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Tag: Gaps in Medical Treatment

Assessing Damages for an "Old School" Plaintiff with Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for soft tissue injuries sustained by a Plaintiff who sought very little medical treatment.
In this week’s case (Baker v. Clark) the Plaintiff was injured in a collision for which the Defendant was at fault.  He suffered soft tissue injuries and was assessed by his family physician.  By the time of trial the Plaintiff still had symptoms but had not seen his physician for over two years.  The Court accepted that this was due to the plaintiff’s stoic ‘old school’ attitude.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 Mr. Justice Crawford provided the following reasons:
[59]         I am satisfied Mr. Baker sustained soft-tissue injuries to his neck and upper-back. He attended physiotherapy, but no report was tendered from the physiotherapist. That treatment evidently was for his neck and upper-back. Mr. Baker made no complaint of headaches. He was off work for three months and returned in late July 2011. After experiencing difficulty with both his neck and his low-back that became evident with the hours of sitting required of a taxi driver, he purchased an ObusForme to help his seated posture. He found that getting in and out of the cab regularly when he would stand-up and stretch eased his neck and back pain.
[60]         Dr. McKenzie’s independent assessment confirmed the neck injury though the doctor was somewhat guarded in his ongoing opinion. However, regarding Mr. Baker’s low-back pain, the doctor concluded the pain was due to de-conditioning and not because of the car accident. I am driven to an opposite conclusion for it seems equally sensible, if not more sensible, that Mr. Baker’s de-conditioning was because of the car accident…
[64]         A fair conclusion is that Mr. Baker is a “old-school” man: he is robustly built and of few words; he does not complain, and indeed, he rarely saw a doctor before the accident and then only to get his health check as the taxi company requires.
[65]         He also has not seen his family doctor about his injuries for some two years. Dr. Jones, his family doctor, wrote his letter of opinion in December 2011, some eight months after the accident. Both Dr. Jones and Dr. McKenzie were guarded about the long-term prognosis for complete recovery of Mr. Baker’s soft-tissue injuries. I conclude they were guarded due to Mr. Baker’s age and the likelihood that patients in their sixties are not going to recover from soft-tissue injuries as they might have in their earlier decades…
[67]         Counsel provided a number of cases, and of course, none are precisely alike. But I do find the defendant’s cases more on point or more similar to Mr. Baker’s situation. On the other hand, Mr. Baker’s leisure activities in his retirement are being substantially affected. I accordingly award him $30,000 general damages.

Gaps in Medical Treatment in ICBC Injury Claims

If you are involved in an ICBC Injury Claim and have significant gaps in your medical treatment will that reduce the value of compensation you are entitled to?  The answer is not necessarily.  If the gaps in medical treatment are unreasonable and the evidence demonstrates that more frequent medical intervention would have improved the course of recovery then the claim can be reduced for “failure to mitigate“.  However, a gap in medical treatment in and of itself will not reduce a claim for damages and reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this.
In yesterday’s case (Sidhu v. Liang) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 BC Car Crashes, the first in 2004 and the second in 2008.  He was not at fault for either crash.  He sued as a result of both accidents and the trials were heard at the same time.  The Court was asked to deal with the value of these ICBC Claims.  In the years from the first collision to the time of trial there were some significant gaps in accident related medical appointments.  One such gap was over 25 months.  The Defence Lawyer argued that the Plaintiff’s injuries were minor and healed quickly as evidenced by the significant gap in treatments.
Madam Justice Russell rejected this argument and held “I am prepared to conclude on the balance of probabilities of the evidence, that the current soft tissue injuries the plaintiff exhibits and the continuing pain that he has suffered are a result of the first accident which have continued to date, and have been aggravated by the second accident and therefore would not have occurred but for the defendants’ negligence.  I believe the plaintiff has continued to experience this pain despite the gap in his treatment, and while work has aggravated it, there is no evidence of an intervening event that could be attributed as the cause.”
The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $36,000 in Non-Pecuniary Damages.   In doing so Madam Justice Russell summarized the accident related injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff as follows:

67] The plaintiff’s position, which I accept, is that the medical evidence establishes that the first accident caused musculoligamentous injuries to his neck, back, hips, and elbows, resulting in chronic, persistent pain which continues to restrict his vocational, social and recreational activities.  Furthermore, the second accident caused a minor aggravation of the musculoligamentous injury to his neck.

[68] As a result of the injuries he sustained, the plaintiff has experienced functional limitations due to ongoing symptoms in his neck and left upper back, as well as residual symptoms in the elbows, and mid to low back.  These injuries interfere with his work ability as well as his ability to do chores and participate in his family construction project.  His wife and father have had to take on the physical household chores.  His wife testified that he became less physically active and has decreased his participation in family activities.  The plaintiff’s wife also testified that his pain has caused him to be moody and he also claims to have experienced emotional difficulties in the form of increased stress as a result of the accident.  Because of his modified work ability, the jobs he can take require him to work longer hours for less money and therefore he is facing increasing financial pressures, has less free time and therefore has decreased his social activities, all of which he asserts leads to his stress…

[71] While I have concluded that, according to the medical evidence, the accidents were the cause of the injuries, these injuries are improving, albeit slowly.  Dr. Gandham has estimated that the plaintiff will recover within two years and Dr. Heshler gives a similar guarded prognosis.  Dr. Connell is also optimistic.  Given that the plaintiff is young and healthy with a good prognosis for recovery, I am convinced that he will make a full recovery and thus assess his damages at 80% of the amount put forward by counsel, as I note the amount suggested is the upper range for these types of injuries.