Tag: future wage loss

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Future Wage Loss

If you are injured through the fault of another motorist in BC and advance a tort claim with ICBC can you receive damages for future wage loss even if you have sustained no past wage loss by the time of settlement or trial?  The short answer is yes and today 2 cases were released by the BC Supreme Court illustrating this principle.  
In the first case (Kasic v. Leyh) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2004 rear-end collision.  He suffered relatively serious and chronic injuries which were summarized as follows by Madam Justice Morrison of the BC Supreme Court:

[138]      Mr. Kasic’s headaches and neck pain which he suffered immediately after the accident resolved within a fairly short time.  However his lower back pain has not.  Ever since the accident, he has had serious and chronic pain.  That continues to this day.  He has been motivated and compliant with regard to all treatments suggested, with the exception of the Pulsed Signal Magnetic Therapy.

[139]      The medical evidence is not in complete agreement as to the exact diagnosis that is causing the pain in the lower back; Dr. McGraw believes that it is the sacroiliac joint, Dr. Hershler is of the opinion that it is a bulging disc irritating a nerve, or a combination of that and the sacroiliac joint.  But there is agreement that Mr. Kasic’s symptoms are aggravated by his activities.  And there is certainly agreement from all the evidence tendered that Mr. Kasic is in continuous and serious pain.

[140]      Will it be a permanent disability?  Dr. Hershler holds out hope that there could be a significant improvement if Pulsed Signal Magnetic Therapy were pursued.  But this is not a form of treatment widely recognized by the medical profession, and certainly not by Dr. McGraw.  Dr. McGraw seemed to hold out hope that if there were a correct administration of the injection of the therapeutic block, that this could eliminate some or much of Mr. Kasic’s pain.  Certainly the one injection in October 2008 in that area worsened Mr. Kasic’s condition.

[141]      Whether either or both of these suggested treatments are to be tried will be a matter between Mr. Kasic and his medical advisors.  But at the present time, the evidence remains that Mr. Kasic is suffering continuous and debilitating pain, and it has been chronic pain since the date of the accident.  It has changed him physically, mentally and emotionally.

[142]      The changes to Mr. Kasic’s life as a result of his injuries are many.  He continues to need pain medication.  His previous activities of bowling, tennis, soccer, bocce ball, baseball and picnics are no longer activities in which he can participate.  He can help very little around the house, whether it is vacuuming, loading or unloading the dishwasher, moving furniture, or doing yard work.

[143]      He cannot plan to buy his own home, as he can no longer do the jobs and the outside work that he would normally have done.  His leisure activities with his wife and children have been diminished dramatically, as has his intimate and sexual life with his wife.  He has continuous problems sleeping, and his wife often sleeps in another room.  Mr. Kasic’s mood, disposition and temper have changed significantly.  He cannot do the most simple things such as dressing himself, taking a shower or brushing his teeth without unusual discomfort, positioning and pain.

[144]      An undisputed hard worker, Mr. Kasic stated, “I like to work hard to make more money for my family.”  His work history has indicated that, both before and after the accident.

[145]      Mr. Kasic’s ability to earn in the future has been compromised.  It is an asset he has, in part, lost.  His injuries have rendered him less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment, particularly those that require twisting, bending, standing, sitting for any length of time, or involve any kind of heavy work.  He is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers.

[146]      One presumably has an obligation to advise a future employer if there are concerns such as chronic back problems.  This plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of job opportunities which he might otherwise have had.

[147]      Mr. Kasic appears to consider himself less capable and less valuable as a person, because of his condition.  He was 45 when this accident occurred.  He is 50 years of age now.  The real probabilities he faces are fewer jobs available to him, the chance of losing a job or jobs, and possibly having to retire early.  His reduced level of energy and inability to sustain work are factors to be considered.

Despite these serious and permanent injuries the Plaintiff had suffered a minimal wage loss by the time his tort claim against the at fault motorist went to trial.  In fact, the Plaintiff’s earnings increased from the time of the collision to the time of trial.  Depsite this the court held he was entitled to damages for loss of earning capacity and in assessing this loss at $100,000 the court reasoned as follows:

[152]      On the issue of loss of earning capacity, clear guidance can be found in the judgment of Huddart J.A. in Rosvold v. Dunlop.  Mr. Kasic’s capacity to earn income is an asset which has been, in part, taken away from him.  I have found that he has a permanent partial disability, and that limits his work in a number of areas, which in turn impairs his earning capacity.

[153]      The defence seems to suggest that Mr. Kasic has reached his goal upon coming to Canada, that his work as a caretaker together with a rental apartment in subsidized housing suggests that he has reached his earning capacity and goals.  They point to his past earnings, and note that he has steadily increased his earnings, which is true.  But as the courts have reminded us, past earnings are only one factor to consider.

[154]      The standard of proof to be applied in making an appropriate damage award under this category is simple probability, not the balance of probabilities.  And the Athey case reminds us that possibilities and probabilities, chances, opportunities and risks all have to be considered, as long as they do not amount to mere speculation.

[155]      Counsel for the plaintiff suggests that there is the possibility that Mr. Kasic will have to retire early, and I agree that this is a possibility.  Counsel argues that even if he had to retire just three years early, this would be a loss equivalent to $150,000.  This is based on Mr. Kasic’s earnings in 2007 of just over $40,000, and both counsel have factored in an additional $10,000 because of the generous housing allowance and benefits.  This would amount to a real loss of $50,000 a year or $150,000 if Mr. Kasic retired three years early.

[156]      Taking into account negative as well as positive contingencies, in my view an appropriate damage award for loss of earning capacity would be $100,000, and I award that amount.  In my view, the position taken by the defence with regard to this issue has been unrealistic, and their suggested figure of $10,000 under this category of damages does not meet the test of fairness and reasonableness.

In the second case released today (Weibe v. Peters) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2003 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff was a career tradesman who worked as a vinyl deck installer.  As a  result of the collision Mr. Justice Grist of the BC Supreme Court found that the Plaintiff “will continue to have long term back pain fron the injuries suffered fron the collision which will restrict him from certain forms of physical activity...”

