Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for accident related anxiety and depression.
In last week’s case (Yeung v. Dowbiggen) the Plaintiff was involved in 4 separate rear-end collisions. These spanned from 2008-2011. Fault was admitted by the rear motorist in each of the crashes. The Plaintiff alleged that as a result of these crashes she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While this diagnosis was ultimately rejected by the trial judge, the Court did conclude that these collisions caused depression and anxiety. These conditions remained symptomatic at the time of trial. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $85,000 Madam Justice Humphries gave the following reasons:
 Taking into consideration all of the evidence and the opinions of these three doctors, I do not accept that Ms. Yeung has post traumatic stress disorder, although she apparently has some symptoms of it. I accept that she has a mild condition of depression and anxiety caused by these accidents, and that it did not, in any significant fashion, pre-date the accidents…
 Ms. Yeung is, as Dr. O’Shaughnessy said, vulnerable and emotionally young for her age, but I also accept that there is validity to Dr. Levin’s concern that she has some secondary gain from the devoted attention of her father, her boyfriend and Dr. Guest.
 However, it is extremely unfortunate that Ms. Yeung has suffered a series of accidents and that her recovery has been set back regularly and incrementally as a result. Even a strong person would have difficulty dealing with a steady recurrence of similar accidents. The effect of four sequential accidents is, according to the medical experts, cumulative, and each time she begins to start to improve and return to a better level of functioning, she has been hit again, which causes a regression in her improvement with an overall cumulative effect on her life. While the physical symptoms are not extreme, they are still persisting and the psychological effect of the repeated events has seriously affected Ms. Yeung’s ability to enjoy life for a protracted period of time. While it is likely she will continue to improve if she is fortunate enough not to be involved in more accidents, she has already spent four years in a state of turmoil and physical pain.
 Several of the cases referred to by the plaintiff are concerned with injuries with effects that are described as severe and devastating; in one case the plaintiff was competitively unemployable, in another the plaintiff could no longer work at the profession he had trained for. In my view, the cases submitted by the defendant are of more assistance. Considering all the evidence within the context of the cases referred to me, and considering that Ms. Yeung has undergone the effects of four accidents, I set non-pecuniary damages at $85,000.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court (Atwater v. Reese) awarding a Plaintiff just over $63,000 in total damages as a result of a 2006 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a pedestrian who sustained injuries when struck by a car. In my experience ICBC often denies liability in these circumstances with a hope of having the court find the pedestrian at least partially at fault for not keeping a proper lookout. In this case the ICBC Defence Lawyer argued that while the motorist was at fault the Pedestrian was contributorily negligent. The first part of the judgement deals with this allegation and in finding the driver 100% responsible Mr. Justice Macaulay stated as follows:
 I do not accept that the plaintiff was negligent in failing to watch the car as she walked in front of it. Nor do I accept that she could have avoided the accelerating car if she had been watching. Once in front of the car, the pedestrians were within a foot or so of the car. There is no evidence to support the contention that the plaintiff, who was walking ahead of her sister, could have avoided the impact in the circumstances.
 The impact occurred because the defendant was going through the motions of driving without actually paying any attention to what was there by way of pedestrian hazard. I find that the defendant is entirely responsible for the accident.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $50,000, Mr. Justice Macaulay made the following findings with respect to her injuries and prognosis:
 I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers from chronic pain but I share the view of the various professionals that her condition is still amenable to improvement provided she increases her tolerance for recreational activity. She gave up too easily and must try harder so that she can avoid the physical and emotional downward spiral associated with inactivity. I am also, however, satisfied that the plaintiff’s pain experience is real and not otherwise subject to conscious psychological control.
 There is, accordingly, a risk that the pain will continue albeit, hopefully, at a lesser level with appropriate rehabilitation. I do not expect her general pain level to increase nor is the plaintiff at risk of harming herself by increasing her activity level.
