More on ICBC Claims, Soft Tissue Injuries and Assessment of Damages

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, (Runghen v. Elkhalil) awarding a Plaintiff just over $147,000 in total damages as a result of injuries and damages sustained in a BC car crash.
The collision occurred in 2004 when the Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended.  The issue of fault was admitted leaving only an assessment of damages at issue at trial.
In awarding $40,000 for pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) Madam Justice Fenlon made the following findings with respect to the Plaintiff’s injuries:
[16]            Based on the evidence of the experts, which is largely consistent, I find that Ms. Runghen suffered mild soft tissue injuries to her cervical and lumbar spine as a result of the accident; I further find that due to those injuries, she has headaches and chronic pain that has affected her ability to function both at home and at work.  I also find that Ms. Runghen’s pain and related incapacity are likely to markedly improve once an appropriate treatment plan is put in place.
Madam Justice Fenlon engaged in a thoughful discussion at paragraphs 17-34 of the judgement which is worth reviewing for anyone ingterested in seeing some of the factors courts take into consideration when valuing pain and suffering in ICBC soft tissue injury claims.
The balance of the judgement deals largely with claims for past wage loss and diminished earning capacity.   Awards were made under both of these heads of damages.  The court found that the Plaintiff’s ability to work was diminished as a result of chronic pain and that this would likely continue for at least some time after the trial.  In awarding $35,000 for diminished earning capacity the court engaged in the following analysis:

[50]            As noted earlier in these reasons, I accept that the chronic pain experienced by Ms. Runghen to date has been a limiting factor in her ability to take on longer hours at work.  I expect that limitation will continue to some extent over the next year, as she engages in a rehabilitation exercise program.  After that time, it is probable that she will be able to increase the amount of time she works to be more in keeping with what she would have been doing prior to the accident.  In coming to this conclusion, I recognize that Ms. Runghen had not established her career as a massage therapist and that we do not have a solid base line from which to work.

[51]            I am mindful that there is no certainty possible in terms of predicting what will occur in the future; there is a possibility, even with the correct treatment for her injuries, that Ms. Runghen may still experience some limitations.

[52]            Applying the considerations identified in Brown v. Golaiy (1985), 26 B.C.L.R. (3d) 353 (S.C.), I find that Ms. Runghen is likely to be somewhat less capable, overall, of earning income from all types of employment and that, in particular, she is likely to be less capable of earning incoming from her chosen field of massage therapy.  Ms. Runghen may have to consider retraining in another field or another area of specialization within massage therapy if she wishes to work full-time.

[53]            In my view, given the potential for marked improvement in Ms. Runghen’s condition that both Dr. Cameron and Dr. McGraw identified in their reports, and based on Ms. Runghen’s own experience with a similar but truncated rehabilitation program with Karp, it would not be appropriate to apply the precise mathematical calculation of future income loss used by Ms. Runghen.  Rather, this is an appropriate case to award a sum that takes into account the various contingencies and possibilities, without overcompensating Ms. Runghen by assuming the status quo and calculating a set wage shortfall over the next 36 year’s of her working life.  I set that sum at $25,000. 

[54]            I find that Ms. Runghen will need approximately six months to put in place and complete a four-month exercise rehabilitation program.  During that time, she will continue to work at her current level.  I therefore award damages of $10,000 to cover loss of income during this period.  

[55]            In summary, I award Ms. Runghen  a total of $35,000 for loss of future income and loss of earning capacity

 

diminished earning capacity, icbc injury cases, new westminster ICBC lawyer, pain and suffering, Runghen v. Elkhalil, soft tissue injuries, wage loss

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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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