In reasons for judgement released today Madam Justice Dillon of the BC Supreme Court awarded an injured Plaintiff just over $200,000 in damages as a result of a ‘hit and run’ accident.
The Plaintiff was 56 at the time of the BC car crash. He was on his way to work when he was rear-ended. The crash was significant enough to push the Plaintiff’s car the length of a city block prior to coming to a stop. The Defendant ‘took off around a corner” after the collision.
The Plaintiff is an apparently stoic man who returned to work despite being injured in this crash. He continued to work for several days ‘before (his) neck and back pain, headaches and dizziness steadily increased to the point that (he) was unable to perfrom the heavy work of a millwright.’
The Plaintiff was off work for almost 6 months prior to returning to work full time. Once returning he struggled and needed assistance from his work partners. He also struggled in taking advantage of over-time opportunities.
As in many ICBC injury claims that go to trial, the court heard from various doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon, a physiatrist, a neurologist and the Plaintiff’s GP. Again, as is common in ICBC injury claims, the doctors testifying had varying takes on the nature and severity of the Plaintiff’s injuries and their connection to the car accident.
No issue was taken a trial as to who was at fault for this rear-end accident. The trial focused on quantum of damages (value of the injuries). The theory advanced by ICBC’s expert was that, while the Plaintiff was injured, the Plaintiff ‘probably would have had these problems regardless of the accident because of his underlying degeneration of the cervical and lumbar spine‘.
The court heard evidence from the Plaintiff’s doctors that he had various injuries that would likely impact him well into the future.
The court’s key finding as to the extent of injury can be found at paragraph 28 where Madam Justice Dillon noted that:
 There is no medical opinion that the plaintiff would have suffered from chronic neck or back pain, to the extent and severity that he has incurred, but for the accident. Gold has developed severe and disabling chronic neck and back pain, which significantly limits movement. He continues to have headaches. His condition plateaued within two years after the injury and has not improved despite reasonable effort on his part. This has had a significant effect on his ability to work overtime to the extent that he did before the accident and requires cooperation with his work partners to fulfill the mandate of his job without formal accommodation being made. He has suffered a loss of lifestyle and recreational activity.
The court awarded $80,000 for ‘general damages’ (pain and suffering).
The court also made an award for past wage loss, past loss of overtime opportunities and loss of future earnings.
This case raised some common issues which often arise in ICBC claims. Particularly the amount of past loss income when a Plaintiff returns to work but is not able to work as many overtime shifts. I recommend this case for anyone involved in an ICBC injury claim who has missed overtime work as a result of injuries. This case gives an example of how this issue can be dealt with at trial. The personal injury lawyer representing the Plaintiff capably called evidence addressing wage loss and overtime and in the end the court addressed this loss fairly.
In awarding money for loss of future wages, the court noted that “there is more than a substantial possibility that the plaintiff will be unable to work overtime at his historical pre-accident rate into the future.’ and also that, given the Plaintiff’s age and injuries, that he would have ‘a difficult time finding work if his (current) job ended‘, As a result of this the court awarded $70,000 for loss of future earnings / loss of earning capacity.
Lastly, the ICBC lawyers argued that “damages should be reduced by 25% because the plaintiff failed to start an exercise programme as recommended by his general practitioner, his physiotherapist, and the rehabilitation medicine specialist“
This argument is known in law as ‘failure to mitigate’. If a person injured in an ICBC claim does not take reasonable steps to recover from their injuries the value of compensation can be reduced.
The court summarized the law of ‘failure to mitigate’ as follows:
 To succeed in this submission, the third party must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the plaintiff failed to undertake the recommended treatment; that by following that recommended treatment he could have overcome or could in the future overcome the problems; and that his refusal to take that treatment was unreasonable (Janiak v. Ippolito,  1 S.C.R. 146, 16 D.L.R. (4th) 1; Maslen v. Rubenstein,  1 W.W.R. 53 at 57-58, 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131 (C.A.); Fox v. Danis, 2005 BCSC 102 at para. 37). The remedial programme must be likely to achieve resolution of the problem or at least have a positive effect on the plaintiff’s injury arising from the accident (Hepner v. Gill,  B.C.J. No. 1755 at paras. 5 and 7 (S.C.) (QL); Briglio v. Faulkner and Reichel, 1999 BCCA 361, 69 B.C.L.R. (3d) 122 at para. 44; Wong v. Stolarchuk,  B.C.J. No. 2837 at para. 48 (S.C.) (QL)). The reasonableness of a refusal to undertake a recommended programme depends upon the risk that such a programme would impose, the gravity of the consequence of refusing to participate, and the potential benefits to be derived from it (Janiak v. Ippolito, supra).
The court rejected ICBC’s failure to mitigate arguments.
This case illustrates just how important credibility is in ICBC injury claims. The court clearly liked the Plaintiff and he made a good impression on the judge. His stoic attitude certainly helped. Contrary to what some believe, having a tough attitude in the face of injuries does not hurt the value of an ICBC case, as this case illustrates, this postitive attribute can in fact add to the credibilty of an injured person and help result in a good trial result.
