational activity.
The court awarded $80,000 for ‘general damages’ (pain and suffering).
The court also made an award for past wage loss, past loss of overtime opportunities and loss of future earnings.
This case raised some common issues which often arise in ICBC claims. Particularly the amount of past loss income when a Plaintiff returns to work but is not able to work as many overtime shifts. I recommend this case for anyone involved in an ICBC injury claim who has missed overtime work as a result of injuries. This case gives an example of how this issue can be dealt with at trial. The personal injury lawyer representing the Plaintiff capably called evidence addressing wage loss and overtime and in the end the court addressed this loss fairly.
In awarding money for loss of future wages, the court noted that “there is more than a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will be unable to work overtime at his historical pre-accident rate into the future.’ and also that, given the Plaintiff’s age and injuries, that he would have ‘a difficult time finding work if his (current) job ended‘, As a result of this the court awarded $70,000 for loss of future earnings / loss of earning capacity.
Lastly, the ICBC lawyers argued that “damages should be reduced by 25% because the plaintiff failed to start an exercise programme as recommended by his general practitioner, his physiotherapist, and the rehabilitation medicine specialist
This argument is known in law as ‘failure to mitigate’. If a person injured in an ICBC claim does not take reasonable steps to recover from their injuries the value of compensation can be reduced.
The court summarized the law of ‘failure to mitigate’ as follows:
[44] To succeed in this submission, the third party must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the plaintiff failed to undertake the recommended treatment; that by following that recommended treatment he could have overcome or could in the future overcome the problems; and that his refusal to take that treatment was unreasonable (Janiak v. Ippolito, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146, 16 D.L.R. (4th) 1; Maslen v. Rubenstein, [1994] 1 W.W.R. 53 at 57-58, 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.); Fox v. Danis, 2005 BCSC 102 at para. 37). The remedial programme must be likely to achieve resolution of the problem or at least have a positive effect on the plaintiff’s injury arising from the accident (Hepner v. Gill, [1999] B.C.J. No. 1755 at paras. 5 and 7 (S.C.) (QL); Briglio v. Faulkner and Reichel, 1999 BCCA 361, 69 B.C.L.R. (3d) 122 at para. 44; Wong v. Stolarchuk, [1997] B.C.J. No. 2837 at para. 48 (S.C.) (QL)). The reasonableness of a refusal to undertake a recommended programme depends upon the risk that such a programme would impose, the gravity of the consequence of refusing to participate, and the potential benefits to be derived from it (Janiak v. Ippolito, supra).
The court rejected ICBC’s failure to mitigate arguments.
This case illustrates just how important credibility is in ICBC injury claims. The court clearly liked the Plaintiff and he made a good impression on the judge. His stoic attitude certainly helped. Contrary to what some believe, having a tough attitude in the face of injuries does not hurt the value of an ICBC case, as this case illustrates, this postitive attribute can in fact add to the credibilty of an injured person and help result in a good trial result.

Damages of $159,857 Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries and Migraines

