So you are injured in a BC car accident and start an ICBC claim. ICBC makes an inadequate settlement offer for your pain and suffering and you start a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court. Then, your injuries take a turn for the better and you realize your claim can adequately be dealt with more efficiently in Small Claims Court. Can you apply to move your claim down? Absolutely!
Section 15 of the Supreme Court Act allows for such an application. Specifically, s. 15 reads as follows:
Transfer to Provincial Court
15 A judge or master may transfer proceedings to the Provincial Court of British Columbia if
(a) the proceedings are within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act,
(b) a party to the proceedings applies to the judge or master, or all parties to the proceedings agree to the transfer, and
(c) the judge or master considers it appropriate to do so.
Both Supreme Court and Small Claims Court have their own strengths and weaknesses as forums for advancing ICBC injury claims. The decision of which court to sue in is not always an easy one and it is a good idea to get a free consultation with an ICBC claims lawyer before deciding how to proceed. It is reassuring, however, to know that after you start in Supreme Court you can bring an application to transfer the proceeding to the lower court. Today, reasons for judgement were released allowing just such an applicaiotn that is worth reviewing for anyone involved in an ICBC Supreme Court claim that is considering moving down to the Provincial Court.
In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Bernard of the BC Supreme Court awarded a Plaintiff just over $200,000 in compensation for losses as a result of a 2005 BC car accident.
The accident involved a left-hand turning defendant who failed to see the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The result was a significant, near head on collision. Fault was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum of damages to be decided at trial.
The court’s key findings of fact were made at paragraphs 34-35 of the judgement where it was held that the Plaintiff suffered from debilitating headaches as a result of the BC car crash, that the headaches continue to plague him and that the source of these headaches is the neck injury the Plaintiff suffered in the crash. The court also found that these injuries where likely to plague the Plaintiff for 3-5 years following the trial.
The Plaintiff was a young man starting out in a career in the entertainment industry. The court accepted that the injuries took away his ability to take full advantage of various opportunities that were open to him in his career and this ‘loss of oportunity’ will continue into the future as a result of the on-going injuries.
In the end the court assessed damages as follows:
Loss of Opportunity $125,000
Future Care $14,520
This case is interesting for the court’s comments on the use of the various doctor’s clinical records at trial. As any ICBC claims lawyer knows, Plaintiff’s in personal injury claims are often exposed to hard cross-examinations based on previously recorded statements contained in medical records.
When you go to the doctor he/she usually notes your complaints. These ‘clinical notes’ are often put to use by ICBC lawyers to cross examine a Plaintiff’s testimony discussing the extent of injuries and symptoms. Here, the court found that the Plaintiff held up to cross examination very well and made some very practical comments about the reliability of clinical records, namely:
I accept (the Plaintiff’s) evidence in regard to the onset of the headaches, and their intensity, frequency, and endurance. Efforts to discredit him with alleged inconsistencies in doctors’ clinical notes were, in my view, not successful. It must be borne in mind that the primary objective of physicians’ clinical notes is to refresh their own memories as to what transpired during a clinical examination, for the purposes of medical treatment. These notes are not made for investigative and litigation purposes. If this were the purpose then it would, in my opinion, be important for physicians to ensure that they have accurately recorded full and detailed accounts of what a patient said during a clinical visit and then have the patient verify the accuracy of the notes.
Physicians are not investigators. They are neither trained to accurately record what a person says nor to draw out a fulsome account for litigation purposes. The use of clinicians’ notes, made hastily during a clinical visit and never reviewed for accuracy by the patient, may operate unfairly to the patient as plaintiff or witness. It should also be borne in mind that when a patient sees his or her physician with a complaint of significant pain, the circumstances are far less from ideal for obtaining full and accurate information.
I do not suggest by any of the foregoing that it is impermissible to use clinical notes to challenge a plaintiff’s credibility, but the frailties inherent in such recordings should be recognized. In the instant case, I find that the clinician’s notes do not have sufficient accuracy and reliability to undermine the plaintiff’s evidence where the notes allegedly differ from the plaintiff’s testimony at trial.
I’ve said it before an I’ll say it again, the issue of FAULT and ICBC claims tends to be most heavily disputed when dealing with left hand turning vehicles in intersection crashes. Reasons for judgement were released today determining fault as a result of a 2004 intersection crash that occurred in Vernon, BC.