With the exception of experienced BC injury lawyers, most people advancing ICBC claims need to do extensive research to determine fair value for pain and suffering in an ICBC injury claim. One of the best ways to go about this is to look at BC court cases for similar injuries and see just how much, or how little, our courts award for pain and suffering for various injuries.
If you are advancing an ICBC chronic pain case, reasons for judgement were released today that are worth reviewing.
The Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle accident on January 9, 2006. He stopped his vehicle for a cyclist who was crossing in a marked crosswalk. Shortly afterwards the Plaintiff was rear-ended by a Jeep Cherokee. The impact was significant causing ‘substantial damage’ to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff reported several injuries as a result of this rear-end crash including left shoulder pain, dizziness, headaches, neck and back pain, and numbness to his left arm.
The Plaintiff’s family doctor referred him to an orthopaedic specialist who stated that the Plaintiff “has had some soft tissue injuries to the cervical and lumbar spine….he does not require any special investigation as he has no neurological defecits. I would encourage him to return to work‘
Shortly after this time the Plaintiff switched family physicians. His new treating doctor diagnsosed major depression and soft tissue injury to the neck, shoulder and back. Specifically she diagnosed
a left anterior supraspinatus tear and multiple soft tissue injuries of the neck and back, possible muscle spasm, strains, contusions, cervical facet syndrome and discogenic pain…..(and) two other medical conditions, major depression and peptic ulcers, since the MVA in January 2006. I believe these two conditions were precipitated by the chronic pain and stress caused by the accident.
She went on to state that:
(the Plaintiff) has not been able to return to work, his function remains partially impaired and his level of activity is significantly reduced. His chronic pain and his depression symptoms have significantly restricted his ability to perform a range of daily living activities on ongoing basis such as personal self care, meal preparation, basic housework, daily shopping and use of transportation.
The court also heard from an ‘independent medical examiner’ who stated that “permanent disability is not anticpiated as a result of the accident.’ and that ‘the only objective finding (of injury) was that of restricted movement of the cervical spine. All complaints otherwise were of a subjective nature.’
This doctor made some interesting comments about chronic pain, namely that:
Many authors who have studied chronic pain syndromes have demonstrated that patients have been shown to have beliefs and expectations of chronic pain which are critical cognitive facilitators or impediments to the recovery process. The attribution of blame may be an unrecognized factor co-related to pain behaviour, mood disturbance, and poor response to treatment. It is unlikely that (the Plaintiff) is going to change his perceptions of pain until the issues are resolved for him.
The court made it’s key findings at paragraphs 24 and 25 where Justice Rice stated:
 I accept that as a result of the motor vehicle accident Mr. Niloufari suffered moderate strains to his neck and back which have caused him substantial pain and suffering over the two years and several months since the accident. I find these injuries have disabled him from any activities, including his work. As it stands now, more than two years have passed since the date of the accident with little hint of improvement in his pain and suffering or capacity to work.
 I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers chronic pain with both physical and psychological components. I am not entirely satisfied that he has done his best to mitigate his loss by exercising and seeking psychiatric and/or psychological advice and treatment. I am not satisfied based on the medical evidence, that Mr. Niloufari should expect to be permanently disabled or disabled at all after a few years from now with diligent attention to his rehabilitation. I would expect him to gradually recover, as Dr. Hill suggested, over the next three or four years, with the expectation he could return to work in a limited capacity within one year.
The court awarded damages for pain and suffering, lost pass of income, loss of future earning capacity, special damages and cost of future care.
The non-pecuniary damage award (pain and suffering) was $63,000.
This case is worth reading for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim seeking damages for ‘loss of earning capacity’ for Justice Rice’s summary of the law on this topic at paragraphs 75-84 of the judgment.
Following a 3 day trial in Victoria, reasons for judgement were released today awarding an injured Plaintiff just over $70,000 in compensation as a result of 2 separate but allegedly related incidents.
The facts of this case are somewhat unique. The Plaintiff was injured in a BC car accident in August, 2005. Following an incident of ‘road rage’ the Defendant rear-ended the Plaintiff’s vehicle. Both the Defendant’s car and the Plaintiff’s van sustained significant damage in the impact. The Plaintiff sustained various injuries in this crash.
A few months later, the Plaintiff lost consiousness and fell and broke his leg while on a BC Ferry. The Plaintiff sued claiming the subsequent fall was related to the injuries sustained in the car accident.
Addressing injuries, Mr. Justice Metzger found that the Plaintiff suffered whiplash injuries as a result of the accident with associated severe headaches, neck and shoulder pain, limited right shoulder mobility, sleep disruption, nausea and some brief dizziness. He found that these symptoms “were improving at the time of his fall and loss of consciousness on the ferry, and but for the continuing headaches, were mostly resolved within 6 weeks of the motor vehicle accident“.
With respect to the fall the court found that the Plaintiff suffered a fractured right fibula and tibia. The court accepted that, as a result of this ankle injury, the Plaintiff was unable to enjoy skiing and curling anymore.
