Non-Pecuniary Damages Update – the Kelowna Road Edition
I’m writing today’s non-pecuniary damages case update in Kelowna, BC where I’m finishing up some work on a handful of ICBC claims.
Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court awarding non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) for headaches and chronic pain following soft tissue and TMJ injuries.
In this week’s case (Ho v. Dosanjh), the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC motor vehicle collision. It was a rear-end crash and the Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained over $7,000 in damage. The Plaintiff’s injuries continued to cause him problems by the time of trial (nearly 4 years after the collision). Mr. Justice Silverman awarded the Plaintiff $75,000 for his non-pecuniary loss and in reaching this figure the Court noted the following about the extent and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries:
 As a result of the subject MVA, the plaintiff suffered pain in his neck, upper back, shoulder, jaw, numbness down the left arm, headaches, and insomnia. He was on a variety of medications for a period of time and was unable to work.
 The most serious and ongoing consequences of the MVA are the TMJ and the headaches, which leave him in constant pain.
 Dr. Mehta confirmed that the plaintiff suffers from pain in his jaw, teeth, and related areas, and that he suffers from headaches as a result of the MVA.
 He testified that these areas of concern had not improved significantly in the four years since the MVA and further recovery was unlikely; that the plaintiff will suffer long-term symptoms that impact on all aspects of his functioning; and that he should avoid any activities that involve jumping or jarring. Dr. Mehta recommended conservative care, including continuation of various treatments which were already ongoing, such as physiotherapy and massage.
 Dr. le Nobel diagnosed the plaintiff with diffuse myofascial pain syndrome, TMJ, and chronic headaches. He testified that the plaintiff’s capacity for recreational pursuits has been compromised and that this will continue for the foreseeable future. He testified that, given the amount of time that has passed since the MVA, there is unlikely to be any further improvement.
 Dr. Weiss confirmed that the plaintiff has chronic neck, back, and TMJ pain and that, in his opinion, “they will remain a long term issue.” He noted that the plaintiff had a pre-existing degenerative condition, which made him more susceptible to injury from the MVA.
 Dr. Gilbart provided an independent medical report and was called as a witness for the defence. He confirmed that the MVA aggravated the plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative condition in his neck. He opined that the “prognosis for significant further improvement in his symptoms at this point is guarded.” He noted that the plaintiff was asymptomatic prior to the MVA and was functioning at a very high level in all aspects of his life. Dr. Gilbart also noted that, despite the post-MVA pain complained of by the plaintiff, he still appeared to be functioning at a very high level. Finally, he opined that, given the pre-existing condition of the plaintiff as well as his prior history, he likely would have had flare-ups in the future even if the MVA had not occurred.
 With respect to the jaw pain and headaches, Dr. Gilbart deferred to the expertise of Dr. Mehta.
 Presently, the plaintiff has not returned to most of his pre-MVA athletic activities. He no longer is involved in volleyball, softball, aggressive hiking, or skiing. He does still rollerblade, although not as aggressively as before, and he has recently begun to swim with the encouragement of his girlfriend, who is a physiotherapist’s assistant.
 Various friends testified that the plaintiff’s personality has changed. He is moody, irritable, withdrawn, quiet, rarely socializes, and not as pleasant to spend time with as he used to be. It was clear to me, when watching the plaintiff in the gallery of the courtroom that he was distressed when he heard this testimony. He subsequently testified that he had not actually heard these witnesses say this before…
76] I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered neck, back, jaw, and shoulder pain, and that he continues to suffer on a daily basis, particularly from TMJ and headaches.
 I am satisfied that it has affected his recreational and athletic activities, which were an important part of his life.
 I am satisfied that there is unlikely to be much further improvement.
 I am also satisfied that, while he is suffering pain, he is nevertheless able to function in a reasonably normal way. He certainly appeared to be reasonably comfortable when giving evidence. He also continued to work full-time after a period of months during which he was unable to work, although I accept that work is much less physically comfortable for him than it used to be.
 While I accept the evidence that he might have suffered another flare-up even in the absence of the MVA, I am satisfied that the MVA was, and is, the primary cause of his current difficulties.
 With respect to ongoing treatments for the rest of his life, I am satisfied that, while these might provide him with some periodic temporary relief, they are not likely to result in any improvement. Consequently, what the plaintiff might perceive as the “need” for such ongoing treatments, will be reflected as an aspect of the non-pecuniary award.
 In all the circumstances, I award $75,000 for non-pecuniary damages.