Tag: bc personal injury lawyer

BC Court of Appeal: Previous Settlements to be Deducted from Indivisible Injury Awards

Reasons for judgement were released today from the BC Court of Appeal which are of great significance for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim which involves more than one event which contributed to the injury.
In this case the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate car accidents. She was not at fault for either. The injuries in both were found to be ‘indivisible’ meaning that the injuries were ’caused or materially contributed to’ by both events.
The Plaintiff claimed damages for both crashes. She settled one claim for $315,000. She succeeded in her lawsuit against the other driver and had her injuries valued at about $400,000. The trial judge then went on to order that the settlement proceeds from the second accident ($315,000) must be subtracted from the $400,000 awarded at trial. This was so because the injury was ‘indivisible’.
Today the BC Court of Appeal upheld this approach. In particular the court made (or confirmed) several important findings:
If two torts were necessary causes of the injuries, liability for the loss resulting from those injuries may be apportioned based on fault, but each tortfeasor is responsible for the entire damage to which their tort materially contributed beyond the de minimus range ( I would imagine this does not hold true, however, in cases of contributory negligence)
Although the concern in the case at bar is whether to deduct settlement proceeds from global damage awards rather than whether to make an exception to settlement privilege, the principle is the same: the concern to prevent double recovery outweighs the public interest in encouraging settlements.
A “divisible injury” is one that has ‘no causal connection’ to a certain tort
An ‘indivisble injury’ is one that was ’caused or materially contributed to by a tort’
“concurrent torts” occur when their negligence combine to cause one injury and its consequential loss at the same time
“consecutive torts” occur when injury occurs from 2 torts which occurred at different times.
There is no valid policy reason to treat concurrent and consecutive torts differently when both are necessary causes of an indivisible injury and the losses consequential to it.
When dealing with ‘consecutive torts’ causing an ‘ indivisible injury’ the two causes of action are not separate: they are linked by the indivisible injury. That link brings into play not only joint and several liability but also the rule against double recovery.
The bottom line is that if you sue for an ‘indivisible injury’ and have already been partially or wholly compensated by one ‘tortfeasor’ for that injury, a subsequent tortfeasor can subtract the compensation amount from what he/she has to pay.

More on ICBC and "Independent Medical Examinations"

When you sue another motorist in BC Supreme Court for car accident related injuries, they are entitled to ‘level the playing field’ by having you assessed by a so-called ‘independent medical examiner’.
This right is given to Defendants by Rule 30 of the BC Supreme Court Rules. Rule 30 reads as follows:
Rule 30 — Physical Examination and Inspection

Order for medical examination

(1) Where the physical or mental condition of a person is in issue in a proceeding, the court may order that the person submit to examination by a medical practitioner or other qualified person, and if the court makes an order, it may make

(a) an order respecting any expenses connected with the examination, and

(b) an order that the result of the examination be put in writing and that copies be made available to interested parties.

Subsequent examinations

(2) The court may order a further examination under this rule.

Questions by examiner

(3) A person who is making an examination under this rule may ask any relevant question concerning the medical condition or history of the person being examined.

Order for inspection and preservation of property

(4) Where the court considers it necessary or expedient for the purpose of obtaining full information or evidence, it may order the production, inspection and preservation of any property and authorize samples to be taken or observations to be made or experiments to be conducted on or with the property.

Entry upon land or buildings

(5) For the purpose of enabling an order under this rule to be carried out, the court may authorize a person to enter upon any land or building.

Application to persons outside British Columbia

(6) Rule 27 (26) applies to examinations and inspections ordered under this rule.