 To the plaintiff’s credit, she missed minimal time from work after the accident. This may have unwittingly contributed to her slow recovery and certainly affected her ability to participate in non-work activities. She now has moved to more sedentary office work and is not waitressing as much. The continuing waitressing she does now is of a lighter variety than before. These changes should help over time, as well.
 In my view, the plaintiff sustained a lower moderate soft tissue injury that has resulted in chronic pain and mild anxiety. She is capable of achieving greater recovery than she has to date in spite of the time that has passed since the accident.
When trying to value your Non-Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering) in an ICBC Injury Claim it is important to find cases with similar injuries and a similar prognosis to help establish a range of potential damages. I intend to keep reporting non-pecuniary damages highlights in ICBC Injury Claims and look forward to growing this database. As always, any feedback from my readers is welcome!
In reasons for judgement released today, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of a $70,000 award of damages as a result of 2004 BC car accident.
The case possibly fit into ICBC’s LVI criteria based on the fact that the trial judge found that the ‘force applied to the Plaintiff as a resultof the collisions to her rear was actually very little indeed.’
The Plaintiff sued claiming various injuries including soft tissue injury, depression, anxiety, irremediable personality change, brain damage, concussion, post-consussion syndromne, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain syndrome. The Trial Judge recjected the medical diasnoses of brain injury, PTSD and post-concussion Syndrome. In rejecting some of the alleged injuries the trial judge found that the Plaintiff was ‘unreliable’ as a witness.
The Plaintiff sought damages of over $1.7 Million. Given the trial judges findings a total of $70,000 in damages was awarded.
The Plaintiff appealed arguing tha the trial judge disregarded the evidence of four lay witnesses and three expert witnesses. The Plaintiff also argued that the trial judge should have confronted the Plaintiff during the trial to address the court’s concerns with her reliability.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. In doing so the court found that the trial judge did not disregard the evidence and had this to say about ‘confronting’ the Plaintiff
(a) Confronting the Plaintiff
 The plaintiff maintains that the rule established in the case of Browne v. Dunn (1893), 6 R. 67 (H.L.) applies to trial judges as well as opposing parties. The rule is that “if you intend to impeach a witness you are bound, whilst he is in the box, to give him an opportunity of making any explanation which is open to him” (at 70). The plaintiff says that, before determining that the plaintiff was lying, the trial judge was required to put that proposition to the plaintiff while she was testifying.
 The plaintiff cites no authority to the effect that the rule in Browne v. Dunn applies to judges. This is hardly surprising because such a rule would be antithetical to the role of a judge in Canada. In this country, we have an adversarial system, not an inquisitorial one.
 Such a rule would be unworkable with respect to judges in our system. Judges are required to be fair and impartial, and are expected to hear all of the evidence before making final decisions on the credibility of witnesses. They should not be required to confront a witness if they are concerned that there is any possibility that, after hearing all of the evidence, they may not accept all of the testimony given by the witness.
 The rule in Browne v. Dunn is not suited for application to judges. The rule stipulates that if the opposing party is intending to introduce evidence contradicting the testimony of a witness, such evidence should be put to the witness so that he or she will have an opportunity to provide an explanation. What is being suggested in this case is not that anticipated evidence be put to the witness, but that the judge should confront the witness with the possibility that the judge may conclude that the witness is not credible. That is not the rule in Browne v. Dunn – the rule does not require opposing counsel to confront a witness with the proposition that the witness is being untruthful before making submissions to the judge at the end of the trial that the witness should be found not to be credible.
 In addition, the rule in Browne v. Dunn has not been treated as an absolute rule. Evidence contradicting a witness’s testimony may be admitted despite a failure to put it to the witness, and the failure goes to the weight to be given to the evidence. This feature of the rule is not adaptable to judges.
