Tag: chronic pain syndrome

More on Facebook and BC Injury Claims

Further to my previous posts on the subject, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, showing that the use of Facebook photos by Defence Lawyers is a trend that is becoming well entrenched in ICBC and other BC Injury Claims.
In today’s case (Mayenburg v. Yu) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  Liability (fault) for the crash was admitted by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages were valued at $50,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Myers accepted the evidence of Dr. Apel, an expert in physical and rehabilitation medicine.  Dr. Apel opined that the accident caused a soft tissue injury to the Plaintiff’s upper trapezius muscles described as a “myofascial pain of mild severity“.  Additionally the Plaintiff was found to have “myofascial chronic regional pain syndrome of the gluteus medius” and “mechanical back pain“.
The court accepted that the Plaintiff’s injuries were likely permanent, specifically noting that her “prognosis for complete symptom resolution is guarded“.
At trial the Defence Lawyer challenged the credibility of the Plaintiff and to this end tried to introduce 273 photos from the Plaintiff’s Facebook wall.
Mr. Justice Myers noted that “the bulk of these photos showed no more than (the Plaintiff) enjoying herself with her friends“.   He ruled that over 200 of these photos were inadmissible only permitting the photos that showed the plaintiff “doing a specific activity which she said she had difficulty performing”, he did not let the other photos in because they “had no probative value“.
Mr. Justice Myers did not agree with the Defendant’s challenges to the Plaintiff’s credibility noting that the admissible photos did not contradict the Plaintiff’s evidence, specifically he stated as follows:

[40]    This left a subset of approximately 69 photographs.  These showed Ms. Mayenburg doing things such as hiking, dancing, or bending.  However, even these photos do not serve to undercut Ms. Mayenburg’s credibility, because she did not say that she could not do these activities or did not enjoy them.  Rather, she said she would feel the consequences afterwards.

[41]    In effect, the defendants sought to set up a straw person who said that she could not enjoy life at all subsequent to the accident.  That was not the evidence of Ms. Mayenburg.

[42]    As indicated above, I accept the conclusions of Dr. Apel.  That said, Ms. Mayenburg’s injuries have had minimal effect on her lifestyle or her ability to carry on with the activities that she enjoyed beforehand.  Her damages must be assessed on that basis.

[43]    In terms of the facts relevant to assessing non-pecuniary damages (as opposed to loss of capacity) this case is remarkably similar to Henri v. Seo, 2009 BCSC 76, in which Boyd J. awarded the plaintiff $50,000.  I find that to be a suitable award in this case.

The Defence also tried  to minimize the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries by pointing out that there was a “limited number of times she visited physicians to complain about her pain”  Mr. Justice Myers quickly disposed of this argument noting

[37]    I do not accept those submissions, which have been made and rejected in several other cases:  see Myers v. Leng, 2006 BCSC 1582 and Travis v. Kwon, 2009 BCSC 63.  Ms. Mayenburg is to be commended for getting on with her life, rather than seeing physicians in an attempt to build a record for this litigation.  Furthermore, I fail to see how a plaintiff-patient who sees a doctor for something unrelated to an accident can be faulted for not complaining about the accident-related injuries at the same time.  Dr. Ducholke testified how her time with patients was limited.

[38]    In summary, Ms. Mayenburg’s complaints to her doctors were not so minimal as to cast doubt on her credibility.

Lastly, this case is also worth reviewing as it contains a useful discussion of ‘rebuttal’ expert medical evidence at paragraphs 29-35.

