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"Mild" Concussion Leads to $5.9 Million Judgement

I can put it no better myself than the beginning of the judgement which reads “Occasionally a seemingly innocuous event can have tragic consequences“.  This passage is taken from reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such consequences after a seemingly minor collision.
In today’s case (Wallman v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear end collision in 2006.    It was by all accounts a modest collision however it caused a concussive injury.   The Plaintiff went on to suffer from profound post concussive symptoms.  He was a doctor and these symptoms disabled him from his own profession.  Due to this lost income earning ability the assessed damages were high.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:
[465]     Dr. Smith opined that post-concussion syndrome is not a valid medical diagnosis.  Drs. Teal and Prout opined that it is not only a valid, but also a generally recognized diagnosis.  I accept the opinions of Drs. Teal and Prout and reject those of Dr. Smith.
[466]     In my view the plaintiff has established beyond the balance of probabilities that the dramatic and sudden onset of symptoms of headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, physical and mental fatigue, confusion, sensitivity to noise and light, irritability, depression and anxiety and problems with vision, concentration, multi-tasking and speech and communication, are the result of him having suffered a MTBI (concussion) caused by the Accident.
[467]     Moreover, I find that the plaintiff continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome as a direct result of his Accident-related concussion…
[470]     Prior to the Accident, the plaintiff was a confident, decisive, energetic individual with an excellent memory and a penchant for detail.  He was able to identify a problem facing him, define the options available for resolving the problem and choose from among them.  He loved challenge and loathed routine. He felt he could accomplish anything he wanted to.   He was the hardest-working emergency room physician at WHCC.  He loved and was passionate about his work.  He thrived on the stimulation and the trauma of the emergency room.  He was happy with his life and enjoyed helping others.
[471]     At the time of the Accident, the plaintiff was at the height of his medical career.  He had a very good reputation as an emergency room physician and was well respected in the Whistler community.  His reputation was important to him and he was proud of his accomplishments.  He had no plans to retire.
[472]     There is no question that the plaintiff’s life has changed profoundly as a result of the Accident.  His ability to function in everyday life has been significantly impaired.  He has considerable cognitive challenges that will likely affect him for the rest of his life.  He has lost his overall confidence.  He struggles to make decisions and initiate activities.  He is inattentive and displays poor judgment.  He has withdrawn socially.  His thresholds for mental and physical activities are limited to approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, respectively, beyond which he becomes symptomatic.  He is no longer able to practice as an emergency room physician, a job he was passionate about and proud of.  His ability to interact with and enjoy his children has been impaired.  The medical experts are of the opinion that his recovery has likely plateaued.
[473]     As a result of the Accident, the plaintiff’s ability to work in the job he loved has been taken from him.  He has lost his sense of purpose in life.  He no longer feels that he is a contributing and productive member of society. The realization that he will be unable to return to his profession and that his life as it was prior to the Accident is gone has been devastating to him.
[474]     He wanted to engrain in his children the values of hard work and reputation in the community.  It is devastating to him that he cannot show his children that he works hard.
[475]     He has difficulty identifying problems facing him and defining his options.  He cannot seem to understand the problem and make a decision.  He does not trust his own judgment either medically or as it relates to his real estate investments.  He has trouble making day-to-day life decisions.  Although the plaintiff realizes that he must learn to allow others to help him, he has a great deal of difficulty accepting that fate…
[484]     Having considered the principles set out in Stapley, the ordeal that the plaintiff has gone through, the impact the Accident has had on the plaintiff’s life including the loss of a vibrant medical career that was very important to him, as well as  the cases relied upon by counsel, I find that an award of $200,000 for non-pecuniary damages is appropriate.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice G.C. Weatherill, Wallman v. John Doe

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