 The plaintiff says the case of Volzhenin v. Haile, 2007 BCCA 317, 70 B.C.L.R. (4th) 15, is an example of what a trial judge is supposed to do in confronting a witness about whose credibility the judge has reservations. The ground of appeal in that case was that the plaintiff had not been given a fair trial because, among other things, “the trial judge intervened excessively, thus giving an inquisitorial aspect to the trial that detracted from the disinterested and impartial hearing to which he was entitled” (paragraph 14). In dismissing the appeal, this Court was not recommending the approach taken by the judge in that case. It simply held that the judge had not “improperly interjected himself into the hearing, or otherwise created an appearance of an unfair trial” (paragraph 25). Indeed, Volzhenin v. Haile illustrates the type of problem that could arise if judges were required to confront witnesses about their veracity.
Note: The case discussed in the below entry was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal with respect to the Diminished Earning Capacity Award on March 18, 2010. You can read my post on the BCCA’s decision by clicking here.
Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff for injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 car accident.
The Plaintiff was driving her daughter to pre-school when her vehicle was rear-ended. The impact was ‘sudden and relatively severe‘ and caused enough damage to render the Plaintiff’s vehicle a write-off.
The court heard from a variety of medical ‘expert witnesses’ and placed the most weight on the Plaintiff’s GP. The court found that the Plaintiff ‘now has chronic pain with her soft tissue injuries and that pain and discomfort, in varying levels depending on activity level, will continue indefenately.’ The court also found that the Plaintiff suffers from ‘anxiety associated witht he accident’ and that ‘(she) is at risk of premature arthritis in her cervical spine and left shoulder‘.
In awarding $50,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the court noted that:
 The injuries have affected the plaintiff’s family relationships. She is not able to participate in normal physical family and recreational activities to the same extent as before the accident. She cannot perform housework or garden to the same extent. She presents as a perfectionist and is clearly bothered by these restrictions on activities that she enjoys and takes pride in.
 (The Plaintiff) is also anxious and, perhaps, somewhat depressed; her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected, and she is naturally concerned and upset that her children now turn more naturally to their father for physical support and comfort. In addition to the ongoing pain and discomfort that restricts general activities, these factors also affect enjoyment of life. I take them into account in determining a fit award for non-pecuniary loss.
The most interesting part of this judgement for me was the court’s discussion of loss of earning capacity. Here the court found that the Plaintiff does have permanent injuries but that these will have ‘slight, if any, actual impact on her future earnings‘.
What interested me was the courts comments trying to reconcile to seemingly opposed lines of authority from the BC Court of Appeal addressing loss of future earnings. When one asks for an award for ‘loss of future income’ or ‘loss of earning capacity’ one has to prove this loss. There are various ways of doing this at trial.
Here the Plaintiff advanced a claim of loss of earning capacity using the ‘capital asset approach‘ as set out by our Court of Appeal in Pallos v. ICBC. The Defence lawyer argued that a subsequent case (Steward v. Berezan) overruled the law as set out in Pallos.
After listening to this debate the court noted that:
44] With respect, it is not clear, as I understand Steward, how one gets to the capital asset approach without first proving a substantial possibility of future income loss in relation to the plaintiff’s position at the time of trial. I cannot reconcile that approach with the factors first listed in Brown, later summarized in Palmer, and finally approved in Pallos in the passages set out earlier in my reasons.
 It would be helpful if the Court of Appeal has an opportunity to address these issues fully. I observe that the Court of Appeal since held in one decision that Steward turned on its facts and did not create any new principle of law. The court also affirmed Parypa in the same decision. See Djukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, at paras. 14 and 15.
Here the court held that “there is no reference in Steward to Pallos. Steward, in my view, does not over rule Pallos‘.
Mr. Justice Macaulay went on to reconcile the apparent conflict between these cases by concluding that Steward should be limited to its own ‘narrow factual circumstances‘ and awarding the Plaintiff damages based on the less stingent ‘capital asset approach‘.
In one the first ICBC claims to head to trial under Rule 68 that I’m aware of reasons for judgment were released today awarding a Plaintiff over $180,000 in compensation including $75,000 for pain and suffering as a result of 2 motor vehicle accidents.