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for PTSD and Chronic Pain

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $142,000 in total damages as a result of a 2005 BC Car Crash.
In today’s case (Quinlan v. Quaiscer) the Plaintiff suffered various injuries including PTSD and a Chronic Pain Disorder.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $90,000 Mr. Justice Cole summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[61] There is evidence that the plaintiff has suffered from depression off and on since 1994, including post-partum depression after the births of her children. Additionally, the plaintiff has had a tumultuous relationship with her now ex-husband, which has certainly affected her emotional state. There is evidence, however, that the plaintiff’s prescription for depression medication a few months prior to the Accident was not filled. Dr. Pirolli stated in her report that the plaintiff’s current emotional problems include PTSD and low mood. The PTSD, as I have stated above, is a consequence of the Accident. Regarding the plaintiff’s low mood, Dr. Pirolli stated that it could not “be directly attributed to the accident itself. There is the possibility, however, that any psychological issues present at the time of the accident may have been exacerbated by the accident and its sequelae”. In my view, the plaintiff’s depression prior to the Accident was not significant, and I find that the plaintiff was not suffering from debilitating depression at the time of the Accident.

[62] As mentioned above, the plaintiff’s cuts and bruises resolved within three to six months after the Accident. She is left with a permanent one-inch scar on her elbow, a three and a half inch c-shaped scar on her left knee, and a dark scar on her left shin. Her nose was broken and she had dizziness and headaches. As described in the medical evidence above, the plaintiff’s right wrist pain, right shoulder and right chest area injuries have persisted. Though Dr. Travlos was of the view that the plaintiff would continue to improve over the next 18 months (from his report of April 2007), he stated: “To what extent she recovers is difficult to say at this time and a definitive prognosis cannot be made”. The plaintiff’s problems have not improved to any great extent over the course of the 18 months following that report.

[63] Dr. Travlos was of the view that the plaintiff’s problems of chronic pain syndrome related to the diffused soft-tissue pain that the plaintiff suffered in the right arm and shoulder. In cross-examination he stated that it was unlikely that the plaintiff will fully recover and there is no guarantee that participation in treatment recommendations will result in improvements of those symptoms. The plaintiff’s injuries restrict her ability to participate in physical activities that she formerly enjoyed, such as skiing and baseball. I believe, however, that part of the reason the plaintiff does not participate in these sports is because of a lack of financial resources.

[64] I am satisfied that taking into consideration the plaintiff’s PTSD and her multiple injuries, an appropriate award for non-pecuniary general damages would be $90,000.

$45,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Aggravation of Chronic Pain

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages for accident related injuries.
In today’s case (Cheng v. Kamboz) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 BC Car Crash. The other motorist admitted fault.  The issue the court dealt with was quantum of damages (value of the Plaintiff’s claim).
Mr. Justice Myers found that the Plaintiff suffered from pre-existing chronic pain at the time of the crash.  Specifically he found that the Plaintiff suffered from headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and low back pain.  Notwithstanding these pre-accident complaints the Court found that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing “chronic pain” was transformed into a “chronic pain syndrome” as a result of the collision.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $45,000 for this aggravation Mr. Justice Myers reasoned as follows:

[39]    I find that before the accident Ms. Cheng was suffering – to a lesser extent – from all the pain of which she now complains.  Ms. Cheng says that she had no hip pain before the accident; however, that is not what she told Dr. Feldman when she mentioned what she referred to as being symptomatic of myasthenia gravis, to which I referred above at para. 29.  Whether it was caused by the myasthenia gravis is, in this context, beside the point.

[40]    Ms. Cheng was suffering from headaches prior to the accident in question.  While she says they are more frequent now, the difference is minimal.  Further, they are often brought on by stress at work and that is a variable which has nothing to do with the accident.

[41]    That said, the accident exacerbated the injuries and escalated chronic pain into chronic pain syndrome.  Causation for the exacerbation and chronic pain syndrome has been shown.  The harm caused by the defendant is divisible from the harm caused by the prior accidents and the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition.  To be clear, this is not the type of case, as was Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458, in which a pre-existing condition of the plaintiff made him more amenable to a specific injury (a disc herniation).

[42]    Damages are to be assessed on the basis that Ms. Cheng is to be put in the position she was before the accident, but not in a better position.

