Expert witnesses play a vital role at the trial of ICBC injury claims. Often judges or juries require the input of a qualified expert to help make sense of technical facts. No where is this more obvious than in ICBC injury claims where doctors give the court opinion evidence with respect to injuries, their causes, their treatment and prognosis.
Expert witnesses, doctors included, have a fundamental duty to be neutral and independent. It has been held that “expert evidence presented to the court should be, and should be seen to be, independent product of the expert uninfluenced as to form or content by the exigencies of litigation. An expert witness should provide independent assistance to the court by way of objective unbiased opinion in relation to matters withing his expertise.”
Experts owe the same duty to the court whether they are testifying on behalf of the Plaintiff, the Defendant or if they have judicially appointed. However, in some cases, experts hired by one side of a lawsuit forget or ignore their duty and engage in active advocacy. In other words, they go out of their way to fight for one side in the lawsuit. This is indeed a shameful development which does nothing but cloud the issues in a lawsuit.
When experts cross the line, they run the risk of having their opinions totally disregarded or declared inadmissible. A great illustration of this can be found in the recent judgment of The Honourable Madam Justice Martinson in which she declared that the report of a psychiatrist hired by the Defendants in a lawsuit was inadmissible.
She concluded that the expert stepped into the shoes of the jury while advocating for the Defendant. He “stepped outside of his area of expertise, commented on matters of general knowledge that the jury can determine, provided many opinions on credibility and made editorial comments, did not seperate his opinions from the fracts and assumptions he relied on, and engaged in advocacy“.
The judge went on to exclude the psychiatrists report from trial on the basis that he crossed the line and engaged in advocacy. In ruling the psychiatrist’s evidence inadmissible Madam Justice Martinson concluded that the doctor had a “lack of understanding of his role as an expert witness“.
Has ICBC sent you to a doctor that was not impartial and ‘crossed the line”? If so you can contact the author of this article for a free legal consultation.
A frequent question I encounter as a British Columbia personal injury lawyer is “when should I go back to work?” or “If I go back to work now will I hurt my ICBC claim?”.
The short answer is that going back to work rarely hurts an ICBC claim. Working is a good thing. Plaintiffs in personal injury claims have a duty to mitigate their damages. This means that they are required to take reasonable steps to minimize their losses as a result of an accident.
Keeping in mind the duty to minimize losses, the question of returning to work is best directed at a physician. The answer it seems, comes down to “Hurt vs. Harm“. Returning to work can be unreasonable if doing so aggravates accident related injuries. That is, if the physical or psychological demands of a job actually aggravate accident related injuries then returning to work is typically not recommended. If, on the other hand, working with your injuries causes pain but your physician tells you to work through the pain as best you can tolerate then returning to work (or at least trying to) seems like a sensible option.
A personal injury claim should never motivate a person to miss time from work. Unreasonably missing time from work can actually hurt a claim. Returning to work while still injured, if medically approved, not only demonstrates a good work ethic but can also fulfill a legal duty to “mitigate damages” and that certainly does not hurt a claim.
Do you have questions about a wage-loss claim? You can click here to contact the author for advice.
In a judgment released today by the British Columbia Supreme Court, a plaintiff was awarded a total of $173,442.92 for her damages and loss as a result of a 2004 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was involved in a fairly serious rear-end collision while stopped at a red light. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer causing significant damage to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff’s injuries included a soft-tissue injury to her right shoulder, sternum, rib cage and lower abdomen, as well as a mysofascial sprain affecting the neck, shoulders, and posterior cervical spine. She went on to develop myofascial pain which her treating physiatrist described as a ‘complicated
chronic pain syndrome”.
In addition to these physical injuries, evidence was presented that the Plaintiff suffered from a Panic Disorder and a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the collision.
The trial judge concluded that the injuries resulted in a partial disability which was likely going to continue into the forseeable future.
The assessed damages included $81,000 for pain and suffering, $22,700 for past wage loss, $60,000 for loss of earning capacity, $5,130 for housekeeping services, just over $1,000 for past expenses and $3,549 for future care.