The Plaintiff was travelling through the intersection. The Defendant, travelling from the opposite direction, was intending to make a left hand turn. A significant collision happened. The issue of fault was decided by Mr. Justice Brooke.
This is an interesting case because it appears that the Plaintiff suffered a serious brain injury (a frontal lobe injury) as a result of this crash. When motorists suffer from brain injuries in car accidents it is not unusual for them to suffer a period of amnesia, either before, during or after the event. Here it appears that the trauma of the crash caused the Plaintiff to have no recall of the crash.
How then, do you prove your case when you can’t remember what happened? This case shows some of the usual trial strategies in such a situation. In this case the defendant’s examination for discovery transcript was utilized, lay witnesses were called, the investigating police officer who took scene measurements was called as to where expert accident reconstruction witnesses.
In the end the court found that the Plaintiff vehicle was speeding at the time of the crash and that the left turning driver failed to see a ‘dominant’ vehcile that was ‘there to be seen’. The court reference s. 174 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act in finding the left hand turner largely at fault. The court also found the speeding ‘through’ driver at fault.
In BC personal injury claims, if both parties are at fault the court has to determine the degree of fault of each party. Here the court assigned 20% of the blame to the speeding through vehicle and 80% against the left hand turning vehicle.
One matter worth noting is the effect of the traffic ticket. Here the defendant was ticketed for ‘failing to yield on a left-hand turn.’. He paid the ticket. Such an act is an ‘admission against interest’ and a court can use this ‘admission’ to help decide who is at fault. However, such an admission is not binding on the court. Here the defendant testified that when he gets a ticket he pays it. The court found him to be a straighforward and credible witness and accpeted that in not disputing the ticket that spoke to his characger rather than admission of fault.
I’m still in (not so sunny today) Kelowna (currently on break during an icbc claim examination for discovery), so bear with me as this blog entry is a little lighter on detail than I would like.
As most ICBC injury claims lawyers know these claims can go on for years, particularly when dealing with severe injuries.
During these years you go on living life as normally as possible. You go to work, school, play sports, socialize with friends, go on holidays etc. Like most people, you probably take photos of your activities from time to time. Did you know that ICBC can sometimes get their hands on these? Reasons for judgement were released today forcing a Plaintiff involved in a BC injury claim to produce to the Defendant any photos of him on vacation after the accident. These applicaitons are routinely made by ICBC defence lawyers and are sometimes successful.
Here the court did a great job in referring to sevaral precedents where courts have either ordered, or refused to order, the production of holiday photos of a party to a lawsuit. These cases are worth reviewing when deciding how to respond to an ICBC request that private photos be shared with them in their efforts to defend against an injury claim.
The court concluded that: 12]Here counsel on behalf of the plaintiff points out there should be evidence of the existence of photographs and then if it is established that photographs exist, that they be shown to be relevant. He also raises the issue of others being in photographs and those other people having privacy rights.
I am satisfied here that the fact of the plaintiff having been on vacation is such that one can presume there are some photographs having been taken, whether by the plaintiff or by others, and of course if the plaintiff is not in the possession or control of photographs taken then nothing need be produced by the plaintiff.
It is my understanding there is a discovery scheduled for the 12th of August of this year, and although the trial is not set until the 23rd of March, ’09, I am satisfied it is not a sufficient stretch, if you will, to require there to be proof of holiday or vacation photographs prior to ordering that they be produced.
So far as the privacy issues relating to others is concerned, the only interest the defendant has is in the activities of the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims damages for loss of enjoyment of life and injury to portions of the plaintiff’s anatomy as were injured in a 1998 workplace injury. There is a significant likelihood of probative value in vacation photographs, the vacation having been taken at a time when he states he was disabled from carrying on his normal work duties. Apparently the holiday in the Dominican Republic was some time between the 15th of December and the 13th of January and took place after the 6 November motor vehicle accident.
So I am satisfied that there should an order go that vacation photographs taken during that time frame of the vacation to the Dominican Republic be produced, but that it be at the option of the plaintiff to delete the facial features of any persons other than himself in the photographs.
One thing all of you should know is this – If you take photos and publish them on the internet (myspace, facebook etc.) these become public and ICBC can verly likely get access to these. As an ICBC claims lawyer I have seen many instances of ICBC tracking down such photos and using these in the defence of personal injury claims.