On behalf of Defendants, ICBC has a handful of doctors that they use regularly to conduct these ‘rule 30’ medical exams.
What if ICBC has already sent you to a doctor? Can they send you to a second? The answer is it depends on the circumstances. As you can see above, Rule 30(2) permits a court to order a second examination. Our courts have held that, depending on the circumstances, ICBC can send a Plaintiff to a second examination with a doctor with different qualifications than the first. There are numerous cases interpreting this rule and the specific cases either allowing, or disallowing, multiple medical examinations are too numerous to count. Reasons for judgement were released today permitting a Defendant to have Plaintiff injured in a 2004 BC Car accident assessed by a neurologist when that Plaintiff had already been assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon on behalf of the Defendants.
Some of the factors courts consider when deciding whether they should order a ‘further’ examination under Rule 30(2) were laid out in the recent BC Supreme Court case of Walch v. Zamco. In Walch, the court summarized the factors that ought to be considered as follows:

      • *
        The court’s discretion must be exercised judicially on the basis of the evidence;
      • *
        A second examination may be appropriate where there is some question which could not have been dealt with on the first examination;
      • *
        A second examination will not be allowed simply because the magnitude of the loss is greater than that previously known;
      • *
        A passage of time alone is not a sufficient reason to order a second examination;
      • *
        Where a diagnosis is difficult and existing assessments are aged, the court may consider a second examination;
      • *
        Differences of opinions between medical professions is not sufficient reason to order a second examination where the first examiner could have discovered the issue on the first examination.

The overriding question is whether a second medical examination is required to ensure reasonable equality between the parties in their preparation for trial: Wildemann v. Webster.

Reasonable equality does not mean that the defendant must be able to match expert for expert and report for report: McKay v. Passmore.

In order to obtain an order for a subsequent medical examination, the defendants must satisfy the courts that there is some question or matter of which could have been dealt with at the first examination: Jackson, supra.

When considering whether to grant a subsequent medical examination the court should take into account the timing of the application in light of the requirements of Rule 40A and practical issues relating to trial preparation: McKay, supra. The authorities do not require that the application be supported by medical evidence indicating that a subsequent medical examination is required: McKay, supra.

When deciding whether to consent to a second ICBC medical examination it is good to consider the above factors. Last, but not least, it is important to know that such an examination is ‘discretionary’ and certain judges/masters of the BC Supreme Court may grant an application in circumstances where others may deny.

Rule 68 and Expert Costs

Rule 68 of the BC Supreme Court Rules was introduced to deal with certain cases worth $25,000 – $100,000. For such cases this rule was implemented to help bring cases to trial more quickly and with less expense. In doing so certain limits were imposed on how a claim can be prosecuted. One of the most significant restrictions (as it relates to ICBC injury claims) is the restriction of Rule 68(33) which generally limits a party to only one expert witness. Specifically this subrule states that:

(33) Unless the court orders otherwise, a party to an expedited action is entitled, under Rule 40A, to tender the written statement of, or to call to give oral opinion evidence, not more than

(a) one expert of the party’s choosing, and

(b) if the expert referred to in paragraph (a) does not have the expertise necessary to respond to the other party’s expert, one expert to provide the required response.

As many ICBC injury claims lawyers know, it is often difficult to prepare a case for trial with only one expert witness. Often an injured Plaintiff has several treating physicians and it is important to hear from all of them. Similarly it is often a good idea to retain a highly qualified specialist to conduct an ‘independent medical exam’ to summarize all of the Plaintiffs injuries and provide a comprehensive opinion addressing injuries, causation prognosis and need for future treatment. All of this costs money. When a case is prosecuted under Rule 68, then, does the above subsection prevent a successful plaintiff from claiming the costs of hiring more than one expert? Reasons for judgement were released today which say no.
In this case the Plaintiff suffered various injuries in a car accident. The claim was prosecuted under Rule 68 and eventually settled for $25,000. In prosecuting the case the Plaintiff lawyer obtained reports from 5 experts. ICBC argued that Rule 68
restricts the plaintiff to claiming disbursements relating to one expert only, unless (the Plaintiff) has obtained a court order allowing more than one expert…. as the plaintiff did not seek leave from the court to introduce more than one expert report, the plaintiff ought to be limited to claiming for only one expert’s report as part of the disbursements in this action…..based on the principles of proportionality and the express limit on the number of reports permissible in such an action, it was not reasonable or proper to engage this number of experts.
The court rejected this argument and held that in this case it was reasonable to have the Plaintiff assessed by more than one expert. Specifically the court stated that:
in the circumstances of this particular action (where the plaintiff was clearly fragile) it was reasonable and necessary to engage a number of experts to assess the plaintiff. If that is the case, then does the application of Rule 68 still prevent the plaintiff from claiming disbursements for each of those experts? I think not. Rule 68 does not say that a party is restricted, on an assessment of costs, from claiming for the costs of more than one expert. It simply says that, without leave of the court, a party may not elicit testimony from more than one expert witness. (the Plaintiff’s lawyer) was, in my view, obliged as counsel to try and determine the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and to understand the cause(s) of them. She would not have been able to do that without resort to the opinions of the various experts engaged.