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court compensating a Plaintiff for accident related injuries.
The trial concerned a 2001 BC car accident. Her vehicle was struck in a down-town Vancouver intersection by a left-turning van. Liability (fault) was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum (value) of injuries and losses.
The impact was reasonably significant causing the Plaintiff’s head to jerk to the right and hit the window, then snap back.
At the time of the accident the Plaintiff was a 38 year old operations manager at a Vancouver travel agency. As with many ICBC claims that head to trial the Plaintiff’s pre-accident health was explored at trial in some detail. The court found that, prior to the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘continued to suffer regularly from migraine and tension headaches, and from neck and back pain due to stress and postural strain. (the Plaintiff’s) tension induced neck and shoulder pain sometimes precipitated migraines.’
The court concluded that despite these pre-accident problems, the Plaintiff ‘continued to funciton without significant compromise‘ prior to her Vancouver car accident.
As is often the case in ICBC injury claims, the court heard from various medical experts including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopaedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.
After hearing the competing evidence the court found that “the increase in (the Plaintiff’s) headaches and neck and shoulder pain is causally related to the soft tissue injuries she sustained in the accident. I find that her increased neck and shoulder pain sometimes leads to full-blown migraines. In addition, it is related to other painful headaches that she experiences from time to time.”
The court accepted the expert evidence of Dr. Robinson who is a highly-regarded BC neurologist who specialises in headache disorders. He testified in part that “when patients with a stable migraine disorder are exposed to neck trauma they sometimes suffer an indefinite aggravation of their headaches. Due to the neck pain caused by trauma such patients develop a new way to get headaches, which may or may not develop into full blown migraines“.
In terms of prognosis, the court found that ‘with treatment, (the Plaintiff’s) headaches will probably continue to improve over the course of the next five years.‘ and that ‘the low grade neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident will probably persist indefinitely. As a result some aggravation of (the Plaintiff’s) pre-existing headache condition will also persist‘.
The court awarded $65,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering). In doing so the court noted that ‘non-pecuniary damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. The compensation awarded should be fair and reasonable to both parties…for purposes of assessing non-pecuniary damages, fairness is measured against awards made in comparable cases. Such cases, though helpful, serve only as a rough guide‘.
Thanks to these reasons for judgment, British Colmbian’s now have one more rough guide to help assess the fair pain and suffering value for lingering soft tissue injuries, aggravation of pre-existing injuries and migraine headaches when considering ICBC claim settlement.
This case is also worth a quick read for anyone advancing a claim for loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) as the court does a good job summarizing some of the leading legal precedents in this area at paragraphs 151-155 of the judgment.
The court concluded that, as a result of the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘is less able to complete the same high volume of computer based work she could before before the accident and it it sometimes obvious that she is exhasted. In these circumstances, it is apparent that her earning capacity, viewed as a capital asset, has been impaired.’ The court went on to award $75,000 for this loss.

Show Me the Money 2! 2007 Doctors' ICBC Billings Revealed

Further to my previous post on ICBC and high billing doctors I am pleased to report that ICBC has now published their 2007 “statements and schedules of financial information which reveal, amongst other things, the “amounts paid to suppliers of goods and services in 2007“.
One of the ‘goods and services’ often purchased by ICBC is the “Independent Medical Exam”. This is done either to get an ‘independent’ opinion of the medical condition of someone seeking ‘no-fault benefits’ from ICBC, or, further to the Rules of Court which permit one side of a lawsuit to get an ‘independent’ exam addressing the medical condition of a plaintiff involved in an ICBC injury tort claim.
As an ICBC claims lawyer I find it interesting to see which doctors ICBC routinely uses to conduct these independent medical exams. From reviewing these annual reports it becomes clear that there is a small number of doctors who do a significant amount of work on behalf of ICBC.
As promised in my earlier blog, below are some of the highlights of the 2007 report of doctor billings:
Dr. Kevein Favero (Orthopedic Surgeon, Langley, BC): $188,814
Dr. N. K. Reebye (Physical Medecine and Rebabilitation, New Westminster): $339,243
Dr. Peter M. Rees (Neurologist, Burnaby): $215,788
Dr. J. F Schweigel (Orthopedic Surgeon) : $924,243
Dr. D. M. Laidlow: (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Westbank) $165,657
Dr. Robert W. McGraw: (Orthopedic Surgoen, Vancouver) $224,375
Dr. T O’Farrell: (Orthopedic Surgoen, Kelowna) $147,003
Dr. James Warren: (Orthopedic Surgoen, Victoria) $111,041
Dr. O. M. Sovio: (Orthopedic Surgeon, Abbotsford) $252,916
Dr. H. Davis: (Psychiatrist, Vancouver) $164,755
Dr. Marc Boyle (Orthopaedic Surgeon, North Vancouver) $353,822
Dr. Paul Bishop (Vancouver, BC) $357,358
Dr. Mark Crossman (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Vancouver) $83,577
Dr. I. G. Dommisse (Orhopaedic Surgoen, New Westminster) $156,650
Dr. H. E. Hawk (Orthopedic Surgeon, Vancouver) $280,000