What is more troubling is when ICBC tries to get access to clealry private photos. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing for anyone concerned about personal privacy and their ICBC claim.
As an ICBC claims lawyer I find myself frequently traveling throughout BC representing clients involved in ICBC claims. This week I’m back in one of my favourite destinations (particularly this time of year), sunny Kelowna, BC. The lake, the heat, what’s not to love?
I try to minimize the amount that travel interferes with business as usual, but despite my best efforts the responsibilities of life on the road do get in the way, so here is the ‘travel version’ of my reporting on recent ICBC claims…
Litigation Privilege. An ICBC claims lawyer representing his/her clients may come into the possession of privileged information. One of the most common types of privilege claimed over evidence by ICBC claims lawyers is the medico-legal report.
When a lawyer obtains a report providing an opinion as to the extent of injury caused in a BC car accident that report may very well be privileged and not disclosed to ICBC. The problem is, oftentimes a privately paid report authored by an independent physician or other hired expert may provide useful rehabilitation advice for a client. So the question is, can such a report be disclosed to the client’s treating physician to better aid in rehabilitation without waiving legal privilege and forcing disclosure to ICBC? A judgement released today seems to say that this can in fact be done.
In this case the Plaintiff had 2 claims, the first being the ‘tort claim’ meaning the claim against the motorist who injured the Plaintiff (who happens to be insured by ICBC) and a ‘part 7 claim’ meaning a claim against ICBC directly for the enforcement of any ‘no fault benefits’ that may be owing as a result of the same BC car accident.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer obtained a report that made some rehabilitation recommendations. This report was shared with the Plaintiff’s treating physician who adopted some of the recommended treatments. The ICBC defence lawyer argued that this disclosure ‘waived’ the claim for privilege. The Plaintiff lawyer disagreed. The ICBC defence lawyer made a motion asking the BC Supreme Court to order that the privately hired report be handed over to ICBC. Master Caldwell of the BC Supreme Court dismissed the motion stating that: I am unaware of any authority which would dictate that reports which are prepared for purposes of litigation but which are provided to an individuals GP for treatment purposes lose the protection of privilege. No such authority was provided to me.
This is a great result for Plaintiff’s involved in ICBC claims and is certainly must reading for an ICBC claims Plaintiff lawyer who wishes to share a private report with a client’s treating doctor for treatment purposes.
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff a total of$71,060.06 as a result of personal injuries which were caused by a 2004 BC car crash.
This was a left-turn intersection case involving a semi-truck and a mini-van. The semi truck turned left in front of the mini-van at an intersection causing a collision. The Plaintiff was a passenger in the mini-van. She ‘braced herself (for the collision) by holding the sides of the seat and placing her feet on the dash’.
Fault for the accident was admitted. The issue at trial was the extent of the injuries sustained and their value.
The court concluded that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck back and jaw which ‘had all effectively cleared up within some 6-7 months after the accident‘.
The Plaintiff also suffered injuries to her knee and ankles which ‘progressed to the point where she could return to work in July, 2005‘. The exact nature of these injuries were ‘bilateral ankle bone contusions and patellofemoral discomfort‘. The court found that these injuries were chronic and that ‘she will have continuing pain from time-to-time (in her ankle) of more likely on a diminishing basis‘.
The court awarded $40,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
This case focused largely on credibility. The court concluded that the plaintiff ‘has exaggerated her ongoing pain’. This case is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim as an example of how BC courts deal with the credibility (truthfulness) of a witness.
Here the court found that the Plaintiff was not truthful when describing the extent of her pain and that she misled the court when addressing past wage loss.
Specifically, the court found that:
Following the adjournment of the trial to October, it became clear from the evidence led by the defence from West Jet’s representatives and employment records that the plaintiff’s position on picking up shifts was not true. In fact, the employment records in evidence confirm that the plaintiff began picking up more work than she was scheduled within a month of returning to regular hours of employment in July of 2005. From the evidence of the West Jet supervisor the plaintiff could routinely work 30 hours a week or less simply by working the hours that she was scheduled but it is clear from the employment records she chose to work more than 40 hours per week by picking up shifts from fellow agents following her return to work in July 2005 and commencing in August 2005.