Despite his injuries the Plaintiff lost a minimal amount of time from work by the time of trial.  In awarding $125,000 for the Plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity Mr. Justice Grist engaged in the following useful analysis:

[32]        The wage loss prior to the date of trial in this case is confined to a minimal number of days off because of back pain, with some time loss to attend doctors’ appointments and physiotherapy. The plaintiff has not been able to provide a record of this wage loss and I cannot fix any sum under this head. As to loss of future earning capacity, I accept that Mr. Wiebe took his present form of employment because he was not able to maintain the physical demands of installations of vinyl decks. Further, he was not able to obtain a management position that would have relieved him from the demands of actual installations. He acted appropriately in taking the position he now holds, which pays the same as his past employment without the benefits which that employment offered. Again, there is no evidence of the value of lost benefits. I accept the evidence that the employment through Mr. Hepple has very little security. He is the only employee and dependent on success of both the turkey farm and the concrete mantle manufacturing business. Mr. Hepple is happy with the plaintiff’s work, however, as both the plaintiff and Mr. Hepple acknowledged, the earnings provided are probably more than this form of employment can justify. If Mr. Wiebe cannot continue in this form of work, he will likely have to retrain or find some opportunity as a manager in a deck installation company, a form of work he hasn’t been able to secure despite efforts in the past. In light of the risk inherent in being let go by his present employer, on balance I think it most likely that Mr. Wiebe will have to face this change of employment in the future, and that retraining is the most likely prospect. I keep in mind the factors mentioned in Kwei v. Boisclair, [1991], B.C.J. No. 3344 (C.A.), and Brown v. Golaiy, [1985] B.C.J. No. 31 (S.C.). In setting damages under this head of loss, specifically:

1.         The plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;

2.         The plaintiff is less marketable or less attractive as an employee to potential employers;

3.         The plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to him had he not been injured; and

4.         The plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.

[33]        The plaintiff has been well regarded by his employers and has shown industry and responsibility to his family in retaining employment through the difficulties to the present time. I expect this will serve him well in the future. Nonetheless, retraining and start-up in a substitute form of employment will require a considerable period of time before Mr. Wiebe will be able to reproduce his past level of earnings.

[34]        The cases cited vary widely in fixing the loss of future earning capacity. At the high end, in Fox v. Danis, [2006] B.C.J. No. 1437 (C.A.), damages under this head of loss totalled $750,000. This however, was a case involving an individual likely to lose all forms of full-time employment. In Demedeiros, the head of damage was compensated in the sum of $180,000. This case, however, involved a stone mason who may have lost the opportunity to succeed his father in a fairly remunerative family business. In Kerr, the plaintiff was a 54 year old school teacher who had lost his ability to participate actively in sports, but who continued in his employment. It was judged that he may be forced to retire earlier and may be restricted in gaining employment after retirement. Damages under this head were assessed in that case at $75,000.

[35]        I view the likely loss here as greater in scope than indicated in Kerr but not of the degree of loss in Demedeiros and Fox. I think the appropriate level assessment under this head is the sum of $125,000.

Can Future Wage Loss be Awarded in an ICBC Claim When There is no Past Wage Loss?

The answer is yes and reasons for judgement were released yesterday (Schnare v. Roberts) by the BC Supreme Court illustrating this fact.  In yesterday’s case the BC Supreme Court awarded the Plaintiff just over $240,000 in total damages as a result of a 2005 BC Motor Vehicle Collision.   
The Plaintiff was a school teacher and was on her way to school when her vehicle was rear-ended.  The crash was significant enough that the Plaintiff’s vehicle was pushed into the vehicle in front of hers.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries and these and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life are summarized at paragraphs 56-57 as follows:

[56]            Based on the evidence of Ms. Schnare, Dr. Fagan, Mr. McLean and Dr. van Rijn, I conclude that, in the accident on March 14, 2005, Ms. Schnare suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper, mid and lower back, including in and around her sacroiliac region.  As a result of the injuries, Ms. Schnare was left with a mobile sacroiliac joint.  I conclude further that the defendants’ negligence caused Ms. Schnare’s injuries.  While, as of the trial, Ms. Schnare had occasional neck pain attributable to the accident, I find that the most serious result of the injuries Ms. Schnare suffered in the accident has been the mobility in her sacroiliac joint, the pelvic misalignment and rotation, and the associated back pain.  The pelvic rotation was observed and identified (by Mr. McLean) at Ms. Schnare’s first physiotherapy assessment on March 31, 2005 (approximately two weeks after the accident).  Dr. van Rijn’s examination disclosed that Ms. Schnare had a mobile right sacroiliac region and he identified Ms. Schnare’s sacroiliac region as the probable pain generator and source of Ms. Schnare’s back pain.

[57]            I find that, as a result of her injuries, Ms. Schnare continues to suffer some neck pain and significant back pain, and that this pain – particularly her back pain – limits and interferes with most normal and routine activities of her daily life.  Based on the evidence, particularly from Mr. McLean, Ms. Schnare’s condition has improved since the accident, as a result of physiotherapy and Ms. Schnare’s own efforts.  However, I accept the opinion of Dr. van Rijn and conclude that Ms. Schnare’s accident-related symptoms caused by her injuries have resulted in some permanent disability.

In justifying an award for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) for $85,000 the Court highlighted the following facts:

Ms. Schnare’s injuries have had a very significant effect on the quality of Ms. Schnare’s life.  She has back pain regularly, and from time to time flare-ups of severe pain; she fatigues easily; she is unable to enjoy activities such as hiking or car trips with her family; she is unable to participate in her children’s activities (including homework and sports) in the manner and to the degree she would like; household chores are more difficult; she feels like a spectator on family activities, rather than involved and engaged; her intimate relationship with her husband has changed; and her strong desire to pursue a career as a kindergarten teacher has been frustrated.

[63]            Taking into account in particular Ms. Schnare’s evidence, the evidence of Mr. Schnare, Ms. Schultz and Ms. Brebuck concerning Ms. Schnare’s circumstances before and after the accident, and the opinions stated by Dr. van Rijn, I conclude that an award of $85,000 is appropriate in the circumstances.