Car Accidents, Post Trauma Headaches and ICBC Claims

Short clear reasons for judgment were released by Mr. Justice Savage of the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff compensation for car accident related headaches.
This is one of the crispest judgements I have read in quite some time.  I recommend reading the full judgment for anyone advancing an ICBC pain and suffering claim for headaches as the issues are succinct in this case and it does not get bogged down in legalese.
The Plaintiff was injured when she was 4 years old.    She was in a proper infant car seat in her family van when it was broadsided by the defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  The accident was in 2002 and the claim finally went to trial in 2008.  For those of you not well versed in ICBC injury claims I should point out that there is nothing unusual about this timeline.  In infant injury claims in BC, most limitation periods are delayed until the infant’s 19th birthday.  One of the reasons for this is because doctors often can’t give a prognosis for an infant’s injuries until they reach adulthood.
In this case most of the Plaintiff’s injuries were not disputed.  She suffered from a broken tooth, some injury to her legs which healed in a few months, soft tissue injuries to her neck and back which took about one year to heal.
What was at issue was headaches.  The Plaintiff claimed that she had on-going headaches over 5 years after the accident and that these were caused by the accident.  The defendant said there are other potential causes for the headaches such as migraines or other trauma.  It is worth pointing out that such a ‘causation’ argument is typical in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.  Usually the court hears competing theories about the extent of injury and the cause of injury.  (click here to see an example of just how far apart 2 sides can be in an ICBC injury case involving headaches)
The court accpeted that the ongoing headaches were indeed caused by the accident and summarized the accident related injuries as follows: “very mild injuries post-accident that have completely resolved with ongoing significant but somewhat sporadic headaches continuing requiring the occasional use of Tylenol.”
Mr. Justice Savage noted that the headaches have persisted for some six years althogh there has been some improvement.  He went on to value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for these headaches at $35,000.

More on LVI's, ICBC Claims and Soft Tissue Injuries

There is no shortage of opportunity to blog about ICBC LVI (Low Velocity Impact) cases as these seem to go trial frequently.   While each case is unique and have varying outcomes based on the severity of injury, the courts reactions to the ‘no crash no cash’ position often advanced on ICBC’s behalf seems to end in a predictable result.  It is typically rejected.
The issue always is, on a balance of probabilities, does the evidence establish that the Plaintiff was injured in the crash?  Not “how significant was the vehicle damage”.
In yet another example of BC courts reactions to LVI crashes, reasons for judgment were released today awarding a Plaintiff $12,000 for various soft tissue injuries.
The accident happend in 2005.  It was a rear-end crash.  The defendant gave evidence that the crash was so minor that ‘he did not hear any impact’.  The Plaintiff, on the other hand, stated that the impact was ‘a jolt that threw her forward although she was restrained by her seatbelt‘.
As is often the case in ICBC LVI cases, the lawyers put into evidence the photographs of the vehicles.  The pictures showed minor damage to the Plaintiff vehicle and no visible damage to the Defendant vehicle.
The court accepted that the Plaintiff was injured in this crash.  The Plaintiff complained of headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, right shoulder pain and right ankle pain.
The Plaintiff suffered injuries in previous car accidents and also in a subsequent fall.  This complicates the courts job somewhat in assessing the extent of the injuries suffered in this LVI trial.
The medical evidence was that the Plaintiff, while injured in this LVI crash, should not have any permanent consequenses as a result of her injuries.  In other words, she should get better.  The Plaintiff’s doctor also testified that ‘a lot of her symptoms arise from ‘something else’ (something other than the crash)… She has an underlying condition of depression and alcohol consumption which makes her depression worse’.
One thing that should come to no surprise to ICBC injury lawyers is the position taken by the defence lawyer in this case.  It was argued that ‘there should be no award as the symptoms are not reasonably attributable to the accident’.  In support of this argument the defence lawyer cited Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd.   For full background you can read my former blog on this case but for the sake of this blog here are the broad strokes:
In Mustapha the Plaintiff claimed to suffer psychological injury due finding flies in a bottle of water supplied by Culligan.  The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the lawsuit claiming that such an injury was not ‘foreseeable.’.   Just last week I was discussing Mustapha with a senior colleague ICBC claims lawyer and we concluded it was only a matter of time before an ICBC defence lawyer would bring Mustapha to a court’s attention claiming that injuries from an LVI crash are not ‘forseeable’.  Fortunately, Mr. Justice Savage, rejected such an argument at paragraph 39 of the judgment.
All was not rosy for the Plaintiff, however.  The court found that she ‘tended to exaggerate her symptoms, which, expecially laterrly, are probably not attributabel to the accident.  I accpet, however, that she was injured in the accident but her ongoing symptoms after one year post accident are a result of her failure to mitigate her damages, or other causes’.
For the soft-tissue injuries with headaches and other symptoms which the court found lasted for only one year (at least in terms of being related to the accident) the court awarded non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) of $12,000.