From a review of her employment records relating to her employment before the accident it became crystal clear that since she began working at West Jet Ms. Polson has routinely lobbied her fellow agents for more work as evidenced from commentary in work reviews directed to her in 2005 and 2006.
Primarily relative to these inconsistencies relating to her employment following the accident, I have, regretfully, come to the conclusion that the plaintiff, in her direct evidence, led the court to believe that she was unable to work additional hours that she had worked prior to the accident and wanted fewer hours of employment because of the pain working additional hours caused her when, in fact, she volunteered for and obtained additional hours notwithstanding the additional pain she asserts.
Likewise, with respect to the medical evidence and her contention that the pain levels at the time of trial were in the ranges she described, this level of pain is inconsistent with her attendances at her treating physician’s office. As indicated previously, following her return to work in July 2005 I can count, from the clinical records, only one occasion prior to her attendance for a medical/legal report to be provided by Dr. Gorman some 13 months after returning to work. While there are complaints of depression, as already indicated, there is ample clinical notations to indicate pre-existing problems with depression and fatigue which cannot be causally connected to this motor vehicle accident without more.
Although the plaintiff testified that she routinely suffers from pain in her neck at a 7 out of 10 pain level when at work, and frequently rubs her neck as a result, only one witness testified that she had seen the plaintiff sometimes stretching her neck, perhaps once a week, and only occasionally sitting on an exercise ball provided by her employer. With respect to rolling her ankle at work and the resulting limp thereby occasioned, Ms. Polson described herself rolling her ankle frequently at work and limping frequently at work for approximately 3 or 4 times a day, but no witness testified to having seen Ms. Polson limping or rubbing her ankle. While her co-worker Amanda Fraser-Doyle testified that Ms. Polson had slowed down since the accident, this would be inconsistent with the actual hours worked and voluntarily picked up by Ms. Polson after returning to work.
One other matter of evidence also needs to be dealt with. Tricia Spencer, the administrative assistant for West Jet at the Prince George operations, testified to having observed the plaintiff at the Christmas party in December 2006 where she described the plaintiff as “enjoying herself on the dance floor for a relatively substantial time and was unable to notice any pain behaviour while she was dancing”. While Ms. Spencer agreed that she did not have much casual conversation with the plaintiff at this time, she maintained her observations of the plaintiff’s abilities on the dance floor.
Credibility of a Plaintiff is vital in all ICBC injury claims, particularly those where the injuries cannot be verified through objective measures such as X-rays or MRI findings. In such cases courts are very careful in assessing a Plaintiff’s credibility prior to awarding damages for injuries. Cases such as this one are worth reviewing if you are proceeding to trial in an ICBC injury claim to see what kinds of factors the court can consider when weighing a person’s credibility.
As an ICBC claims lawyer I noticed a change in ICBC’s practices lately.
One of the first things I do for my ICBC claims clients is obtain the records ICBC keeps regarding the claim. It used to be that the correspondence from ICBC to the client was signed by a human being. Now I see the letters clients receive are often signed by ‘teams’ such as ICBC Team 1, ICBC Team 2, ICBC team 3, ICBC Team 4, ICBC Team 5. What’s this all about?
It seems to me that this ‘team’ approach is a way to make the ICBC claims process less personal. When ICBC sends out letters to those injured in BC car accidents telling them that their claim is denied due to the LVI program or some other such other form letter it is much less inviting to follow up if you are responding to some faceless ‘team.’
If a personal ICBC adjuster sends a letter and you have questions it’s easy to follow up. You can call the person, make an appointment, establish a relationship and try to work together to resolve the claim. Not that this always works but it is at least a more dignified process.
When ICBC sends a letter signed by some faceless ‘team’ of people follow-up becomes less attractive. You may get passed around from person to person. It’s more difficult to strike up a personal connection with a ‘team’ and this may make some people willing to simply accept ICBC’s position and walk away from the claim. The ‘team’ approach probably makes it easier for ICBC adjusters to stick to ICBC’s policies such as the ‘LVI program‘ or ICBC’s ‘soft tissue injury assessment guidelines‘. If the ICBC ‘team’ tells you your claim is denied I would think it is easier for an ICBC adjuster to stick to this position if he / she remains faceless.
The less human the process the greater the desire to walk away from an ICBC claim.
