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More on Valuing Damages for Modest Soft Tissue Injuries

As previously discussed damages for non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) are best thought of in ranges.  The same injury can be valued differently by individual trial judges and for this reason its important to get a sense of the low end and high end of appropriate compensation for your injury when considering settlement.  The best way to do this is to review as many cases as possible dealing with similar injuries.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing non-pecuniary damages for a modest soft tissue injury of nine months duration.
In today’s case (Thomson v. Hunt) the Plaintiff was involved in a December 2007 collision in Coquitlam, BC.  Fault was denied by the Defendant although the trial judge found him entirely responsible for the crash.  The Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries affecting his left shoulder, arm and neck.  These were acute for three months and disabled the plaintiff from work during this time.  From there the injuries continued to improve until they were “essentially symptom free” some 10 months following the crash.   Mr. Justice Schultes valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[60]        Bearing in mind that Mr. Thomson’s continuing symptoms were not sufficiently serious to require further medical attention, I find that the link Dr. Fyfe makes between his work duties and the presence of symptoms in the areas described is plausible, particularly in light of what she identified as the difficulties Mr. Thomson endured when undertaking strenuous duties during the earlier stages of his recovery. I find that although Mr. Thomson’s symptoms diminished to such an extent as to no longer require him to seek ongoing medical treatment and engage in physiotherapy, those symptoms persisted in one form or another until the end of August 2008.

[61]        Mr. Thomson himself does not suggest that his symptoms were as severe once he returned to work. In his affidavit sworn February 26, 2010, at para. 49 he deposed that:

Most of my injuries had improved quite a bit before I returned to work on March 10, 2008. I remember that the pain in the left shoulder, left arm and between the shoulder blades were still lingering when I returned to work. I had periodic neck pain which was aggravated by work, as my job involved a lot of looking up.

[62]        I think this candid description weighs substantially in favour of Mr. Thomson’s credibility and distinguishes him from those plaintiffs who maintain that their physiological problems continue undiminished for very lengthy periods, well past what objective medical or other evidence can possibly support.

[63]        In all the circumstances, I think that the duration of Mr. Thomson’s most serious symptoms and the limited extent to which they interfered with his pre-collision lifestyle calls for a lower award than those awarded in the cases he relies on. However I have no concerns on the evidence that Mr. Thomson may have exaggerated his symptoms, so I think that a substantially higher award than the nominal ones in the cases Mr. Hunt relies on is warranted.

[64]        I, accordingly, award Mr. Thomson $20,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

If you’re looking for other recent soft tissue injury damages assessments by BC Courts feel free to access my archived posts on this topic (fairly comprehensive from 2008-present).  Another great resource is Canlii, a free Canadian legal case-law database.

bc injury law, modest injuries, Mr. Justice Schultes, non-pecuniary damages, soft tissue injuries, Thomson v. Hunt