Tag: BC Pain and Suffering Cases

Non-Pecuniary Damages for Disc Herniation and PTSD Discussed, Dr. Davis Criticized

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff close to $340,000 in total damages as a result of injuries and loss from a BC car crash.
In today’s case (Smusz v. Wolf Chevrolet Ltd.) the Plaintiff was involved in a Highway crash near Kamloops BC in 2006.  Fault was admitted by the offending motorist.  The trial dealt with the value of the plaintiff’s claim.  She suffered various injuries including a disc herniation/protrusion in her neck.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Russell highlighted the following facts:

[87] The plaintiff was 43 years old at the time of this accident.  She suffered injuries which, although not requiring more than a brief visit to the hospital, were nonetheless significant.  The medical evidence was mostly consistent:  her physical injuries include moderate right paracentral disc herniation at C3-4 on the right side and moderate paracentral disc protrusion at C6-7 on the left causing irritation of the left C7 root; and a bulging lumbar disc irritating the lumbar roots, all of which result in chronic left-sided neck, arm and low back pain, dizziness and headaches.  She suffered from PTSD, now substantially resolved, but still suffers from insomnia, occasional nightmares, depression and chronic pain some three years after the accident.

[88] The chronic pain caused by the injuries received in the accident has resulted in depression, no doubt complicated by her difficult financial situation, but the plaintiff was happy and energetic before the accident notwithstanding the fact that she had very little money.

[89] She was able to work in a job which did not require great skill and which did not pay well but in which she could have continued for the indefinite future.  It gave her some income and gave her the sense of participating in her family’s finances.

[90] The evidence of her friends and family support the substantial change she has undergone as a result of the accident.  From a positive, lively person who enjoyed participating in her community, she has become somewhat reclusive and quiet and it appears she may even lose her romantic relationship because her physical limitations interfere with the activities she used to enjoy with her boyfriend.

[91] While she had suffered brief episodes of depression in the past, I am satisfied they were reactive depressions and were fully resolved at the time of the accident.  I have no doubt that because she has suffered depression in the past, she was vulnerable to depression, but she is the thin-skulled plaintiff here rather than a crumbling skull plaintiff.  However, I find that the depression which followed the accident and her chronic pain means that she is at risk of developing an even more severe depression in the future.

[92] Immediately following the accident, the plaintiff also had chest bruising and abrasions which resolved quickly.  Her knee injury troubled her for about six months but is now resolved.

[93] There is a possibility she will require surgery in the future to address the herniation at C6-7 since the conservative treatment measures employed so far have not provided the plaintiff with any relief.  She has resisted this surgery because, even if it is successful, she will be left with continuing neck pain so resort to surgery would only be a desperate measure if she begins to suffer nerve damage which follows from the herniation or if her chronic pain worsens.

[94] The plaintiff’s anxiety is worsened by the possibility she will need surgery in the future.

[95] The plaintiff is also less able to perform her household work than she was and has received assistance from her children.  When she does do her housework, she does it more slowly and with some pain.  This is a substantial change from the enthusiastic homemaker she was before the accident.

[96] I have considered the plaintiff’s loss of housekeeping capacity and the help she has been given and will continue to receive from her children under this head of damages and would assess the loss at $10,000.

[97] Considering the factors listed above, and upon reviewing the case law provided by both counsel, I find that an appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages is $100,000.00, including the loss of housekeeping capacity.

Another noteworthy aspect of this case was the Court’s discussion of one of the defence experts.  Dr. Davis is a psychiatrist who prepared an expert report for the Defendant.  His opinion differed from the Plaintiff’s experts with respect to her accident related injuries.  He was cross-examined in open court and ultimately his evidence was not accepted.  In reaching this decision Madam Justice Russell made the following critical comments:

[81] Dr. Davis’ report differed substantially from those of all other experts.  It is his opinion that none of the plaintiff’s current emotional difficulties stems from the motor vehicle accident.  He is firmly of the view that her depression is solely attributable to her financial problems, her lack of a supporting husband and her limited skills in English.

[82] To support his position, Dr. Davis pointed to the two reactive depressions which had affected the plaintiff before the accident as establishing an “ongoing depression” and therefore her current symptoms were not causally related to the motor vehicle accident of October 2006.

[83] I note that when he wrote his report, Dr. Davis had not reviewed Dr. Tomaszewski’s notes of appointments with the plaintiff one week following the accident which recorded the occurrence of nightmares and acute anxiety.  Dr. Davis stated that these symptoms were important but appeared to minimize them by indicating they would only be a problem caused by the accident in the first six months or so, at the same time as her soft tissue injuries should have been resolving.