For those of you not aware of Rule 68, it initially started out as a ‘pilot project’ and has now been adopted Province wide. It applies to many lawsuits including personal injury actions and ICBC claims where the amount sought is under $100,000. It is supposed to be mandatory for such claims but many BC personal injury lawyers avoid the rule due to perceived short-comings.
I am keeping an eye on how the courts treat this rule with respect to ICBC claims and will blog on any judgemetns involving this rule and ICBC that come to my attention in the upcoming months.
The facts of the case briefly are as follows: The Plaintiff was in 2 accidents. She was 24 years old on the date of the first accident. It was a rear-end crash which resulted in significant vehicle damage. Her car was rendered a total-loss.
The Second crash happened in 2006. This time she was a passenger and again her vehicle was involved in a rear-end collision. Her injuries from the first accident were aggravated in this crash.
The Court found that the Plaintiff ‘did indeed suffer a severe flexion-extension injury (whiplash), with acute symptoms lasting approximately one week, but continuing moderate symptoms which have persisted to today’s date, a full 4.5 years post accident. Her symptoms include not only pain and restriction of movement, but an overlap of psychological symptoms (pain disorder) including anxiety, irritability, frustration, anger, and difficulty modulating her behaviour in the face of day-to-day challenges. I accept Dr. Lamius’ evidence that there is some interplay of her physical and psychological symptoms. As he noted the pain activity triggers ongoing anxiety symptoms, while at the same time, the pain activity is worsened by the increased arousal pattern secondary to her anxiety. The pain and anxiety work together to create a vicious cycle.”
The court awarded compensation for both accidents as follows:
1. Non Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering) $75,000
2. Loss of homemaking capacity: $11,744
3. Past loss of income: $$6,658.44
4. Future loss of earning capacity: $40,000
5. Cost of Future Care: $50,000
6. Special Damages: $6,211.08
What was interesting about this case is the fact that the court did not hesitate to consider a total award above $100,000. Rule 68 has a ‘soft cap’ meaning it is to be used for claims worth less than $100,000. In this case the Plaintiff sought total damages well in excess of this.
The reason why rule 68 has a ‘soft cap’ is because Rule 68(4) says that ‘nothing in this rule (rule 68) prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in an expedited action for an amount in excess of $100,000.‘
One thing ICBC is interested in, and ICBC claims lawyers should be interested in this as well, are the ‘precedents’ that will come out of the upcoming rule 68 ICBC claims judgements. In this case the defence lawyer argued that ‘since the Plaintiff elected to use Rule 68…the court ought to infer that this claim, including all heads of damage, does not exceed $100,000, thus resulting in a much reduced award for non-pecuniary damages.”
The court rejected this logic stating that “I am unaware of any authority which suggests the Court may draw such an inference.” The court went on to cite rule 68(4) and then stated that “no defence motion was ever brought to remove the action from the rule 68 procedure. I am unable to draw the inference suggested.”
This case seems to be a positive development for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim under Rule 68 whose total value may exceed $100,000. I hope the courts continue to adopt a flexible approach in awarding damages above the ‘cap’ in ICBC claims where the evidence justifies such a result.
Reasons for judgement were released today following a 3 day trial in Vernon, BC in which Mr. Justice Cole awarded a 35 year old plaintiff close to $90,000 in compensation for her losses and injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
This case is worth a read for anyone advancing an ICBC claim or involved in ICBC settlement negotiations concerning the issue of ‘indivisble injuries’. That is, where an event other than the accident has contributed to the injuries sustained in the accident. I will say more about this below.
The Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end accident in Kelowna BC on June 30, 2005. Her vehicle was rearended by a truck driven by the Defendant. As a result of this incident she suffered from various soft tissue injuries and anxiety.
In early 2007, the Plaintiff was almost struck by a vehicle while she was in a cross-walk. This added to her anxiety issues.
The court heard from several medical experts who commented on the Plaintiff’s injuries. This is quite common in ICBC injury claims that proceed to trial as there is often 2 sides to the medical story. In this case, however, the medical evidence addressing the physical injuries was quite similar.