[43]    Ms. Cheng referred me to cases in which the damage range was between $80,000 and $100,000.  The defendants’ cases ranged from $35,000 to $60,000.

[44]    The injuries will not result in a drastic change of lifestyle for Ms. Cheng.  As I have noted, she was not physically active before the accident.  None of the doctors have opined that she will not be able to resume the limited walking she was doing before the accident.  The same can be said with respect to going to the theatre.  The migraines were present before the accident and her reduced playing of video games because of the migraines cannot be blamed to any substantial degree on the accident.

[45]    On the other hand it must be recognised that the accident did cause her chronic pain syndrome and that it is likely to continue for some time.

[46]    In my view, the proper assessment of damages for the exacerbation of Ms. Cheng’s prior injuries and the addition of the chronic pain syndrome is $45,000.

BC Personal Injury Claims Round Up

On Friday two more cases were released by the BC Supreme Court dealing with non-pecuniary damages which  I summarize below to add to this Pain and Suffering database.
The first case (Macki v. Gruber) dealt with a bus accident.   The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a Greyhound bus in Duncan, BC.  Liability was contested but the Greyhound bus driver was found 100% at fault for the accident.  Paragraphs 1-60 of the case deal with the issue of fault and are worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Metzger’s discussion of credibility.  In finding the Defendant at fault the Court found that he was “careless” and that he “lied” and his evidence was rejected in all areas that it was in “conflict with the testimony of any other witness“.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries, the most serious of which neck pain, headaches and upper back pain.  She was diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome.  Mr. Justice Metzger assessed her non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 and in doing summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[144] I find the chronic pain has made Ms. Mackie reclusive and morose. She has gone from a “bubbly, fun-loving, outgoing, social, interesting” person, to someone who is  anti-social, with bouts of depression and sadness. From the evidence of the plaintiff and Ms. Garnett, I find that the plaintiff defines herself as a very hardworking woman, but that the chronic pain prevents her exhibiting her previous commitment to work.

[145] This loss of enjoyment of life and identity is given considerable weight.

[146] I am satisfied the plaintiff is resilient and stoic by nature, and I do not doubt the extent of her pain and suffering. She has endured a regime of injections in order to retain some of her employment capacity. Plaintiffs are not to receive a lesser damage award because of their stoicism.

[147] I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s injuries and ongoing limitations are more like those cited in the plaintiff’s authorities and therefore I award her $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

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In the second case released on Friday (Dhillon v. Ashton) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate rear-end collisions.  Both claims were heard at the same time and fault was admitted leaving the court to deal with the sole issue of damages.

Madam Justice Ross found that the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries in each of the 2 accidents.  She awarded non-pecuniary damages in total of $25,000 for both collisions.

In assessing an award of $15,000 for non-pecuniary damages for the first accident the Court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[60]         I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered soft tissue injury to his neck, right shoulder and low back in the First MVA. He suffered from headaches arising from this injury, but these resolved in a relatively short period of time. The injury to the right shoulder had essentially resolved by mid-May 2005. I find, consistent with Dr. Sandhu’s report that Mr. Dhillon was unable to work as a result of his injuries from the time of the First MVA to mid-May 2005 and then continued to suffer partial disability at work until July 2005. By July 2005 he was able to return to work without limitation. I find that his injuries from the First MVA were essentially resolved by October 2005, except for intermittent pain, consistent with Dr. Sandhu’s report. From October 2005 until the time of the First Workplace Accident, Mr. Dhillon required the use of pain medication for low back pain that was the consequence of both his prior condition and lingering consequences of the First MVA.