[84] I have reviewed Dr. Davis’ testimony and find it to be argumentative, unyielding and seriously at odds with what I view to be the preponderance of other and more credible medical evidence.  I do not accept his findings.

$70,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded for Back and Knee Injuries

(Please note the past wage loss award in the case discussed below was varied slightly on appeal.  The BC Court of Appeal Judgement can be found here)
Here is the latest in my effort to continue to grow this online database of ICBC and other BC Personal Injury Cases addressing damages for pain and suffering.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, (Bradshaw v. Matwick) awarding a Plaintiff $268,389 in total damages as a result of injuries and losses suffered in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.
The crash was a rear end collision which occurred in Port Coquitlam.  Liability (fault) was admitted focusing the trial on quantum of damages (value of the injuries).
The Plaintiff was a 41 year old metal fabricator.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $70,000  Mr. Justice Groves summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[32] By the time of trial, the plaintiff’s injuries were close to three years old.  I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he continues to suffer from some level of disability resulting from the accident—he continues to suffer pain and he continues to have a disability which prohibits heavy lifting, prolonged standing, neck flexion, and sustained and repetitive reaching.  I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that at present, he continues to put all of his physical energies towards his work.  When he is not at work, he is resting and preparing for the next day of work.  The effect of the injuries caused by the accident have created a significantly lower quality of life for the plaintiff.

[33] As for the knee injury, the plaintiff continued to walk with a significant limp in court.  This is consistent with what is reported by:  his spouse, Sandra Bennett; his co-workers Rune Akerbakk and Ron Philbrook; and by his less than sympathetic employer, Rob Charland.  The evidence is suggestive that the medial tear may be repairable by surgery.  Of note, it took considerable time, despite the plaintiff’s desire early on for a MRI, to have the MRI performed.  There is no evidence before me as to when or if surgery to repair this knee is possible or scheduled…

[43] The plaintiff suffered injuries to his back, neck, shoulder and left knee.  He was unable to return to work for over three months after the April 26, 2006 accident, and then only with difficulty and on reduced hours.  Close to three years after the accident, the plaintiff continues to experience considerable pain in his neck and shoulder, back and knee.  The evidence is clear that his job as a metal fabricator involves physically demanding tasks which exacerbate these injuries.  He has not been able to return to his pre-accident performance levels at work.

[44] Two of the expert witnesses, Dr. Spooner and Dr. Vaisler, testified that the plaintiff may have a permanent disability as a result of the accident injuries.  The injuries and the corresponding pain levels have significantly affected the plaintiff’s quality of life and his relationship with his family, as he has little energy or ability to remain active outside of work hours and is frequently irritable and short-tempered as a result of the pain.

[45] The plaintiff’s lifestyle has been dramatically affected by the injuries he suffered in the accident.  The plaintiff, prior to the accident, was an active outdoorsman who regularly went fly fishing with his daughter at remote locations around the Lower Mainland and in southern British Columbia.  Since the accident he has completely curtailed this activity and his relationship with his daughter has suffered.  Prior to the accident, he was an active father with his young son, enjoying activities with his son in the yard, and in the home.  Since the accident his relationship with his son has resorted to playing video games or other activities which involved sitting and lying down, with no physical exertion.

[46] Ms. Bennett describes the plaintiff, prior to the accident, as a “fabulous 100% dad”.  She described that her daughter viewed him as “her god”.  Now the daughter does not want to hang around with her father any longer.

[47] The evidence suggests yard work and snow removal is simply left undone, as the plaintiff can no longer do it.

[48] Ms. Bennett describes her relationship with the plaintiff as “hell”.  She says that when the plaintiff is at home, the family is “walking on eggshells”.  The plaintiff is in near constant pain.  He has to immediately lie down after work.  His interaction with the family is minimal.  He is completed affected by the pain.

[49] His relationship with his wife, Ms. Bennett, who testified, has become tenuous at best.  Prior to the accident they enjoyed an active sex life—they no longer do.  For close to 2½ years, because of his injuries, the plaintiff slept on the living room floor rather than with his wife.  Prior to the accident, the plaintiff vacuumed, did dishes, and cleaned up around the house and was completely responsible for outside yard activities.  The plaintiff and his wife purchased a home on a quarter acre lot.  The home was, to use the vernacular, a “fixer upper”.  The home was repaired by considerable efforts of the plaintiff and the quarter-acre yard was completely landscaped by the efforts of the plaintiff.  Since the accident he has been unable to participate in home repairs or landscaping work.

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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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