Dr. Laidlow, a physiatrist who often conducts ‘independent medical exams’ for ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff will be “prone to mechanical lower back pain…and may require the odd use of anti-inflammatories during times of flare up“.
Dr. Travlos, another physiatrist well versed in diagnosing and treating injuries related to ICBC claims, stated that “(the plaintiff’s) current residual neck and shoulder symptoms are a result of tjhe accident. It is likely that these symnptons will slowly continue to improve and ultimately resolve….the Plaintiff’s tailbone symptoms are clearly an ongoing issue…..the nature of her current low back / pelvic symptoms is intermittent and this bodes well for further recovery.”
The court also heard from the plaintiff’s family doctor who testified that there was room for improvement in the Plaintiff’s condition.
Possible future treatments for the injuries included trigger point injections, diagnostic injections, a facet joint rhizotomy and medicaitons.
In the end the court concluded that the Plaintiff sufferd a soft tissue injury “that would be described as the upper end of a moderate soft tissue injury that should resolve itself over time“. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the collision in 2005 and the near collision in 2007. The Plaintiff claimed she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the collision and this was supported by the evidence of Dr. Neilson. The court, however, held that the Plaintiff did not make out this claim as the Plaintiff did not prove all the facts that were underlying Dr. Neilson’s diagnosis of PTSD.
The court awarded damages as follows:
Pain and Suffering (non pecuniary damages) $60,000
Special damages: $6,045
Past wage loss: $19,522.02
Future medical care: $400
Future Therapy: $1,000
This case did a great job reviewing 2 areas of law which frequently come up in many ICBC claims, namely claims for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ and claims where intervening events add or contribute to accident related injures.
As in many ICBC claims the Plaintiff had an intervening event which added to her anxiety. When valuing the injuries the court did a great job in summarizing how a court is to do so when the subsequent event caused an ‘indivisble injury’.
The court referenced some of the leading authorities in concluding the PTSD claim gave rise to an ‘indivisble injury’. Most experienced ICBC claims lawyers are familiar with these authoritative cases which the court referred to, particularly:
Athey v. Leonati
EDG v. Hammer
Ashcroft v. Dhaliwal
The court concluded that “I am satisfied, in this case, that the two incidents that the plaintiff was involved in are indivisble. The anxiety caused to the plaintiff by the second incident is directly connected to the accident involving the defendant. Since the individual that caused the second accident was not before the court, as was the case in Ashcroft, where there was a settlement of the claim, the defendant is liable for all of the plaintiff’s damages”
Do you have questions about this case or a similar ICBC case involving soft tissue injuries, post traumatic stress or an intervening event? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
BC Courts have heard many ICBC claims involving PTSD and Chronic Pain Syndrome. In reasons for judgement released this week Mr. Justice Cullen heard and dismissed a PTSD claim and Chronic Pain Syndrome claim as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In 2004 the Plaintiff, who was a passenger in her boyfriend’s vehicle, was involved in a collision where her vehicle rear-ended the vehicle in front of her. The accident occurred on Nanaimo Street in Vancouver, BC. She advanced a tort claim against her boyfriend who was deemed to be the at-fault driver (a tort claim is the legal term used to describe a civil action, such as an ICBC claim for damages against an at fault driver).
ICBC, on the boyfriend’s behalf, admitted fault but disputed the alleged injuries. The Plaintiff claimed to suffer from soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, a myofacial pain syndrome and/or a pain disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As in alsmost all ICBC claims involving alleged chronic pain, the court heard from a number of expert witnesses including the Plaintiff’s family doctor, a physiotherapist, a physiatrist (rehabilitaiton specialist) a psychologist and an orthopaedic surgeon. The orthopaedic surgeon was a defence witness who conducted an ‘independent medical exam’ of the Plaintiff pursuant to the BC Rules of Court.