ICBC Did Not Pay Enough For My Car! Don't Look To Court For Help…

While this blog is primarily concerned about ICBC injury claims against at-fault drivers (tort claims) written reasons for judgment were released today that are of interest to anyone caught up in a dispute with ICBC with respect to their own insurance coverage and the value of damage to their car.
Master Young of the BC Supreme Court clarified the fact that courts do not have jurisdiction to deal with an ICBC dispute regarding the value of vehicle loss.
In this case the Plaintiff’s vehicle was damaged in an accident. The vehicle was a write off. The Plaintiff had collision coverage with ICBC and asked for fair value. ICBC paid $18,000. The Plaintiff said the vehicle was worth $40,000 because it had a new engine and 2 extra large gas tanks installed prior to the accident and this had to be considered when determining fair value.
ICBC argued that the BC courts have no jurisdiction to deal with such a dispute. ICBC relied on section 142 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act and said this section requires such disputes to be dealt with by mandatory arbitration. For the sake of being accurate, I should point out that this section has since been repealed but been replaced with an almost identical section in the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
The court held that, under s. 142, ‘the courts have no jurisdiction to deal with coverage disputes, given that there is mandatory arbitration set up by s. 142‘ In reaching this conclusion the Master cited a previous decision from a BC Supreme Court Judge where it was held that “the statute imposes a mandatory forum for the resolution of these disputes, and this Court is excluded from the process‘. Master Young also noted that the BC Supreme Court judge ‘goes on to caution that the claimant, if he wishes to pursue arbitration, must move quickly because he is statue barred two years after the date of loss‘.
The court concluded that this Plaintiff should have gone to mandatory arbitration. Given that the arbitration remedy was not exercised in 2 years the Plaintiff was out of luck, not being able to have the matter decided by a court or by arbitration.
This case serves of an example of the consequences people with ICBC claims can face if they do not comply with the limitations governing their claim. If you are in an ICBC dispute and don’t have a lawyer be sure to know your limitation periods! This is sometimes easier said than done as even Master Young acknowledged that in this case the legislation was ‘confusing‘.
The court obviously sympathized with the Plaintiff and said that she wished she could extend the deadline and if she could she made it pretty clear that she felt that ICBC’s materials showed ‘nothing..to indicate that (ICBC) gave any consideration to the fact that the vehicle had a new engine‘.

