Gazing at the Crystal Ball: ICBC Claims and Future Wage Loss
If you are injured through the fault of another and your injuries effect your ability to earn a living you can seek compensation for ‘diminished earning capacity‘. Valuing this loss requires an assessment instead of a mathematical calculation. Since these losses are ‘assessed‘ this gives rise to a wide latitude of legally justifiable awards. This latitude was discussed in Reasons for Judgement released yesterday by the BC Court of Appeal.
In yesterday’s case (Mackie v. Gruber) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC motor vehicle collision. At trial the Plaintiff was awarded almost $250,000 including $130,000 for loss of future earning capacity.
Both the Plaintiff and ICBC appealed this award. The Plaintiff argued it was too low claiming that the judge made a “palpable and over-riding error” in failing to consider the fair value of the Plaintiff’s entrepreneurial capacity. ICBC appealed arguing that the award was too high since “the Plaintiff returned to work within two weeks of the accident and her past loss of earnings up to the date of trial was only $19,546“.
The BC Court of Appeal held that the trial judge did not err and dismissed both appeals. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons addressing the wide latitude of permissible results in quantifying diminished earning capacity:
 Quantifying an award for loss of future earning capacity is a notoriously difficult judicial task given the multitude of factors and future uncertainties at play. It is not a mathematical calculation, but a matter of assessment and judgment, guided by the basic principle that a plaintiff is entitled to be placed in the same position she would have been in but for the accident, and directed at producing an award that is reasonable and fair to all parties: Rosvold v. Dunlop, 2001 BCCA 1, 84 B.C.L.R. (3d) 158.
 In Pallos, the case referred to by the trial judge, Mr. Justice Finch set out a number of approaches to this task:
 The cases to which we were referred suggest various means of assigning a dollar value to the loss of capacity to earn income. One method is to postulate a minimum annual income loss for the plaintiff’s remaining years of work, to multiply the annual projected loss times the number of years remaining, and to calculate a present value of this sum. Another is to award the plaintiff’s entire annual income for one or more years. Another is to award the present value of some nominal percentage loss per annum applied against the plaintiff’s expected annual income. In the end, all of these methods seem equally arbitrary. It has, however, often been said that the difficulty of making a fair assessment of damages cannot relieve the court of its duty to do so. In all the circumstances, I would regard a fair award under this head to be the sum of $40,000.
 I am not persuaded that the trial judge’s approach in this case resulted in an award that was unfair or unreasonable. In my view, both the appeal and cross-appeal must fail.