If you have received a letter from an ICBC ‘team’ and disagree with ICBC’s position, be it the value of your claim, the determination of fault or an LVI claim denial don’t be discouraged. Follow up no differently than if you had the name of a personal claims adjuster to deal with. Make sure you are looked after properly in your ICBC claim.
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff $12,000 for ‘pain and suffering and loss of amenities‘ (non-pecuniary damages) for ‘a mild soft tissue injury which had essentially cleared within 3 months or so. ‘.
The Plaintiff was rear-ended in 2006 in North Vancouver. The court found that the impact was significant. The Plaintiff complained of headaches, neck pain, low back pain, mid back pain, left elbow and forearm pain and occasional pain shooting to his knees.
In what can be described as a very unusual occurrence, the trial proceeded without any medical opinion evidence addressing the extent of injury. The Plaintiff attempted to have his GP testify but the court would not permit it as proper notice of the ‘expert opinion’ was not provided per Rule 40-A.
The court admitted the doctor’s clinical notes into evidence. The Plaintiff then tried to treat these as notice of what the doctor was going to testify to. The court found this improper and did not permit the doctor to give opinion evidence stating that:
During the trial and following submissions on the issue, I ruled that medical/clinical records cannot be said to meet what was meant by the above-quoted Rule.
In my view, the basis of Rule 40A is to provide adequate notice of evidence which is to be tendered by way of an expert’s opinion to avoid trial by ambush, to avoid unnecessary delays, and to generally permit trials to be run in an orderly fashion. Use of clinical records in the manner suggested by counsel for the plaintiff does not approach, let alone meet, that objective. Rarely is a concise and clear expression of any opinion capable of being gleaned from such records, provided that they can even be deciphered, which is indeed problematic in this case. Further, there is usually nothing in those records that might clearly identify what, if any, of the facts contained therein are being relied upon for any such opinion. Finally, clinical records often contain consultation reports which, while they may be evidence of their existence, most probably cannot be relied upon without proof of the facts or opinions contained in them. I am sure that there are other objections as well.
To have permitted Dr. Marcos to testify as to his opinion on the basis that his clinical records amounted to compliance with Rule 40A would, in my view, have been impermissibly prejudicial to the defendant. In that regard I note that in this case none of the grounds enumerated in Rule 40A(16) had been met. Thus, I am faced with the task of assessing damages due to Mr. Murray based upon his largely uncorroborated testimony alone. I am obliged to be mindful of the observation of Chief Justice McEachern in Price and Kostryba where he said the following:
I am not stating any new principle when I say that the Court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.
An injured person is entitled to be fully and properly compensated for any injury or disability caused by a wrongdoer. But no one can expect his fellow citizen or citizens to compensate him in the absence of convincing evidence — which could be just his own evidence if the surrounding circumstances are consistent — that his complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury.
The court went onto award $12,000 for pain and suffering and $180 for special damages.
This case is a great reminder of the need to comply with Rule 40-A if you are advancing an ICBC injury claim in Supreme Court and wish to call expert evidence to give the court an opinion about injuries, causation, future treatment, and prognosis. Failure to do so can result in the court not admitting the evidence which can badly damage an ICBC claim. Here the court expressly stated that “although an opinion of a medical expert such as a medical/legal report from (the Plaintiff’s) GP may have provided a foundation for a factual finding of continuing pain and discomfort, I unfortunately do not have the benefit of such an opinion.”
Another note-worthy result of this judgement is the apparent ‘cost’ consequences.
From reading paragraphs 25-29 of the judgement it appears that the lawyer for the defendant made a formal offer of settlement prior to trial which was greater than the judgement. In such circumstances a defendant can be awarded ‘costs’ for the trial. In this case the court awarded $4,400 in costs which would have to be subtracted from the judgement amount prior to the Plaintiff getting paid. In addition, the Plaintiff would not be reimbursed disbursements for the trial and would be responsible for the Defendant’s trial disbursements. After taking all this into account the true value of the judgement may in fact be $0. When considering ICBC claim settlement it is very important to consider the likelihood of beating ICBC’s formal offer at trial.
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 (Janiakv. 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.
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.
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.
This blog is authored by personal injury and ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Use of the site and sending or receiving information through it does not establish a solicitor/client relationship. The views expressed and the content provided on this blog is for nonprofit educational purposes. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice on any specific set of facts. The use of this website does not create a solicitor-client (attorney-client) relationship. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer directly.