ICBC, Chronic Pain, and Fair Settlement

With the exception of experienced BC injury lawyers, most people advancing ICBC claims need to do extensive research to determine fair value for pain and suffering in an ICBC injury claim. One of the best ways to go about this is to look at BC court cases for similar injuries and see just how much, or how little, our courts award for pain and suffering for various injuries.
If you are advancing an ICBC chronic pain case, reasons for judgement were released today that are worth reviewing.
The Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle accident on January 9, 2006. He stopped his vehicle for a cyclist who was crossing in a marked crosswalk. Shortly afterwards the Plaintiff was rear-ended by a Jeep Cherokee. The impact was significant causing ‘substantial damage’ to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff reported several injuries as a result of this rear-end crash including left shoulder pain, dizziness, headaches, neck and back pain, and numbness to his left arm.
The Plaintiff’s family doctor referred him to an orthopaedic specialist who stated that the Plaintiff “has had some soft tissue injuries to the cervical and lumbar spine….he does not require any special investigation as he has no neurological defecits. I would encourage him to return to work
Shortly after this time the Plaintiff switched family physicians. His new treating doctor diagnsosed major depression and soft tissue injury to the neck, shoulder and back. Specifically she diagnosed
a left anterior supraspinatus tear and multiple soft tissue injuries of the neck and back, possible muscle spasm, strains, contusions, cervical facet syndrome and discogenic pain…..(and) two other medical conditions, major depression and peptic ulcers, since the MVA in January 2006. I believe these two conditions were precipitated by the chronic pain and stress caused by the accident.
She went on to state that:
(the Plaintiff) has not been able to return to work, his function remains partially impaired and his level of activity is significantly reduced. His chronic pain and his depression symptoms have significantly restricted his ability to perform a range of daily living activities on ongoing basis such as personal self care, meal preparation, basic housework, daily shopping and use of transportation.
The court also heard from an ‘independent medical examiner’ who stated that “permanent disability is not anticpiated as a result of the accident.’ and that ‘the only objective finding (of injury) was that of restricted movement of the cervical spine. All complaints otherwise were of a subjective nature.’
This doctor made some interesting comments about chronic pain, namely that:
Many authors who have studied chronic pain syndromes have demonstrated that patients have been shown to have beliefs and expectations of chronic pain which are critical cognitive facilitators or impediments to the recovery process. The attribution of blame may be an unrecognized factor co-related to pain behaviour, mood disturbance, and poor response to treatment. It is unlikely that (the Plaintiff) is going to change his perceptions of pain until the issues are resolved for him.
The court made it’s key findings at paragraphs 24 and 25 where Justice Rice stated:

[24] I accept that as a result of the motor vehicle accident Mr. Niloufari suffered moderate strains to his neck and back which have caused him substantial pain and suffering over the two years and several months since the accident. I find these injuries have disabled him from any activities, including his work. As it stands now, more than two years have passed since the date of the accident with little hint of improvement in his pain and suffering or capacity to work.

[25] I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers chronic pain with both physical and psychological components. I am not entirely satisfied that he has done his best to mitigate his loss by exercising and seeking psychiatric and/or psychological advice and treatment. I am not satisfied based on the medical evidence, that Mr. Niloufari should expect to be permanently disabled or disabled at all after a few years from now with diligent attention to his rehabilitation. I would expect him to gradually recover, as Dr. Hill suggested, over the next three or four years, with the expectation he could return to work in a limited capacity within one year.

The court awarded damages for pain and suffering, lost pass of income, loss of future earning capacity, special damages and cost of future care.
The non-pecuniary damage award (pain and suffering) was $63,000.
This case is worth reading for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim seeking damages for ‘loss of earning capacity’ for Justice Rice’s summary of the law on this topic at paragraphs 75-84 of the judgment.