From there the court went on to discuss the law of diminished earning capacity (future wage loss).  Despite only having a minimal past wage loss the Court awarded the Plaintiff $125,000 for diminished earning capacity.  In doing so the Court summarized and applied the law as follows:

 

[64]            The principles governing a claim for loss of earning capacity are set out in Rosvold v. Dunlop, 2001 BCCA 1, 84 B.C.L.R. (3d) 158.  There, the court confirmed that, “Where a plaintiff’s permanent injury limits him in his capacity to perform certain activities and consequently impairs his income earning capacity, he is entitled to compensation.  What is being compensated is not lost projected future earnings but the loss or impairment of earning capacity as a capital asset.”  The standard of proof to be applied when evaluating hypothetical, future events that may affect an award is simple probability, not the balance of probabilities.  Huddart J.A. continued:

10.     The trial judge’s task is to assess the loss on a judgmental basis, taking into consideration all the relevant factors arising from the evidence:  Mazzuca v. Alexakis, [1994] B.C.J. No. 2128 (S.C.) at para. 121, aff’d [1997] B.C.J. No. 2178 (C.A.). Guidance as to what factors may be relevant can be found in Parypa v. Wickware, supra, at para. 31;Kwei v. Boisclair (1991), 60 B.C.L.R. (2d) 393 (C.A.); and Brown v. Golaiy (1985), 26 B.C.L.R. (3d) 353 (S.C.) per Finch J. They include:

1.    whether the plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;

2.    whether the plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers;

3.    whether the plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to him, had he not been injured; and

4.    whether the plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.

11.     The task of the court is to assess damages, not to calculate them according to some mathematical formula:  Mulholland (Guardian ad litem of) v. Riley Estate (1995), 12 B.C.L.R. (3d) 248 (C.A.). Once impairment of a plaintiff’s earning capacity as a capital asset has been established, that impairment must be valued.  . . . The overall fairness and reasonableness of the award must be considered taking into account all the evidence.

[65]            Ms. Schnare seeks damages in the sum of $345,600 for lost earning capacity.  This sum is based on a full-time salary of $64,000 per year; on the assumption that, because of her injuries, Ms. Schnare is permanently unable to work more than 4 days per week; and on the further assumption that, but for her injuries, she would begin teaching full time in about 2010 and continue until age 65, a period of 27 years (20% of $64,000 = $12,800 multiplied by 27 years = $345,600).

[66]            When Ms. Schnare worked a full-time week in the fall of 2008, she determined that she could not keep it up, and that she needed the one day a week to recuperate.  Other than that one week, Ms. Schnare last taught full time during the school year September 2000 to June 2001.  At that time, the Schnares’ daughter was about two, and Ms. Schnare was pregnant with their son.  As noted above, the Schnares has discussed Ms. Schnare returning to work full time when their daughter entered grade 7.  Of course, that Ms. Schnare would in fact have returned to work full time once her daughter entered grade 7, but for the accident, is not a certainty.

[67]            Dr. van Rijn addressed the topic of Ms. Schnare’s potential “occupational restrictions” in his June 5, 2008 report.  He noted Ms. Schnare’s plans to move to grade 1, rather than teaching kindergarten, and observed that “some of the job requirements (including sitting on the ground) may not be as necessary, which will hopefully allow her to manage more easily.”  He continued (italics added):

She has permanent restrictions with respect to jobs requiring increasing physical effort and would be competitively unemployable in such work when compared to an able-bodied woman with similar interests and skill sets.  This represents a permanent loss in her work capability and has caused her to suffer a work handicap as a result of her injuries.  She is potentially less desirable an employee to perspective employers as a result of her accident related symptoms.

[68]            However, Dr. van Rijn does not say anywhere in his report that Ms. Schnare would be unable, because of her injuries, to work full-time as a teacher.  I compare what Dr. van Rijn says with the evidence referred to in Fox v. Danis, at para. 97, where the court had the benefit of opinion evidence to the effect that the plaintiff had lost the capacity to work full-time.  While Ms. Schnare may have restrictions, and therefore be less employable or “competitively unemployable,” with respect to “jobs requiring increasing physical effort,” Dr. van Rijn does not identify teaching grade 1, or indeed teaching any particular school grade, as a job of this type.  In addition, there is no evidence that Ms. Schnare has ever considered any type of work other than teaching.

[69]            I consider that the approach taken by Ms. Schnare with respect to damages for loss of earning capacity is excessively mathematical.  In my view, it seeks to have Ms. Schnare compensated as if it were certain that she would never work full-time again, and her approach produces a result that, overall, is neither fair nor reasonable, taking into account all of the evidence.  On the other hand, based on the evidence, I do not accept the defendants’ submission that Ms. Schnare should receive no award for loss of capacity to earn income.

[70]            In my view, based in particular on Ms. Schnare’s evidence and on the opinions stated by Dr. van Rijn in his June 5, 2008 report, Ms. Schnare has suffered some impairment of her earning capacity as a result of her injuries.  She has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment available to an individual qualified as a teacher, and she has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities that might otherwise have been open to her had she not been injured.  Specifically, Ms. Schnare has lost the ability to take advantage of the opportunity to work full-time as a kindergarten teacher, taking into account the physical demands of that job.  On the other hand, I do not consider that the evidence supports the conclusion that, as a result of her injuries, Ms. Schnare has lost the ability generally to take advantage of opportunities to work full-time as a teacher, should she choose to do so in the future.  In that light, the difference between Ms. Schnare’s likely future income had the accident not occurred and her income now that the accident has occurred may well be small.

[71]            Accordingly, Ms. Schnare is entitled to damages, but the amount should be more modest than what her counsel has submitted.  I conclude that the damages for Ms. Schnare’s loss of earning capacity should be assessed at $125,000.

ICBC Claims, Future Wage Loss and the Ability to Work in Your Chosen Profession

Imagine sustaining permanent and partially disabling injuries in a BC Car Accident through the fault of another.  Despite your permanent injuries you are able to carry on in your own chosen profession.  Are you entitled to be compensated for future wage loss in your ICBC tort claim or does the fact that you can work in your own occupation restrict such an award?  Reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court today dealing with this issue.
In today’s case (Ayoubee v. Campbell) the now 34 year old Plaintiff was injured in a multiple vehicle collision which occurred in September, 2003.    The Plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a herniated disc (at the L5 / S1 Level) with associated pain down his leg and mechanical back pain in the collision.  At the time of the accident he had just begun a computer course at BCIT and intended to make a career from the opportunities that this education would provide.  Despite his serious injuries he was able to complete his studies then found and maintained employment in his chosen field.
In awarding $100,000 for non-pecuniary damages the court accepted that the Plaintiff will have some permanent pain and made came to the following conclusion with respect to his injuries:
[104]        I accept Mr. Ayoubee’s evidence that he has never been pain free since the accident, although he has managed to control the level of pain through exercise and stretching.  He has attempted to function as fully as he can, despite the limitations he now contends with.  In the past year, however, his leg has deteriorated and the quality of his life has diminished even further.  Surgery may help with the pain, but he will likely be left with residual numbness and discomfort, and the back pain will remain.  As a result of the accident, he has lost the quality of life of an active young man.
Madam Justice Humphries engaged in a lengthy discussion addressing the Plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity.  The court found that given the Plaintiff’s permanent injuries certain occupations will be closed to the Plaintiff, however, the Plaintiff ‘is not foreclosed form the type of job he was training for at the time of the accident, obtained after the accident, and has held full-time employment ever since.’
In assessing the Plaintiff’s impaired earning capacity (future wage loss) at $80,000 Madam Justice Humphries made the following analysis:

[89]            In my view, this is a case in which it would be more appropriate to award a lump sum for loss of capacity.  There are a significant number of jobs that Mr. Ayoubee can no longer do, jobs of the type he once held and which could still provide him with opportunities for part time income enhancement that he now must forego.

[90]            As well, he is not as attractive an employee on the open labour market as he once was, given his chronic pain and inability to work without breaks.

[91]            He will also be unable to work while he recovers from surgery, which it is likely he will undergo once he has seen Dr. Dommisse.  Dr. Yu suggests the recovery time would be two or three months.  The defendants calculate the loss attributable to those months, reduced by the possibility that Mr. Ayoubee might decide not to have the surgery, and suggested that the applicable rate should be his salary level in 2005 when, in their position, he should have mitigated his damages.  The defendants arrived at a figure of approximately $7,700.  The plaintiff did not address that issue.

[92]            Surgery may improve Mr. Ayoubee’s leg pain, although the doctors differ on whether this is still realistic.  In any even he will be left with back pain.  I take into account that, of the two, the leg pain has always been the most severe, and is the cause of his greater restrictions at present.  On the other hand, given the back pain, there is no suggestion that he will be able to undertake moderate to heavy physical employment again.

[93]            An important factor that distinguishes Mr. Ayoubee’s case from those in which very high awards have been made for future loss is that he is not foreclosed from the type of job he was training for at the time of the accident, obtained after the accident, and has held full-time ever since.  He does not require retraining.  His employability does not depend on his ability to do heavy physical labour and he never intended that it should, although there is a substantial possibility that he might have supplemented his income occasionally with the type of job he held at Rona, if he were still able to do so.  

[94]            Considering that some future wage loss will be attributable to the surgery, and considering the diminution in the capital asset of his employability generally, I set his future loss, including his loss of capacity, at $80,000.

Loss of Commission Income and ICBC Injury Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today (Tong v. Sidhu)awarding a Plaintiff $30,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) as a result of injuries sustained in a 2007 BC Car Accident.  
Mr. Justice Cohen of the BC Supreme Court made the following findings with respect to the Plaintiff’s injuries:
[40]            In my opinion, the medical evidence and the plaintiff’s testimony supports the conclusion that the plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries, and that he has made an overall improvement to a level where if he dedicates himself to learning and correctly performing the exercises recommended by Dr. King he will probably experience a full recovery within six to twelve months.
[52]            Upon a consideration of the severity and duration of the plaitniff’s accident related injuries and symptoms, and upon a review of the authorities on the range of the general damages submitted by the parties, I find that an award of $30,000 is a fair and appropriate sum to compensate the plaintiff for his general damage claim.
The Plaintiff, who was a commodities broker, also alleged a past and future loss of income although these claims were dismissed.   The Plaintiff sought approximately $50,000 for past income loss and $44,000 for future income loss.
In dismissing these damages Mr. Justice Cohen found that the Plaintiff ‘has not proven on the requisite standard that he has suffered past or future income loss‘.  Following this conclusion Mr. Justice Cohen engaged in a lengthy analysis of the Plaintiff’s claim for lost income and stated as follows:

[63]            First, the only documentary evidence the plaintiff has brought forward to support his claim are his income tax returns and payroll slips for 2007 and 2008.  Although he signed an authorization for release of employment information to the defendant, the onus remains on the plaintiff to bring to court any records which would help him to identify the details of his earnings history.  He has not produced any employment records to indicate or establish a month over month or year over year trend based on details of income from client or personal trading accounts.

[64]            Moreover, the plaintiff did not elicit evidence from Mr. Mok on his commission earnings to provide some comparative evidence regarding the level of earnings from commissions experienced by commodities brokers at Union Securities, or for that matter evidence of the earnings of brokers in other firms with a similar level of experience and client base as that of the plaintiff.

[65]            With respect to Mr. Mok, he and the plaintiff were performing the same work and both were earning income from commissions generated by client trades, as well as income from self trades.  Mr. Mok did say that he had two streams of earnings and that while his earnings from trades in his own account would not be shown on his T4, both streams of income were shown on his income tax returns.  He said that earnings from trading on his own account would be declared under the item of “business income” in his income tax returns.

[66]            I find that the plaintiff’s evidence on his precise earnings was at times both contradictory and confusing.

[67]            For example, the plaintiff was asked in chief about the line in his 1999 income tax return for “business income”, which shows an amount of $20,805.89 gross and a net loss of $8,323.15.  Although the plaintiff initially testified that the loss amount was due to amounts that he had to pay out of his pocket for losses sustained by his clients due to his trading errors, he later changed this testimony to say that the business income item related to a tax shelter investment that he had made, and that this was the amount reported to him by the company as a unit holder.  With respect to where he reported his income from self trades he said that he did not report this income in his income tax return as the earnings had gone into his RSP account, although he produced no records to substantiate his evidence on this point.

[68]            Finally, I think that there is evidence that completely undermines the plaintiff’s assertion that he is entitled to damages for loss of income, past or prospective.

[69]            In cross-examination, the plaintiff agreed with defence counsel that it was not common for him to make earnings in excess of $100,000.  He agreed that his earnings jumped substantially in 2004 because of the financing he worked on.  He also agreed with the figures from his income tax returns that since 2001, with the exception of 2004, he has earned in the range of $40-50,000 annually.  He agreed that 2004 was unusual, adding that it was unusual in the sense that his hard work paid off.  He also agreed with counsel that the last year he earned a figure in the same range was in 1996.  He agreed with counsel that his average income for the past 7 years has not been in the $80,000 range, but rather closer to $50,000.