ICBC Claims and Requests for "Particulars"

Reasons for judgement were released today dismissing a defence applicaiton seeking ‘particulars of the Plaintiff’s wage loss and loss of capacity claims“.
The Plaintiff was invovled in a motor vehicle accident. A Statement of Claim was filed in BC Supreme Court suing for, amongst other things ‘loss of earnings, past and prospective, loss of income earning capacity, loss of opportunity to earn income
A statement of Defence was filed. The Defendant then examined the Plaintiff for discovery and requested that the Plaintiff provdie ‘particulars of the wage-loss claim being advanced and loss of capacity claim”. The Plaintiff lawyer did not appear to agree to this request.
In dismissing the motion Master Baker noted that this was not truly a a request for particulars, rather this was a motion seeking evidence. The Court held that this motion should have been brought further to Rule 27 of the BC Rules of Court (the rule dealing with examinaitons for discovery) rather then pursuant to Rule 19 (the rule dealing with pleadings).
Master Baker made some interesting comments implying that such a motion may not be succesful even if brought pursuant to Rule 27 because such requests for evidence may be objectionable as being ‘too vague or speculative‘.

ICBC Claims and Trial Splitting

ICBC claims can be very expensive to bring to trial. Typically, most of the expenses are associated with the cost of presenting medical opinion evidence. Medical opinion evidence is often required to prove that injuries are caused by an accident, to discuss reasonable treatments (addressing special damages), and to address the specific diagnosis and prognosis of car accident related injuries. Such opinions can cost thousands of dollars to obtain and thousands more to present in court.
What if you have a case that is very risky? What if the trial outcome of ‘who is at fault’ is uncertain and should you lose on that issue you don’t want to be stuck with thousands of dollars of expenses for expert witness fees? Can you do anything about it? As with many areas of the law, the answer is sometimes.
Rule 39(29) of the BC Supreme Court Rules deals with splitting the issues at trial. In an ICBC claim, it is possible to use this rule to ask a court to let the liability (fault) part of a trial run first prior to the quantum part (the part that deals with the value of the ICBC claim).
Specifically, Rule 39(29) states that:
The court may order that one or more questions of fact or law arising in an action be tried and determined before the others, and upon the determination a party may move for judgment, and the court, if satisfied that the determination is conclusive of all or some of the issues between the parties, may grant judgment.
If the court allows an order splitting liability and quantum, and if you lose your ICBC claim at trial on the issue of liability, that could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars by having the case dismissed prior to presenting all of your medical evidence.
Reasons for judgement were released today where the Honourable Madam Justice Allan refused to sever the issues of quantum and fault.
In paragraphs 11-15 her Ladyship summarizes some of the principles court’s consider when reviewing such an application. I set out these paragraphs below:

[11] There is ample authority for the proposition that an applicant must establish that there exist extraordinary, exceptional or compelling reasons for severance, and not merely that it would be just and convenient to order severance: MacEachern v. Rennie, 2008 BCSC 1064; Hynes v. Westfair Foods Ltd., 2008 BCSC 637; and Westwick v. Culbert, [1992] B.C.J. No. 2121.