The court canvassed some important decisions in deciding whether the fall was in any way related to the car accident. The court reviwed 2 of the leading Supreme Court of Canada decisions often relied on by ICBC claims lawyers in advancing ICBC claims addressing the issue of ‘causation’, namely:
Athey v. Leonati
Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke
The court concluded that “the Plaintiff demonstrated that his MVA related symptoms contributed to his collapse on the ferry….I accept the Plaintiff’s testimony that he was overwhelmed with MVA related headache and neck pain immediately prior to the fainting incident…I find that the Plaintiff’s general fatigue and headach were significant factors in his loss of consciousness. There was a substantial connection between the injuries and the defendant’s conduct“.
The court went on the value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for each of the events seperately.
For the Whiplash injuries the court awarded non-pecuniary damages of $12,000 and then reduced these by 15% to account for “(the Plaintiff’s) failure to pursue treatment, which most likely would have mitigated his damages and hastened his recovery”
For the broken leg (ankle injury) the court awarded $20,000 for non-pecuniary damages and then also reduced these by 15% for the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate. The court concluded that the Plaintiff failed to follow sensible advice from his doctor (to attend physiotherapy after the ankle injury) and this is what resulted in the reduction of damages.
The Plaintiff also was awarded damages for past loss of income and special damages (out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of the injuries).
If you are advancing an ICBC claim involving a subsequent injury (intervening injury) this case is worth a read to view some of the factors courts consider in determining whether accident related injuries contributed to a future event that is compensible in law. This decision also shows the ‘failure to mitigate’ argument in action which resulted in the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering damages being reduced by 15% for failing to follow his doctors advice.
Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC claim involving an intervening injury that you wish to discuss with an ICBC Claims lawyer? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken.
In reasons for judgement released today from a Rule 66 “fast-track” trial, Mr. Justice Masuhara awarded a Plaintiff a total of $27,427.67 in compensation as a result of a September, 2004 rear-end accident which occurred in Coquitlam, BC.
The Plaintiff, a 33 year old female at the time of the accident, suffered soft tissue injuries including headaches, dizziness, nausea, sleep disturbance, and various soft tissue injuries.
The majority of the Plaintiff’s pain resolved by the time of trial with the exception of pain in her shoulder girdle and mid back.
The Plaintiff’s family physician testified that she suffered from “soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back as a result of the accident.” Treatments included trigger-point injections to the Plaintiff’s right shoulder blade muscles.
A physiatrist also gave expert opinion evidence that the accident caused neck injuries that had resolved and further had caused “injuries to her right posterior shoulder girdle region and mid back”. He expected the Plaintiff to make a good or very good recovery but his prognosis of a complete resolution was guarded.
The ICBC lawyer defending the case called an orthopaedic surgeon who had examined the Plaintiff on behalf of the defence. He testified that the Plainitff “suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back areas“, that he “would have expected the soft tissue symptoms to have resolved over the first 6-12 weeks following the accident ” and that the “ongoing musculoskeletal complaints are due to physical deconditioning that result from factors unrelated, or having little relationship to the accident“.
The court accepted the evidence of the Plaintiff’s physicians and found that the Plaintiff’s “persisting symptoms in the area of her right shoulder blade are as result of the accident”.
Damages were awarded as follows:
1. Non-pecuniary (pain and suffering): $25,000
2. Past Wage Loss: $974.67
3. Special Damages (out of pocket expenses) $1,453
Mr. Justice Masuhara deals with some common arguments often advanced by ICBC lawyers defending these types of claims including attacks on the Plaintiff’s credibility. His findings were favourable to the Plaintiff and a quick read of this judgement reveals some of the accusations Plaintiff’s often face whem advancing ICBC claims.
In reasons for judgement released today, the Honourable Madam Justice Newbury of the British Columbia Court of Appeal increased the pain and suffering award for a BC auto accident victim from $15,000 to $42,000.
The Plaintiff was a 70 year old female. At trial in the British Columbia Supreme Court, the trial judge found that the Plaintiff suffered a soft tissue injury, namely a muscle strain to the trapezius area but concluded that “the evidence was not sufficient to establish a causal connection between the accident and the increase in frequency and intensity of (the Plaintiff’s) dizziness“.
On appeal, counsel for the Plaintiff argued that the trial judge was simply wrong in saying there was ‘no medical evidence’ that supported the causal connection between the accident and the Plaintiff’s increase in frequency and intensity of dizziness.
At trial an ENT specialist testified that “in my opinion the increased dizziness (experienced by the Plaintiff )subsequent to the accident in 2004 is probably from the accident in 2004“. Given this evidence the BC Court of Appeal agreed with the submission of Plaintiff’s counsel and concluded that the appeal must be allowed.
Normally when an appeal is allowed a new trial is ordered. Running a second trial is obviously time consuming and costly. Fortunately for the Plaintiff, the trial judge stated that he would have awarded between $40,000 and $45,000 for pain and suffering had he found that the Plaintiff’s dizziness was related to the 2004 car accident. Given this helpful finding, and to save the parties from the expense of another trial, the BC Court of Appeal exercised their discretion to substitute the higher award of $42,000 for pain and suffering.