[70]            The plaintiff agreed with counsel that based on his average earnings over the period leading up to the accident that his income in 2007 was similar to what he had earned in earlier years, with the exception of the year 2004.

[71]            The plaintiff testified that for the years 2001-2008 he would rank himself against his peers as being in the middle of the pack, and not on average a top performer.  He agreed that his assessment of his ranking has not changed since the accident, and also agreed that essentially, with the exception of 2004, his income has not significantly changed.

[72]            Counsel reminded the plaintiff of his evidence that his focus and concentration had been affected by the accident and he was asked whether it had affected his number of clients, to which he replied that he gained and lost clients for all kinds of reasons.  When counsel suggested to the plaintiff that he had not lost clients as a result of the accident, he replied that he may have lost or gained clients during the period following the accident.  He was not able to say whether in fact the accident related injuries had resulted in a loss of clients.

[73]            Mr. Steven Engh is manager of sales at Union Securities.  He met the plaintiff when they both worked at C.M. Oliver.  He was asked how he would rank the plaintiff as a commodities broker. He replied that the plaintiff would fall in the middle of the pack, and that as far as he knew this had been the case for the past five years.  He also said that all of the brokers in his firm have been affected by the current securities market conditions and that this would include the plaintiff’s area of trading.  He did agree with plaintiff’s counsel in cross-examination that the securities business is very demanding and that it takes a focused person to succeed.

[74]            In the result, I find that on the whole of the evidence the plaintiff has failed to prove his income loss claim. With the exception of the year 2004, the plaintiff’s history of earnings in the seven years leading up to the accident disclose a trend of income much closer to the $50,000 range than his claim of $80,000.  This is clearly borne out by his income for the year 2006, a year in which he was completely healthy, had his list of prospects, and presumably was focused and determined to increase his income to a level closer to his exceptional result in the year 2004.  Yet, his income for the year 2006, at least from commissions on trades, was not very far off his usual annual earnings in the $50,000 range.

[75]            In my opinion, the evidence falls far short of the claim that the plaintiff is making for income loss, past and prospective, and therefore this head of damage must be rejected.

This case is worth reviewing for anyone on commissioned or self employed basis who suffers a wage loss in an ICBC Injury Claim to see how courts scrutinize such claims and to get some insight into the factors and the type of evidence courts find useful in determining whether there has been a past loss of income.

ICBC Injury Claims and Future Wage Loss

One of the most difficult types of damages to value when a person sustains serious and permanent injuries through the fault of another in a BC Car Crash is that of ‘Future Wage Loss’.
Courts in British Columbia often view a person’s ability to earn a living as a ‘capital asset’ and if disabling injuries are sustained then that capital asset becomes diminished.  Accordingly BC Courts often assess damages for future wage loss as damages for a ‘diminished earning capacity’.
The basic principles that courts consider in awarding damages for ‘diminished earning capacity’ were set out almost 25 years ago in a BC Supreme Court case named Brown v. Golaiy,  These factors are as follows:

The means by which the value of the lost, or impaired, asset is to be assessed varies of course from case to case. Some of the considerations to take into account in making that assessment include whether:

1.      The plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;

2.      The plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers;

3.      The plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to him, had he not been injured; and

4.      The plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.

In 2007, in a case named Steward v. Berezan, the BC Court of Appeal rejected a trial judges award for diminished earning capacity stating that “… The claimant bears the onus to prove at trial a substantial possibility of a future event leading to an income loss, and the court must then award compensation on an estimation of the chance that the event will occur…

Ever since Berezan many ICBC Injury Defence Lawyers have argued that the law has changed since Brown v. Golaiy and that there is a higher burden to reach before damages for future wage loss can be awarded.

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Ashmore v. Banicevic) dealing with this argument and concluding that the factors set out in Brown v. Golaiy remain good law.  In a thorough analysis Madam Justice Smith gave the following reasons:

[140]          While a literal reading of that statement might indicate a change in the law, embodying an express direction to inquire first into whether there is a substantial possibility of future income loss before embarking on assessment of the loss (see Chang v. Feng, 2008 BCSC 49; 55 C.C.L.T. (3d) 203, and Naidu v. Mann, 2007 BCSC 1313, 53 C.C.L.T. (3d) 1), the Court of Appeal inDjukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, 66 B.C.L.R. (4th) 314 (at para. 14) limited Steward v. Berezan to its facts, stating: 

…The error of the trial judge in Steward was in awarding damages for loss of earning capacity based on the plaintiff’s inability to work as a carpenter in circumstances where he had not worked as a journeyman carpenter for twenty years prior to the trial and, at age 55, did not contemplate any return to the trade.  The case turned on its facts and did not establish any new principle of law.  Conversely here, the assessment was based on a business actively pursued by both respondents when the accidents intervened and not on any long abandoned occupation without a prospect of their return to it.  I am satisfied that Steward has no application in the case at bar. 

[141]        In Sinnott v. Boggs, the plaintiff was a 16-year-old girl who had been 11 at the time of the accident.  The medical prognosis was that she would continue to suffer neck and shoulder aches, ongoing discomfort and intermittent headaches.  The trial judge assessed non-pecuniary damages of $35,000, past wage loss of $2,400 and lost earning capacity of $30,000 “for being less marketable as an employee because of the limitations on her ability to work competitively in all jobs previously open to her”.  The assessment of damages was upheld on appeal.  Mackenzie J.A. referred to the submission of the defendant on appeal that since there was no finding that any particular types of work were foreclosed to the plaintiff, no award for lost earning capacity could be made.  He referred to a number of authorities, including Steward v. Berezan, at para. 11, and stated:

All of those cases involved middle-aged plaintiffs in settled occupations.  Their continuing symptoms resulted in continuing pain and occupational discomfort but they did not reduce the plaintiffs’ ability to earn income in their chosen occupations.  There was no prospect that they would change employment to occupations where their earning capacity would be impaired.

[142]        MacKenzie J.A. then stated at para. 13 – 17:

In my view, the limitation on loss of earning capacity awards advanced by the appellant is not supported either in logic or by the authorities.

Three of the four factors outlined in Brown are broad enough to support an award in circumstances where a plaintiff is able to continue in an occupation but the ability to perform and the earning capacity resulting from that ability are impaired by the injury.