[12] It is true that some recent cases have held that a judge’s discretion to sever an issue or issues is not restricted to “extraordinary or exceptional circumstances”: Nguyen v. Bains, 2001 BCSC 1130; Enterprising Minds Technology Inc. v. Lululemon Athletica Inc., 2006 BCSC 1168. However, there must be some compelling reasons to order severance, such as a real likelihood of a significant savings in time and expense.

[13] Mr. McGivern relies heavily on Vaughn v. Starko, [2004] Y.J. No. 50, a decision of the Yukon Supreme Court. In that case, the plaintiff sought a determination of liability pursuant to Rule 18A with damages to be assessed at a later date. Gower J. rejected the defendant’s argument that there must be extraordinary, exceptional or compelling reasons for a severance of liability and damages. He drew a distinction between applications under Rule 39(29) and Rule 18A. He concluded at para. 48 it would not be unjust to decide the issue of liability on a summary basis and that it would be appropriate to sever liability from the issue of damages. Because the application was made under Rule 18A, he found that it was not necessary to apply the heavier onus for severance that Rule 39(29) imposed.

[14] With respect, I do not agree with the analysis in that case. Rule 18A is a method of trying a case summarily. The issues in determining whether Rule 18A is suitable are (1) whether it is possible to find the facts necessary to decide the issues of fact or law; and (2) whether it would be unjust to decide those issues summarily. On the other hand, Rule 39(29) provides the Court with the discretion to try one question of fact or law before another and give judgment. A determination of an application for severance must be informed by the case law that relates to the issue of severance, not to the issue of disposing of an action summarily.

[15] In an earlier case, Legrand v. Canning and Canning, 2000 BCSC 1633, Scarth J. dealt with a severance application brought under Rule 18A. He concluded that the plaintiff had not established extraordinary, exceptional or compelling reasons for severance. In that case, the liability issues were not plain in the circumstances and there was a further issue of whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. Evidence relating to the severity of the impact in question was relevant to the issues of liability and quantum.

Rule 39(29) is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC claim where the issue of fault is uncertain to see if time and expense can be saved by severing the issues of fault and quantum.

$30,000 Pain and Suffering awarded for "mild to moderate soft tissue injuries"

Blogging from Kelowna again (and a lot less rainy here than Victoria when I left this am)…
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $43,000 in damages as a result of a 2005 BC motor vehicle accident.
For the purpose of researching non-pecuniary damages, the key findings of fact were made starting at paragraph 132 of the judgement which I reproduce below. Of particular interest is the judge’s 25% reduction of non-pecuniary damages for the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’ set out at paragraph 134:

[132] I conclude that the plaintiff suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury the symptoms of which were exacerbated by his very heavy work duties, his financial worries, and the poor health of his wife and daughter. The combination resulted in a lack of motivation to adequately do the exercises and instead, a reliance on medications, which his wife supplied. On the evidence before me, I find that the injuries to his neck and upper back had more or less resolved within ten to twelve months after the accident with occasional flare-ups. It is probable that even with appropriate exercising, these symptoms would have persisted that long because he was obliged to return to work too early.

[133] There has been a substantial impact on his enjoyment of life and I am satisfied that he is not able to participate in family activities as much as he could before, including doing the Grouse Grind and fishing with his daughter. His ability to perform previously done housework has also been affected, although I am not satisfied on the evidence of the extent of gardening/lawn mowing help required. The daughter’s boyfriend could have been called as a witness and the failure to do so or explain his absence rightly allows the defence to suggest that I should draw an adverse inference, and I do so. Nevertheless, I accept that the plaintiff is not as able to bend or stoop to paint or do repairs to the house and his car. Further, in part because of his pain, his marital relations with his wife have been affected.