[61]         In the result, I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injury from the First MVA with the symptoms most significant in the first three months following the injury; with some ongoing problems for the next five months and intermittent pain thereafter. I find the appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages for the First MVA to be $15,000.00.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $10,000 for the second accident Madam Justice Ross summarized the injuries it caused as follows:

[64]         I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered soft tissue injuries in the Second MVA that resulted in an exacerbation of his injuries to his neck, shoulder, and low back. He had returned to work following the Second Workplace Accident before the Second MVA, but was not able to work after this accident. He required physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and pain medication for both the continuing injuries from the Workplace Accidents, an apparent recurrence or continuation of the right side back problem first noted in 2000, and the Second MVA. Mr. Dhillon was able to return to work part-time in November 2006 and full-time in January 2007. He requires some accommodation from his employer in terms of his duties. He continues to experience pain and requires medication to control his pain. I find that the Second MVA plays some role, albeit a minimal one, in Mr. Dhillon’s continuing symptoms, the other more significant contributors being the original complaint of low back pain, and the two Workplace Accidents.

[65]         In the circumstances, I find that $10,000.00 is an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss for the Second MVA

BC Personal Injury Claims Round-Up

On Friday the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement dealing with awards for pain and suffering in 3 separate motor vehicle accident cases.
In my continued efforts to create an easy to access data-base of ICBC related claims for pain and suffering here are the highlights of these cases:
In the first case (Driscoll v. Desharnais) the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, back and shoulder in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.  In justifying an award for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) of $55,000 the court summarized the injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:

[101]        The trial occurred about five years following the accident.  Mr. Driscoll continues to suffer pain, significant sleep disturbance, and restrictions on his activities.  He is stoic and is inclined to push through pain until it becomes intolerable.  He has a reduced capacity to work, and despite his preference for working alone, he cannot operate his business without hiring other workers.  He is no longer able to participate in some of the activities he enjoyed, such as motorcycle riding, full-contact ball hockey, golf, and rough-housing with his children.  

[102]        The evidence demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that these problems were caused by the accident.  Although Mr. Driscoll had received physiotherapy prior to the accident, the treatments were all at least 18 months prior to the accident, and were for short periods.  All the problems had resolved prior to the accident.  The injury he suffered on the toboggan appeared to be a brief flare-up of his back symptoms, rather than a new injury.

A highlight of this decision for me was the court’s discussion of credibility.  One of the tricks of the trade for ICBC defence lawyers in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims is to challenge the credibility of the Plaintiff.   That appeared to be a tactic employed in this case and the Defendant asked the court to consider the following well-known principle often cited in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Cases:

[6]                The case of Price v. Kostryba (1982)70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.), is often cited as a reminder of the approach the court must take to assessing injuries which depend on subjective reports of pain.  I quote portions of pages 397-399 of those reasons for judgment:

The assessment of damages in a moderate or moderately severe whiplash injury is always difficult because plaintiffs, as in this case, are usually genuine, decent people who honestly try to be as objective and as factual as they can. Unfortunately, every injured person has a different understanding of his own complaints and injuries, and it falls to judges to translate injuries to damages.

Perhaps no injury has been the subject of so much judicial consideration as the whiplash. Human experience tells us that these injuries normally resolve themselves within six months to a year or so. Yet every physician knows some patients whose complaint continues for years, and some apparently never recover. For this reason, it is necessary for a court to exercise caution and to examine all the evidence carefully so as to arrive at a fair and reasonable compensation. Previously decided cases are some help (but not much, because obviously every case is different). …

In Butler v. Blaylock, decided 7th October 1981, Vancouver No. B781505 (unreported), I referred to counsel’s argument that a defendant is often at the mercy of a plaintiff in actions for damages for personal injuries because complaints of pain cannot easily be disproved. I then said:

I am not stating any new principle when I say that the court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.

An injured person is entitled to be fully and properly compensated for any injury or disability caused by a wrongdoer. But no one can expect his fellow citizen or citizens to compensate him in the absence of convincing evidence — which could be just his own evidence if the surrounding circumstances are consistent – that his complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury.

Fortunately for the Plaintiff a positive finding was made as to his reliability and damages were assessed accordingly.