The line between non-pecuniary damages and damages for loss of earning capacity is between losses that sound in pain and suffering and loss of non-remunerative amenities on the one hand, and pecuniary losses in the form of a reduced ability to earn income on the other. There is no reason why an injury which permits a plaintiff to continue in a particular occupation but at a reduced level of performance and income should not be compensated for that pecuniary loss through damages for loss of earning capacity.

In the case at bar, Ms. Sinnott is a young person who has not yet established a career and has no settled pattern of employment. In such circumstances, quantifying a loss is more at large. Southin J.A. commented on this distinction in Stafford

[42]  That there can be a case in which a plaintiff is so established in a profession that there is no reasonable possibility of his pursuing, whether by choice or necessity, a different one is obvious. For instance, on the one hand, if a judge of this Court were to be permanently injured to the extent that he or she could no longer do physical, in contradistinction to mental, labour, he or she would have no claim for impairment of earning capacity because the trier of fact gazing into the crystal ball would not see any possibility that the judge would ever abandon the law for physical labour, assuming that immediately before the accident the judge was capable of physical labour. But, on the other hand, if a plaintiff is young and has no trade or profession, the trier of fact gazing into the crystal ball might well consider whether the impairment of physical ability will so limit his future employment opportunities that he will suffer a loss. See e.g. Earnshaw v. Despins (1990), 45 B.C.L.R. (2d) 380 (C.A.).

[43] There is, if I may use the word, a continuum from obviously no impairment of earning capacity from a permanent physical impairment, no matter how serious the impairment, to a very large potential loss which must be based on all the circumstances of the particular plaintiff.

I agree with those observations.  Ms. Sinnott is in a category of those who are young and without a settled line of work. The trial judge has found that Ms. Sinnott faces limitations on her ability to work competitively in jobs that were previously open to her. In my view, that finding is an adequate foundation for the trial judge’s award. I am satisfied that there was evidence to support the trial judge’s conclusions on the facts and there is no palpable and over-riding error of fact which would permit this Court to disturb her conclusion or award.

[143]        I conclude that the approach I should take to the assessment of lost earning capacity has not changed.  Accordingly, I must consider, with reference to the factors listed in Brown v. Golaiy, whether the evidence establishes the basis for an award in this case, and if so, at what level.

______________________________________________________________________________________

On another note, today’s case dealt with chronic soft tissue injuries and serious headaches.  In awarding $80,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary losses, the court made the following findings of fact about the Plaintiff’s injuries and prognosis:

[113]        I have considered all of the evidence given by treating physicians and other health care practitioners, as well as the evidence of Dr. Jung and Dr. Schweigel, who saw the plaintiff for the purpose of providing medical-legal reports.  Dr. Schweigel deferred to the expertise of Dr. Blasberg with respect to the jaw injury; as well, he saw the plaintiff on only one occasion, while Dr. Bowlsby and Dr. Condon both saw him on a number of occasions.  Both Dr. Bowlsby and Dr. Condon are very experienced practitioners and struck me as fair-minded witnesses who were not advocating for their patient.  Dr. Jung’s two examinations of the plaintiff were thorough and well-documented.  I accept the evidence of Dr. Condon, Dr. Bowlsby and Dr. Jung, who all had extensive contact with the plaintiff, and do not accept the evidence of Dr. Schweigel where it is in conflict with their evidence.  I also accept the evidence of Dr. Blasberg.

[114]        Upon consideration of all the evidence, I find that Mr. Ashmore suffered a whiplash injury in the motor vehicle accident affecting his jaw, neck, shoulders and back.  I find that he suffers a continuous low-grade headache and serious headaches at least twice weekly, and that he continues to experience right-sided neck and upper back pain, pain with swallowing, and pain in the region of the jaw joint.  There is no evidence that he suffered from these symptoms prior to the motor vehicle accident.  I do not find on the evidence that stress causes his symptoms, although it may exacerbate them.  I find that but for the accident Mr. Ashmore would not experience the persistent headaches which I find are his worst ongoing symptom, and that but for the accident he would not suffer the other symptoms I have referred to.  I find that the plaintiff has met the burden of showing on the balance of probabilities that the defendant’s negligence caused his injuries.

[115]        The plaintiff’s symptoms arising from the injuries caused by the accident have caused him frequently to require rest in the middle of the day, necessitating work late into the night.  The extent of those symptoms is shown by the fact that they have caused him to give up most of the very active sports he formerly enjoyed, and have constrained his ability to assist with the care of his young children and to enjoy the kind of life he led before the accident.  As well, these symptoms have reduced the amount of time and energy he has available for work outside his regular employment.  Finally, the symptoms have led him to spend considerable time pursuing relief through various forms of treatment.

[116]        Taking into account the opinion evidence of all of the expert witnesses as to the likelihood of further recovery, I find that Mr. Ashmore is not likely to make a full recovery, although he may experience some improvement to the point where he will be able to manage his symptoms better. 

ICBC Claims, CPP Disability and Deductibility of Wage Loss Awards

Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with the issue of whether a defendant ordered to pay a plaintiff money for future wage loss as a result of a BC motor vehicle accident can deduct from such an award disability benefits the Plaintiff will receive from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
The Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  Liability was not seriously contested and the Defendant was found 100% at fault at trial.  The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries including a

1. Fractured sternum; and

2. Head injury with probable significant cerebral concussion; and

3. Contused lower thoracic spine and upper lumbar spine; and

4. Multiple rib contusions.

The most contested injury was whether the Plaintiff suffered from on-going problems as a result of a brain injury allegedly sustained in the collision.  The court found for the Plaintiff noting that 
[71]            On balance I conclude that I accept the expert evidence to the effect that it is more likely than not that there are persisting, but very mild, sequelae from the mild traumatic brain injury affecting cognition.  The effects on Mr. Kean’s cognition are so subtle as to be virtually indistinguishable from the concurrent effects from the other operating causes, namely pain, pain medication, and depressed mood. 
The Court assessed damages as follows:

Non-pecuniary damages:

$180,000.00

Past wage loss:

$32,506.38

Future earning capacity loss:

$100,000.00

Future care costs:

$51,032.28

Special damages:

$10,672.95

 

 


ICBC argued that money the plaintiff has/will receive from CPP should be deducted from his awards for past wage loss and future wage loss awards.  The court dismissed this argument concluding that  “the law in this jurisdiction is settled to the effect that CPP disability benefits fall within the insurance exception to the rule against double recovery and should not be deducted from tort awards for past or future wage loss”
The key discussion took place at paragraphs 102 – 111 which I reproduce below:

[102]        Counsel for the defendant and the third party argued that CPP disability benefits received by Mr. Kean should be deducted from his award for past wage loss, and the present value of future CPP disability benefits should be deducted from his future income award.  The thrust of their argument is that this is necessary to prevent double recovery.  The defendant argues that CPP disability benefits are a form of mandatory social insurance that workers cannot negotiate out of, and the scheme is a form of income replacement.