[134] Taking all that into consideration I find that the appropriate compensation for his non-pecuniary loss is $40,000, but this amount must be reduced because of what I find has been a significant failure on his part to mitigate his injuries. He has failed to abide by the doctors’ and physiotherapist’s advice to engage in an appropriate exercise program. Although he said that he could not afford the program, he admitted that he had not even taken any steps to enquire as to the cost. Further, the plaintiff has not diligently performed the exercises that can be done at home and stops at the first sign of pain. He relied and relies too heavily on painkillers when, in the opinion of the medical experts, he should be properly exercising. The defendants are not obliged to compensate a plaintiff who fails to take proper steps to reduce the extent of the loss. Accordingly, I would reduce the non-pecuniary damages as well as some other heads of damages by 25% to reflect this failure and set them at $30,000.

Drinking + Driving + Lying = -$67,000

Reasons for judgement were released today showing the potential consequences of driving after drinking and lying to ICBC about one’s level of intoxication.
In 2004 the Plaintiff was involved in a serious single vehicle accident. His vehicle was totaled and the amount of his own vehicle damage was $67,000.
He told ICBC that “I had no alcohol to drink on the day of the accident. I may have had one or two drinks in the twenty four hours prior to the accident”. It turns out this was false.
ICBC refused to pay the Plaintiff’s own damage claim. The Plaintiff sued ICBC for the value of the vehicle damage.
The evidence of a blood alcohol analyst was tendered by ICBC which showed that his evidence of ‘one or two drinks‘ was “inconsistent with the results of the blood sample analysis“.
In the end ICBC refused to pay out the Plaintiff’s claim because of his false statement to ICBC. Section 19(1)(e) of the then Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act states that if an insured makes a willfully false statement with respect to an ICBC claim under their plan of insurance the claim can be rendered invalid.
Mr. Justice Masuhara concluded that ICBC was right in refusing to honour the Plaintiff’s claim and dismissed the lawsuit finding that “It is apparent to me that (the Plaintiff) was seriously intoxicated the night before the accident…He had a responsibility out of good faith to his insurer to disclose at least that he could not recall because of his drinking, instead of stating that he ‘may have had’ one or two beers…which can be taken as a statement of minimal consumption….I conclude, regrettably, that the evidence is clear and cogent that (the Plaintiff) did not have a belief in the truth of the statement he provided regarding his alcohol consumption‘.

The Civil Consequences – ICBC and Drunk Drivers

As a BC personal injury lawyer that started out my career in criminal defence work I have seen both the civil and criminal consequences of drunk driving. Most people know about the criminal consequences but the civil consequences can be much worse.
If you are convicted of impaired driving, you will lose your license for some time, you will have a criminal record, you may even spend a little time in jail. When all is done you pick your life up and carry on. The civil consequences, on the other hand, are not always so easy to get away from.
Imagine these facts: You drive drunk. You hit another car and are at fault. Both cars are totaled. You are injured. The other driver is injured. What can the civil consequences be?
You will be in breach of your ICBC insurance. ICBC will not cover your medical expenses. ICBC will not pay for your lost wages. ICBC will not fix your car. ICBC pays off the other driver’s vehicle damage claim (let’s say $20,000). The other driver’s injury claim gets settled, lets say for $100,000. Now ICBC will come after you for the extent of the other drivers claims, $120,000 in this example.
Where does this leave you
1. No car (maybe still making car payments on a totaled car)
2. Injuries with mounting medical and rehabilitation debts
3. Lost wages
4. A massive debt to ICBC. Don’t feel like paying? Good luck having your insurance and driver’s license renewed. Thinking of driving on your suspended license? Say hi to your criminal lawyer when he visits you in jail.
The civil consequences can be a lot worse for impaired driving in BC than the criminal consequences. These can include a debt so great that it will take a lifetime to pay off. There are countless sound reasons not to drive drunk and the civil consequences of impaired driving will hit you hardest in pocket book.