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The second case released on Friday (Eccleston v. Dresen) involved a 2002 collision which took place in Salmon Arm, BC.  The injuries included chronic soft tissue injuries of moderate severity and a chronic pain syndrome.  Both liability and quantum of damages (value of the ICBC Injury Claim) were at issue.   The Plaintiff was found 60% at fault for the collision.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $108,000 Mr. Justice Barrow made the following findings:

[127]        I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back.  Further, I am satisfied that she developed and continues to suffer chronic pain as a result.  I am also satisfied that she is depressed and that the proximate cause of her depression is the pain she experiences.

[128]        I am not satisfied that her complaints of pain are motivated by any secondary gain; rather, I am satisfied that she has met the onus of establishing that, as Taylor J.A. in Maslen v. Rubenstein (1993), 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131, 33 B.C.A.C. 182, at para. 8 put it:

…her psychological problems have their cause in the defendant’s unlawful act, rather than in any desire on the plaintiff’s part for things such as care, sympathy, relaxation or compensation, and also that the plaintiff could not be expected to overcome them by his or her own inherent resources, or ‘will-power’.

[129]        Further, I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s condition is likely permanent; although it is more likely than not that it will moderate if she follows the advice of Dr. O’Breasail.  He is of the view that with intensive psychotherapy for at least a year, followed by two further years of less intensive therapy coupled with a review of her medications and particularly anti-depressant medication, there is some hope that she will either experience less pain or be better able to cope with the pain she does experience, or both.

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The final motor vehicle accident case addressing pain and suffering released on Friday (Murphy v. Jagerhofer) involved a Plaintiff who was injured in a 2004 rear end collision in Chilliwack, BC.   The injuries included a moderate to severe whiplash injury with associated chronic pain, disturbed sleep and headaches.  In justifying a non-pecuniary damages award of $100,000 Mr. Justice Warren made the following factual findings after a summary trial pursuant to Rule 18-A:

[112]        The issue of causation in this case is determined by applying the factors in Athey.  Here the defendants argue that there were pre-existing conditions that would have affected the plaintiff in any event.  I disagree.  I find on the evidence of both Dr. Porter and Dr. Bishop that the plaintiff was asymptomatic of the complaints he now has which have arisen from the injuries he suffered in this accident.  Using the rather macabre terms found in other cases, this plaintiff had a “thin skull” rather than a “crumbling skull” and on my reading of those medical opinions I prefer, I find there was no “measurable risk that the pre-existing condition would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future. . . .” Athey, per Major, J. at para. 35. 

[113]        Accordingly, I find that the presenting complaints of the plaintiff were caused by the negligence of the defendant driver and I turn to address the issue of appropriate compensation.  In this, I am strongly influenced by the opinions of Drs. Porter and Longridge and the opinion of Mr. Koch.  The plaintiff suffered a moderate to severe whiplash type injury which had a significant physical and emotional effect upon him some of which have persisted to the day of trial and will continue into the future.  The back and neck pain caused him considerable pain and caused sleeplessness, headaches and general body pain for which he was prescribed pain medication.  Many of these symptoms continued well into 2005 despite his participation in a Work Hardening Programme in the fall of 2004.  I accept that he has tried every mode in an effort to alleviate his symptoms.  In his opinion, Dr. Bishop dismissed passive therapies, but I conclude it was understandable that the plaintiff would follow other professional advice and give these therapies every chance to help.  I say that with the exception of the later cortisone injections, which are painful and of very limited result, and also the later chiropractic attention.

[114]        Added to his back and neck pain, the plaintiff has experienced some hearing loss, tinnitus and episodes of dizziness.  These are frustrating and to some extent debilitating.  He also has jaw, or temporal mandibular joint arthralgia and myofascial pain.  He was given an oral appliance which he is to wear on a daily basis yet he continues to experience jaw stiffness and fatigue. 