[103]        The defendant’s argument is essentially the same argument that these same counsel made unsuccessfully in the case of Maillet v. Rosenau 2006 BCSC 10.  In Maillet, the plaintiff had received social assistance payments which were deducted from the past wage loss, but Powers J. did not accede to the defendant’s argument that future CPP disability benefits should be deducted from the award for losses of future earnings.  As here, the defendants relied on the case of M.B v. British Columbia, 2003 SCC 53, suggesting that the rationale applied in that case to conclude that social assistance payments were deductible from a future wage loss award, was equally applicable to CPP disability benefits and that the decision represented a change in the law.

[104]        In Maillet, Powers J. followed a line of authority which had held that the CPP disability pension scheme was essentially an insurance scheme and covered by the insurance exception to the rule against double recovery.  This line of authority includes Canadian Pacific v. Gill,[1973] S.C.R. 654, Hayre v. Walz (1992), 67 B.C.L.R. (2d) 296 (BCCA) and Cugliari v. White, (1998) 159 D.L.R. 4th 254 (Ont.C.A.).

[105]        Like Powers J, I do not see the reasoning in M.B. as effecting a change in the law as it applies to CPP disability payments.  The analysis undertaken in that case was outlined in ¶24 of the decision:

The first question is whether social assistance is a form of income replacement.  If it is not, no duplication arises.  If it is, the further question arises of whether social assistance can be excluded from the non-duplication rule under an existing or new exception.

[106]        The court determined that social assistance was a form of income replacement and then stated in ¶28:

It follows that the only way in which they can be non-deductible at common law is if they fit within the charitable benefits exception, or if this court carves out a new exception. Otherwise, retention of them would amount to double recovery.

[107]        After holding that social assistance payments did not fit the charitable benefits exception (because the rationale for that exception did not concern the purpose of charitable donations, but its effect on the owners and the difficulties of valuation), the court discussed whether it should carve out a new policy- based exception.  The court decided that it should not do so.  Clearly there was no viable argument that the insurance exception might be applicable to social assistance and that was not considered.

[108]        The defendant wishes to characterize the CPP disability payments as a form of social security because it is a legislative creature and contributions are mandatory. But, unlike social assistance, it is funded by contributions and only those who have contributed can benefit.  There is an overlap of recovery, but that is inherent in the insurance exception to the rule against double recovery.  The other side of the coin is that to deduct the CPP benefits from a tort award is to force the injured contributor to share the benefits of his contributions, (which represent deductions from his former earnings), with the tortfeasor.

[109]        The defendant’s book of authorities included, in fairness, the case of Sulz v. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General 2006 BCCA 582, which was decided shortly after theMaillet decision.  In Sulz, the British Columbia Court of Appeal quotes from Mr, Justice Iacobucci in Sarvanis v. Canada 2002 SCC 28 at ¶33:

….it has already been held by this court that CPP disability payments are not to be considered indemnity payments, and therefore that they are not to be deducted from tort damages compensating injuries that actually caused or contributed to the relevant disability.  See Canadian Pacific Ltd. v. Gill; Cugliari, supra.  This rule is passed on the contractual or contradictory nature of the CPP.  Only contributors are eligible, at the outset received benefits, provided that they then meet the requisite further conditions.

[110]        The issue in Sulz was the deduction of superannuation pension from a tort award.  The British Columbia Court of Appeal, in a decision written by Madam Justice Levine, (who was the trial judge in M.B. whose deduction of social assistance payments was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada) said, at ¶65:

The superannuation pension received by the respondent is of the same character as CPP disability benefits and other pension payments, which have consistently held to be non-deductible from tort damages.

[111]        I conclude, as did the court in Maillet, that the law in this jurisdiction is settled to the effect that CPP disability benefits fall within the insurance exception to the rule against double recovery and should not be deducted from tort awards for past or future wage loss.

NOTE – the reasoning of this case may not apply to all ICBC claims.  For example in ICBC UMP Claims where ICBC is entitled to certain statutory deductions from the damages they need to pay to an insured.

$50,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries with Chronic Pain

Note: The case discussed in the below entry was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal with respect to the Diminished Earning Capacity Award on March 18, 2010.  You can read my post on the BCCA’s decision by clicking here.
Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff for injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 car accident.
The Plaintiff was driving her daughter to pre-school when her vehicle was rear-ended. The impact was ‘sudden and relatively severe‘ and caused enough damage to render the Plaintiff’s vehicle a write-off.
The court heard from a variety of medical ‘expert witnesses’ and placed the most weight on the Plaintiff’s GP. The court found that the Plaintiff ‘now has chronic pain with her soft tissue injuries and that pain and discomfort, in varying levels depending on activity level, will continue indefenately.’ The court also found that the Plaintiff suffers from ‘anxiety associated witht he accident’ and that ‘(she) is at risk of premature arthritis in her cervical spine and left shoulder‘.
In awarding $50,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the court noted that:

[14] The injuries have affected the plaintiff’s family relationships. She is not able to participate in normal physical family and recreational activities to the same extent as before the accident. She cannot perform housework or garden to the same extent. She presents as a perfectionist and is clearly bothered by these restrictions on activities that she enjoys and takes pride in.

[15] (The Plaintiff) is also anxious and, perhaps, somewhat depressed; her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected, and she is naturally concerned and upset that her children now turn more naturally to their father for physical support and comfort. In addition to the ongoing pain and discomfort that restricts general activities, these factors also affect enjoyment of life. I take them into account in determining a fit award for non-pecuniary loss.