In the Plaintiff’s case evidence was led that she suffered from a ‘myofacial pain syndrome’ which was described as ‘a central nervous system disorder with peripheral manifestations of muscle tightness and soreness to palpation over areas called trigger points…areas in the muscles that are rich in nerve endings’.
A psychologist testified that the Plaintiff suffered from a Post Traumatic Pain Disorder (PTSD) and also that she suffered from ‘many symptoms of a pain disorder’.
The orthopaedic surgeon, who is often used by ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulders, along with some cuts and bruises. He dismissed the connection of the Plaintiff’s low back complaints to the accident by stating “There is a basic premise in medicine that if a site has been traumatized, that site becomes symptomatic immediately, right after the MVA or certainly within the first few days after the MVA”. He then testified that his physical examination of the Plaintiff was ‘completely normal’ and he regarded any soft tissue injuries sustained by the Plaintiff as resolved.
In the end the court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim for PTSD and Chronic Pain Disorder and found that the Plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulder. The court also found that the Plaintiff’s low back symptoms which developed 3 months post accident were causally connected to the accident either through compensatory back pain of through myofacial pain syndrome. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the accident and awarded $35,000 for pain and suffering, $560 for past out of pocket expenses and a further $700 to permit the Plaintiff to attend further counselling sessions with her pscyhologist to treat her anxiety.
This judgement is worth a quick read if you are advancing an ICBC claim involving chronic pain or PTSD to see some of the factors courts look at when weighing competing medical evidence. The judgement seems to be a compromise between the competing evidence accepting that the Plaintiff’s injuries, while not PTSD or Chronic Pain Syndrome, were not resolved by the time of trial. When considering settling an ICBC claim it is good to become familiar with how courts treat similar injuries and what the various outcomes at trial can be.
Do you have questions about an ICBC claim involving PTSD or Chronic Pain that you want to discuss with an ICBC Claims Lawyer? If so, click here to contact ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken for a free consultation.
In the appeal of an award for total damages of $31,380 for soft tissue injuries and psychiatric injuries, the BC Court of Appeal upheld the trial judgement and concluded that the trial judge did not err in his findings.
The Plaintiff unfortunately had experienced both a number of very significant stressors in her life. These came both before and after the October 2002 car accident that was at issue in the lawsuit.
The trial judge found that the 2002 accident “was very traumatic for (the Plaintiff). I accept that she was a very fragile person mentally before the motor vehicle accident. I accept that the motor vehicle accident increased her level of stress and anxiety that pre-existed the accident. I accept that she is in need of psychiatric counselling for this increased level of stress and anxiety caused by the motor vehicle accident. I also accept, however, that most of (the Plaintiff’s) physical complaints are not grounded in any physical injuries but are grounded in her somatoform pain disorder that preceded the motor vehicle accident.”
The trial judge ultimately concluded that the accident caused some “minor short terms soft tissue injury, but that the main injury that she had from the motor vehicle accident was to her mental state through the increase in her level of stress and anxiety requiring psychiatric counselling.”
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and made no changes to the trial judges awards which included $25,000 for pain and suffering.
In a judgment released today by the British Columbia Supreme Court, a plaintiff was awarded a total of $173,442.92 for her damages and loss as a result of a 2004 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was involved in a fairly serious rear-end collision while stopped at a red light. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer causing significant damage to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff’s injuries included a soft-tissue injury to her right shoulder, sternum, rib cage and lower abdomen, as well as a mysofascial sprain affecting the neck, shoulders, and posterior cervical spine. She went on to develop myofascial pain which her treating physiatrist described as a ‘complicated
chronic pain syndrome”.
In addition to these physical injuries, evidence was presented that the Plaintiff suffered from a Panic Disorder and a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the collision.
The trial judge concluded that the injuries resulted in a partial disability which was likely going to continue into the forseeable future.
The assessed damages included $81,000 for pain and suffering, $22,700 for past wage loss, $60,000 for loss of earning capacity, $5,130 for housekeeping services, just over $1,000 for past expenses and $3,549 for future care.