[115]        It is understandable that these conditions have affected him emotionally.  The opinion of Mr. Koch corroborates the plaintiff’s evidence.  I accept the opinion of Mr. Koch that the plaintiff “downplays” the difficulties in his life and that the plaintiff has a phobia of motor vehicle travel, post-traumatic stress disorder and related repressive symptoms. 

I hope these case highlights continue to be a useful resource for my readers in helping learn about the value of non-pecuniary damages in ICBC Injury Claims.  As always, I welcome any feedback from all my visitors.

Appeal of $70,000 Soft Tissue Injury Claim Dismissed

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

[33]            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.

[34]            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.

[35]            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.

[36]            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.

[37]            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.

[38]            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.

 

Chronic Pain Syndrome and Fractured Spine Net $60,000 for Pain and Suffering

In a judgement released today a total of $81,694 was awarded in compensation as a result of a 2004 ‘chain rear end’ accident in BC.
The accident involved mutliple vehicles and the force of the crash was enough to write off the Plaintiff’s car. Fault was admitted by ICBC leaving only quantum of damages at issue.
As a result of crash the court found that the Plaintiff suffered from a fracture at T12 and a disc injury to T11 / T12 and perhaps T9 / T10 (basically fractures to the mid back) and that the Plaintiff ‘has gone on to develop a chronic pain syndrome with discomfort, sleep disturbance and depression.
The court went on to award $60,000 for pain and suffering, $20,000 for Loss of Earning Capacity and just over $1,000 in special damages (out of pocket expenses as a result of the accident.)
This case is worth reading for the judge’s discussion of credibility. When people complain of ‘chronic pain’ in an ICBC claim their credibility is always at issue. The reason is obvious, pain cannot be measured objectively. People can only describe their pain and a judge or jury can believe this descrpiton or reject it. In this case the judge had problems with the Plaintiff’s credibility but accepted that her chronic pain syndrome was legitimate.
More interesting is the judge’s comments on the credibility of the expert witnesses that testified. In this case ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, hired an orthopaedic surgeon to examine the Plaintiff. He testified, in essence, that the Plaintiff had no serious injuries or ongoing problems. The court rejected this doctor’s evidence finding that ‘it was obvious to me that he had not spent as much time, nor was he as objective in his assessment of the Plaintiff (as her own physicians were). (ICBC’s doctor) impressed upon me that he was more of an advocate for ICBC than an objective expert, and I therefoe attach little wieght to his evidence.
This case is also worth reviewing for the judge’s great summary of the law relating to future wage loss at paragraphs 34 and 35.

PTSD and Chronic Pain Claims Dismissed, $36,260 Awarded for Soft Tissue Inuries and Anxiety

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.

Damages of $216,430 Awarded for 2 rear-end collisions

In reasons for judgement released today the Honourable Mr. Justice Smith awarded a 46 year old mechanic over $200,000 in compensation as a result of 2 rear-end motor vehicle accidents.
The first accident was in May 2002. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended with enough force to push it into the vehicle ahead of the Plaintiff. The second accident for which compensation was sought occurred 3 years later in May 2005. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was ‘struck from behind with enough force to break the back of the driver’s seat and push the vehicle into the vehicle ahead‘.
The Plaintiff had pre-existing, asymptomatic, osteoarthritis. A rheumatologist gave evidence that “The Plaintiff’s major current symptoms are in the neck and some pain and restricted movement will likely continue given the established nature of the osteoarthritis“. He went on to state that “asymptomatic arthritis often becomes symptomatic following a motor vehicle accident or other trauma and although the relationship is poorly understood and contraversial, it’s something I often see in practice“.
A physiatrist (a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) who assessed the Plaintiff at the request of the Plaintiff;s family physician gave evidence that “the Plaintiff’s complaints could not be fully explained based upon the physical findings” and he diagnosed a pain disorder.
This diagnosis of a chronic pain disorder was shared by the Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist.
After hearing all of the evidence the court found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries in the first accident with the most severe symnptoms being in his lower back. There was substantial improvement withing the first 6-8 months, and chronic but not disabling pain conintued for another 2.5 years. The court alos found that the back pain was not as “severe or as frequent as the Plaintiff now recalls it“.
Addressing the second accident the court found that “the Plaintiff has had some increase in back pain, but the most significant pain was in the neck, where he has the more significant spondylosis. This pain is likley to worsen as (the Plaintiff) gets older. Again, this pain is nto disabling and the plaintiff could, if necessary, return to either of his former occupations but, given the pain and discomfort he experiences, he is well advised to seek lighter work
In discussing the connection between the accident and the pre-existing condition the court noted that “the Plaintiff in this case had a degenerative condition that was not symptomatic. He had no prior neck or back pain prior to these accidents. Temporal connection between an accident and the onset of symptoms does not, in and of itself, prove causation…It is not necessary for the Plaintiff to prove that he would never have developed symptoms from his degenerative condition ‘but for’ the accident. He must only prove that ‘but for’ the accident, he would not have developed these symptoms when he did….I find that the Plaintiff has proved, on a balance of probabilities, that his spondylosis would not have become symptomatic when it did but for the third accident.
In the end the court awarded damages as follows:

For the Accident of May 18, 2002:

Non-pecuniary damages

$30,000.00

Past income loss
(subject to deduction for Income tax)

$5,939.18.

For the Accident of May 5, 2005

Non-pecuniary damages

$52,500.00

Past income loss
(subject to deduction for Income tax)

$62,499.00

Loss of Future Earning Capacity

$45,500.00

Cost of Retraining

$2,730.00

Cost of Future Care

$15,300.00

Special Damages
(Not apportioned)

$1,926.39

$550,828 Awarded for Chronic Pain and Disc Herniation

In reasons for judgement released today, Madam Justice Morrison awarded a total of $550,828 in compensation for an August, 2004 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a 45 year old senior commercial lines insurance underwriter. She was injured in a rear-end collision. As in most ICBC rear-end collisions, the defence lawyer admitted fault on behalf of the defendant leaving only quantum of damages (value of the claim) at issue.
A neurosurgeon who testified on behalf of the Plaintiff was found to give ‘compelling’ evidence. In summarizing the Plaintiff’s injuries the neurosurgon stated as follows
My diagnosis is soft tissue injuries to the lumbar spine, referable to the motor vehicle accident in question, traumatic left L3-4 disc herniation causing left L4 nerve root pain and contributing to low back pain. In my opinion, it is also possible that the motor vehicle accident may have negatively impacted on the eventual outcome from the right L5-S1 disc herniation. The preoperative CT scan did show a focal disc herniation at the right L5-S1 level. This was confirmed on the post motor vehicle accident MRI scan. It is conceivable that the force that was sustained during the motor vehicle accident could have further damaged the compressed right S1 nerve root. In other words, were it not for the accident, her outcome from the right L5-S1 discectomy may have been better
Commenting on the vocational impact of the injuries the Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon stated that:
It is my opinion that (the Plaintiff) will be left with permanent back pain. This will result in some limitation of her vocational potential, especially as it relates to jobs that require a lot of sitting, repetitive twisting or turning of the lumbar spine, or lifting.
The trial judge reached a favourable conclusion regarding the Plaintiff’s claim stating that:
On causation, I am satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the motor vehicle accident of August 8, 2004, more likely than not, was the cause, or contributed to the injuries of the plaintiff. No other conclusion makes sense. The chronic pain would not have occurred except for that accident. I conclude, on a balance of probabilities, that the right-sided pain would not have recurred, but for that accident, and that the left-sided pain was due to the accident, without question
After accepting virtually all of the Plaintiff’s evidence Madam Justice Morrison awarded damages as follows:
Non Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering): $100,000
Special Damages: $7,828
Past Income Loss: $73,000
Loss of income earning capacity: $200,000
Cost of Future Care: $170,000

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

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