Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just under $150,000 damages in total as a result of two ICBC claims.
One thing I’ve been meaning to point out for some time on this blog is that in BC tort claims (which include car accident claims), ICBC is almost never named as a party to the lawsuit. There are a few circumstances when it is appropriate to name ICBC directly but these are few and far between. It is a safe bet that if a case goes to court in BC involving a BC car accident it is more often than not an ICBC claim. I know that this case involves ICBC (despite them not being named as a party) because the defence lawyer is an ICBC in house lawyer from Kamloops. When you are looking at precedents to help you value your ICBC case to determine what a fair settlement, you should know that most any BC car accident case serves as a valuable precedent because even if ICBC is not mentioned or is not the insurer in any given case, each BC case serves as an example of how our courts value injuries in BC.
Getting back to the case – here the Plaintiff was injured in 2 car accidents for which others were at fault. The first in 1998, the second in 2004. In the first accident the Plaintiff was a passenger in a pick-up truck involved in a roll-over accident. In the second the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was T-boned. Both crashes were significant and resulted in injuries.
This case is a good example of how complex chronic pain ICBC claims can be when they head to trial. In this case the court heard from over 10 lay witnesses who could comment on their observations of the Plaintiff’s injuries (or lack thereof by the witnesses called by the ICBC defence lawyer). The court also had access to medical evidence from over 6 doctors and other specialists.
The Plaintiff presented a case of chronic pain affecting every single aspect of her life. The defence case was one of injury which significantly improved after 2 years.
The court concluded that, although the Plaintiff ‘exaggerated her claim to some extent‘ she ‘has suffered to some degree from headaches and chronic pain over the past 10 years, and will continue to suffer these in the future, over some limited period of time. Some of her complaints are psychosomatic and she may benefit from counselling‘.
The court awarded damages as follows:
The plaintiff shall recover damages as follows:
– general damages: $75,000
– past income loss: $680
– cost of future care: $4,271.72
– diminished future earning capacity: $60,000
– special damages: $7,753.60
In doing so the court recited some good quotes from previous BC judgements addressing the assessment of damages. These precedents are worth knowing for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim. Particularly the court referred to a great BC Court of Appeal case summarizing the principles used in the assessment of damages in personal injuries, the key quote being:
The most basic of those principles is that a plaintiff is entitled to be put into the position he would have been in but for the accident so far as money can do that. An award for loss of earning capacity is based on the recognition that a plaintiff’s capacity to earn income is an asset which has been taken away. 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. In some cases, projections from past earnings may be a useful factor to consider in valuing the loss but past earnings are not the only factor to consider.
Because damage awards are made as lump sums, an award for loss of future earning capacity must deal to some extent with the unknowable. The standard of proof to be applied when evaluating hypothetical events that may affect an award is simple probability, not the balance of probabilities. Possibilities and probabilities, chances, opportunities, and risks must all be considered, so long as they are a real and substantial possibility and not mere speculation. These possibilities are to be given weight according to the percentage chance they would have happened or will happen.
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 … [The factors] include:
 whether the plaintiff has been rendered less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment;
 whether the plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers;
 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
 whether the plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market.
The task of the court is to assess damages, not to calculate them according to some mathematical formula. Once impairment of a plaintiff’s earning capacity as a capital asset has been established, that impairment must be valued. The valuation may involve a comparison of the likely future of the plaintiff if the accident had not happened with the plaintiff’s likely future after the accident has happened. As a starting point, a trial judge may determine the present value of the difference between the amounts earned under those two scenarios. But if this is done, it is not to be the end of the inquiry. The overall fairness and reasonableness of the award must be considered taking into account all the evidence.
The court then did a great job of summarizing the two approaches when addressing future wage loss and ICBC claims, summarizing the law as follows:
There are two methods of assessment under this head of damages, although both have the same outcome. The court can either use the “real possibility” approach, and compare the plaintiff’s likely earnings, had she not been injured, with the income she likely now earns, factoring in the positive and negative contingencies; or the court can value the loss of earning capacity as a capital asset (as Finch J.A., as he then was, suggested in Pallos v. ICBC (1995), 100 B.C.L.R. (2d) 260 (C.A.)).