More on Intersection Crashes, ICBC, and Fault

In another example of our courts dealing with the issue of fault and intersection crashes, reasons for judgment were released last week faulting a ‘through driver’ 100% for a crash involving a left hand turner in Langley, BC.
I have previously blogged about this and will blog more on this topic in the future. The issue of fault is probably the most litigated when it comes to intersection crashes involving left hand turning vehicles.
In this case the Plaintiff was attempting to turn left. The Defendant, approaching in the opposite direction, was attempting to go through the intersection. The light was amber or red. This is a common recipe for disaster and indeed they crashed with each other. As is often the case in ICBC claims involving intersection crashes the 2 sides had different versions of evidence, particularly as to whether the light was red or amber at the time.
The court found that the light was red at the time of the crash. While both vehicles where, therefore, in the intersection on a red light, only the ‘through driver’ was found at fault because the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection.
The court quoted a case that is well known to ICBC claims lawyers which is helpful to left hand turning motorists in such a situation. The cases is Kokkinis v. Hall from the BC Court of Appeal where the court held that:

9 This discussion, however, detracts from the more important question of law, which is whether Mrs. Kokkinis was on one hand entitled reasonably to assume that Mr. Hall would stop before entering the intersection or on the other hand, whether she can be faulted for failing to see his van “until it was on top of her”, i.e. constituted an immediate hazard. In this regard, Mr. Johnson cites Feng v. Graham [1988] 5 W.W.R. 137 (B.C.C.A.), (not a left turn case), for the principle that the plaintiff’s entitlement to assume that other traffic will obey the law, is “subject to the proviso” (in counsel’s phrase) that where it is apparent or should be apparent that an oncoming driver is not going to yield the right-of-way, then at that point the other driver must act reasonably and cannot simply proceed into the collision, as it were. At the least, Mr. Johnson says, it was open to the trial judge to find that in the circumstances, Ms. Kokkinis failed to exercise reasonable care for her own safety and the safety of others, and that she must therefore bear some responsibility for the accident.

10 I must say this argument has given me pause; but ultimately I resolve it by asking whether in law Mrs. Kokkinis should be faulted for diverting her attention momentarily from oncoming traffic to check cross traffic at the point in time in question, i.e., as she prepared to start her turn – to see if any of those cars had jumped the light or were going to pose a threat to her turn. Was this an unreasonable or careless thing to do? I think not, given both the realities of the situation (which of course occurred over only a few seconds) and past decisions of this Court that have imposed on left-turning drivers the duty to be aware not only of oncoming traffic, but also of cross traffic, pedestrians, and whatever else may be present in the intersection. To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. An amber light is not, as the current witticism suggests, a signal to accelerate or to pass traffic that is slowing to a stop. Indeed, as Mr. Justice Esson noted in Uyeyama, in a busy city like Vancouver and at a busy intersection like 25th and Granville, an amber is likely the only time one can complete a left turn. Drivers approaching intersections must expect that this will be occurring. Putting a burden on a left turning driver to wait until he or she sees that all approaching drivers have stopped would, in my view, bring traffic to a standstill. We should not endorse such a result.

11 Accordingly, notwithstanding the principle (which I do not doubt) that questions of apportionment are generally questions of fact with which we should interfere only in exceptional cases, I would conclude that the issues I have referred to are ones of law and that the learned trial judge erred in law in placing too high a standard on the plaintiff and in failing to consider the assumptions she was entitled to make. I would not apportion any of the fault to her and would apportion 100 percent to Mr. Hall.

The court held that this was a similar case to Kokkinis and found the through driver at fault.
In terms of injuries the Plainitff suffered from general body trauma, bruising and soreness, soft tissue injuries to the neck, chest wrist and knee. The most significant injury was to the back and the court found that “3 years post-accident the Plaintiff continues to have significant pain from his back. Any prolonged activity, such as sitting in a lecture hall or travelling in a sitting position over 45 minutes causes soreness and pain. The Plaintiff is not recommended to pursue recreationbal activities of a physical nature such as football, which he had formerly done.”
The court awarded damages totalling $74,978.13 including $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).

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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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