Another ICBC LVI Trial, Another Award for Pain and Suffering

After a summary trial on June 23, 2008 pursuant to Rule 18-A (a rule that lets certain cases proceed to trial using affidavit’s as evidence instead of requiring the parties and witnesses to testify in person in court) reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff $12,250.10 in compensation as a result of a 2005 Vancouver car crash.
This is another LVI case. The Plaintiff’s 1995 Honda Civic was rear-ended by a Ford F150 pickup truck. It was apparent that ‘this was a low impact collision’.
Many BC residents have received letters from ICBC telling them their claim has been denied based on ICBC’s LVI policy often referred to as ‘no-crash no cash’.
As is often the case, here the claim was brought to trial and the court recognized that an injury occurred despite the absence of significant vehicle damage. In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Williams made some useful comments about LVI crashes, specifically:

[18] This was undoubtedly a low velocity collision where damage to the vehicles was so minimal as to be almost non-existent. All of the evidence supports that conclusion. In such instances, claims for compensation for injury are often resisted on the basis that there is reason to doubt their legitimacy. Furthermore, in this case the principal evidence in support of the plaintiff’s claim is subjective, that is, it is her self-report. There is not a great deal of objective evidence to support her description of the injuries she claims to have suffered.

[19] In response to those concerns, I would observe that there is no principle of law which says that because the damage to the vehicles is slight or non-detectable, that it must follow that there is no injury. Certainly, as a matter of common sense, where the collision is of slight force, any injury is somewhat likely at least to be less severe than in a situation where the forces were greater, such as to result in significant physical damage to the automobiles. Nevertheless, I do not accept that there can be no injury where there is no physical damage to the vehicles.

The court went on to find that the Plaintiff suffered injuries as follows:
[21] I find that the plaintiff is an honest witness and accept her evidence of the event and its consequences. On all the evidence, I conclude that the plaintiff was injured in the collision and that she experienced moderate discomfort in the first two or three months following the accident. With the passage of time, she made a steady and gradual recovery, although there was some ongoing but lessening discomfort over the following months. Fortunately for her, the degree of pain was not especially great, although it undoubtedly detracted from her everyday comfort and full enjoyment of life. To some degree, she experienced frustration and impatience with the way she felt. There is a paucity of evidence with respect to details of disruptions or difficulties that the injuries caused in her day to day routine.
$9,000 was awarded for pain and suffering, $2,031 for lost wages when she took time off work ‘to enable her to recover from her injuries’ and $1,219.10 in special damages (accident related out of pocket expenses).

"Please My Lord, No Jury For My ICBC Claim"

Did you know that either side to an ICBC claim in BC Supeme Court can elect trial by Jury (unless of course the claim is being prosecuted under Rule 66 or 68).
One of the practical effects of trial by Jury is that it makes claims longer and more expensive. I won’t get into all the reasons of why this is at this time but it is generally true.
ICBC often sets claims for jury trials when they involve Low Velocity Impacts or involve injuries with little objective verification.
What if you don’t want a trial by Jury? Can you do anything about it? The answer is sometimes.
Rule 39(27) of the BC Supreme Court rules deals with when a court may refuse a jury trial. One of the main challenges to trial by Jury is that the claims is to complex for the jury to deal with.
Such an applicaiton was brought recently and rejected by Master Tokarek who released written reasons for his decision today.
In this case the Plaintiff sued for various injuries sustained in a series of 4 accidents. In this case there was a significant amount of medical evidence that the Jury would have to deal with. The Plaintiff tried to get rid of ICBC’s jury notice arguing that “in light of all of the available reports, this matter is too complex and intricate for a jury to deal with“.
The court rejected this argument finding that
My impression, upon reading those reports, is that although there are a great many reports to deal with, they do not strike me as being overly complex or difficult. In fact, one or more of the reports, the exact numbers of which I neglect to make a note of so I cannot refer specifically to them in these reasons, but nevertheless one or more of these reports struck me as being very impressive in the way in which the author laid out in layman’s terms some of the definitions and explanations of what the symptoms and injuries were all about……There is in British Columbia, as plaintiff’s counsel candidly admitted, a very strong right to a party to choose a trial by jury, subject to the restrictions imposed by legislation, and therefore the onus does fall to the plaintiff to make its case that the defendant ought not to have its right to a jury trial. As I have said, I believe that the plaintiff has fallen short of satisfying that onus in this particular case.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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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