The most interesting part of this judgement for me was the court’s discussion of loss of earning capacity. Here the court found that the Plaintiff does have permanent injuries but that these will have ‘slight, if any, actual impact on her future earnings‘.
What interested me was the courts comments trying to reconcile to seemingly opposed lines of authority from the BC Court of Appeal addressing loss of future earnings. When one asks for an award for ‘loss of future income’ or ‘loss of earning capacity’ one has to prove this loss. There are various ways of doing this at trial.
Here the Plaintiff advanced a claim of loss of earning capacity using the ‘capital asset approach‘ as set out by our Court of Appeal in Pallos v. ICBC. The Defence lawyer argued that a subsequent case (Steward v. Berezan) overruled the law as set out in Pallos.
After listening to this debate the court noted that:
44] With respect, it is not clear, as I understand Steward, how one gets to the capital asset approach without first proving a substantial possibility of future income loss in relation to the plaintiff’s position at the time of trial. I cannot reconcile that approach with the factors first listed in Brown, later summarized in Palmer, and finally approved in Pallos in the passages set out earlier in my reasons.

[45] It would be helpful if the Court of Appeal has an opportunity to address these issues fully. I observe that the Court of Appeal since held in one decision that Steward turned on its facts and did not create any new principle of law. The court also affirmed Parypa in the same decision. See Djukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, at paras. 14 and 15.

Here the court held that “there is no reference in Steward to Pallos. Steward, in my view, does not over rule Pallos‘.
Mr. Justice Macaulay went on to reconcile the apparent conflict between these cases by concluding that Steward should be limited to its own ‘narrow factual circumstances‘ and awarding the Plaintiff damages based on the less stingent ‘capital asset approach‘.

$75,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded to Cyclist Injurd in Car Accident

OK, I’m back in Kelowna, but this time more for pleasure than business, so this case summary will be a little light on the usual details.
Reasons for judgement were relesed today finding a motorist at fault for a 2003 impact with a cyclist. The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries and was awarded close to $500,000 in compensation for his losses and injuries.
In this case the cyclist was travelling on the side-walk. This is prohibited in law but simply violating the motor vehicle act does not automatically make one negligent for an accident. In this case the court found that while the cyclist was unlawfully riding on the sidewalk, he was not responsible for the accident because this did not cause the accident, rather
the accident was caused by (the Defendant) either failing to stop his vehicle before driving across the sidewalk in accordance with s. 176(1) of the Act, or by failing to look to his right before starting motion after looking away for a period of time during which a person could have appeared to the right of his vehicle.”
Here the court found that the Plaintiff was a credible witness that did not exaggerate his symptoms. The injuries were summarized by the Plaintiff’s treating family physician as follows:
fracture of the distal tibia, laceration of his scalp, laceration of his left shin, post-traumatic periostitis of the left shin, a partial tear of his anterior tibiofubular ligament (an ankle ligament) and retrocalcaneal bursitis (a bursa in the ankle/heel area).
In other words, a very serious ankle injury.  Evidence was also led that the Plaintiff suffered from a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) and that this resulted in some on-going cognitive problems.
The Plaintiff was a young man who suffered from a significant period of disability and there was evidence of some permanent partial disability.
Damages were assessed as follows:

a. Cost of future care: $73,078.00

b. Lost wages: $185,684.40 less the amount actually earned by the Plaintiff from December 3, 2003 to the date of trial;

c. Loss of future wages: $72,526.40.

d. Loss of earning capacity: $80,000.00

e. Non-pecuniary damages: $75,000.00

f. Special damages: $2,811.45.

g. In-trust claim: $14,040.00

ICBC Claims, Wage Loss, and Loss of Overtime Opportunities

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:
[28] 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:
[44] 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, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 146, 16 D.L.R. (4th) 1; Maslen v. Rubenstein, [1994] 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, [1999] 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, [1997] 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.

Damages of $159,857 Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries and Migraines

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court compensating a Plaintiff for accident related injuries.
The trial concerned a 2001 BC car accident. Her vehicle was struck in a down-town Vancouver intersection by a left-turning van. Liability (fault) was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum (value) of injuries and losses.
The impact was reasonably significant causing the Plaintiff’s head to jerk to the right and hit the window, then snap back.
At the time of the accident the Plaintiff was a 38 year old operations manager at a Vancouver travel agency. As with many ICBC claims that head to trial the Plaintiff’s pre-accident health was explored at trial in some detail. The court found that, prior to the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘continued to suffer regularly from migraine and tension headaches, and from neck and back pain due to stress and postural strain. (the Plaintiff’s) tension induced neck and shoulder pain sometimes precipitated migraines.’
The court concluded that despite these pre-accident problems, the Plaintiff ‘continued to funciton without significant compromise‘ prior to her Vancouver car accident.
As is often the case in ICBC injury claims, the court heard from various medical experts including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopaedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.
After hearing the competing evidence the court found that “the increase in (the Plaintiff’s) headaches and neck and shoulder pain is causally related to the soft tissue injuries she sustained in the accident. I find that her increased neck and shoulder pain sometimes leads to full-blown migraines. In addition, it is related to other painful headaches that she experiences from time to time.”
The court accepted the expert evidence of Dr. Robinson who is a highly-regarded BC neurologist who specialises in headache disorders. He testified in part that “when patients with a stable migraine disorder are exposed to neck trauma they sometimes suffer an indefinite aggravation of their headaches. Due to the neck pain caused by trauma such patients develop a new way to get headaches, which may or may not develop into full blown migraines“.
In terms of prognosis, the court found that ‘with treatment, (the Plaintiff’s) headaches will probably continue to improve over the course of the next five years.‘ and that ‘the low grade neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident will probably persist indefinitely. As a result some aggravation of (the Plaintiff’s) pre-existing headache condition will also persist‘.
The court awarded $65,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering). In doing so the court noted that ‘non-pecuniary damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. The compensation awarded should be fair and reasonable to both parties…for purposes of assessing non-pecuniary damages, fairness is measured against awards made in comparable cases. Such cases, though helpful, serve only as a rough guide‘.
Thanks to these reasons for judgment, British Colmbian’s now have one more rough guide to help assess the fair pain and suffering value for lingering soft tissue injuries, aggravation of pre-existing injuries and migraine headaches when considering ICBC claim settlement.
This case is also worth a quick read for anyone advancing a claim for loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) as the court does a good job summarizing some of the leading legal precedents in this area at paragraphs 151-155 of the judgment.
The court concluded that, as a result of the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘is less able to complete the same high volume of computer based work she could before before the accident and it it sometimes obvious that she is exhasted. In these circumstances, it is apparent that her earning capacity, viewed as a capital asset, has been impaired.’ The court went on to award $75,000 for this loss.

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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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