Tag: icbc injury claims lawyer

ICBC Injury Claims, Medical Exams and Access to Information

When advancing an ICBC Injury Claim ICBC can typically arrange an ‘independent medical exam’ to assess your injuries.   This is usually done either through the power given to ICBC under the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation or pursuant to Rule 30 of the Supreme Court Rules.
When ICBC sends you to a doctor for an ‘indpendent’ examination the physician usually takes notes and often authors a report summarizing his/her opinion of collision related injuries.  Normally ICBC Injury Claims Lawyers negotiate the terms of these examinations to permit their client to have access to the medical examiners notes.
What if these terms are not discussed prior to the exam, are you entitled to have access to the notes that ICBC’s doctor generates as a result of the visit or can ICBC claim litigation privilege over these notes?
Reasons for judgement were released today (McLeod v. Doorn) dealing with this issue.  In today’s case ICBC arranged to have the Plaintiff examined by a physician.   The Plaintiff did not negotiate what access she would have to the physicians records when she agreed to this assessment.  After the exam the Plaintiff sought access to the doctor’s clinical records and ICBC refused to provide these on the basis that the notes were protected by litigation privilege.
The Plaintiff brought an application in Court to be granted access to these records and in granting the application Master Caldwell summarized and applied the law as follows:

[4] I have considered counsel’s submissions extensively; however, I am consistently drawn back to paras. 12 and 13 of the reasons of Finch J.A. (as he then was) in Stainer v. Plaza, [2001] B.C.J. No. 4:

In my respectful opinion this condition is too broadly expressed.  Some reports prepared by or for a doctor performing an independent medical examination may not be protected by a solicitor’s brief privilege.  Ever since Milburn v. Phillips (1963), 44 W.W.R. 637 (B.C.S.C.) our courts have recognized that statements made by a plaintiff to a doctor conducting an independent medical examination under compulsion of court order may be ordered to be communicated to the plaintiff’s solicitor.  And, insofar as the examining doctor makes observations or findings on physical examination, he becomes to that extent a potential witness as to matters of fact.  That there can be no property in a witness of fact is well settled: Harmony Shipping Co. S.A. v. Davis.[1979] 3 All ER (C.A.).

It therefore appears to me to be within the proper exercise of the discretion afforded under Rule 30 to impose, as a condition of ordering an independent medical examination, delivery up to a plaintiff of the examining doctor’s notes that record any history given to him by the plaintiff on the examination, and any notes that record the doctor’s observations or findings on physical examination.  It would not usually, however, be fair to go further, and to require the defendant or third party to disclose any documents prepared by the doctor which contain his confidential opinions or advice to the lawyer who requested the examination, whether for the purposes of trial preparation, cross-examination at trial, or otherwise.

[5] Defence counsel points out that there was no order made under Rule 30 and, therefore, this reasoning does not apply; however, because the plaintiff agreed to go without an order, she is stuck.  I fail to see how that can be correct.  Rule 1(5) states that the object of the Rules is to “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits”.  Requiring a court order in the circumstances of this case hardly fits with such intention.

[6] I am of the view that the notes that record any history given to Dr. Piper and Mr. Kerr by the plaintiff at the examinations and any notes of those two professionals which record their observations or finding on physical examination, including raw test data, are to be produced to plaintiff’s counsel in the manner outlined in para. 4 of the proposed order.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and the LVI Defence

I’ve blogged and written many times about ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Program (LVI) and today Mr. Justice Williams shared his opinions about the so called LVI defence.
In today’s case (Munro v. Thompson) the Plaintiff suffered a whiplash injury in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Court found that the impact was indeed quite minimal when considering the vehicle damage.  In awarding $9,000 for the Plaintiff’s injuries (which the court found largely resolved several months following the collision) Mr. Justice Williams summarized the law as it related to Low Impact Collisions as follows:

[50]            The issue of the legitimacy of injury claims arising from accidents in which property damage is very minor is one that comes before the court not infrequently.

[51]            The accident at bar was a low velocity collision where damage to the vehicles was so minimal as to be almost non-existent.  All of the evidence supports that conclusion.  In such instances, claims for compensation for injury are often resisted on the basis that there is reason to doubt their legitimacy.  Furthermore, in this case the principal evidence in support of the plaintiff’s claim is subjective, that is, it is his self-report.  There is not a great deal of objective evidence to support his description of the injuries he claims to have suffered.

[52]            In response to those concerns, I would observe that there is no principle of law which says that because the damage to the vehicles is slight or non-detectable, that it must follow that there is no injury.  Certainly, as a matter of common sense, where the collision is of slight force, it is probably more likely that resulting injuries will be less severe than where the forces were greater, such as to result in significant physical damage to the automobiles.  However, I would not hold that out as a reliable thesis, but rather a statement of very general expectation. Suffice to say, I do not accept that there can be no injury where there is no physical damage to the vehicles.

[53]            With respect to the lack of objective evidence of physical injury and ongoing symptoms, it is well accepted that the court must be cautious in assessing the evidence.  The determination must be made in a way that the outcome will be fair to both the plaintiff and the defendant.

[54]            The plaintiff, to succeed in his claim, must establish on a balance of probabilities that this incident caused injury to him, and that those injuries entitle him to an award of compensatory damages against the defendant.

[55]            I am satisfied in this case that Mr. Munro was injured as a consequence of the accident, notwithstanding its apparently minor nature.  Accordingly, it is necessary to determine the extent of the effect of those injuries on him and the quantum of the damages to which he is entitled.

If you are injured by the fault of another in a BC Car Crash and ICBC tells you that your crash fits their LVI criteria therefore you suffered no compensable injuries its worth reviewing cases like this.  ICBC’s LVI policy is not the law, it is simply a corporate policy that has no legal force.  If you were injured in a car crash through the fault of another in BC your rights to make a tort claim are not diminished any because of the amount of vehicle damage. 

ICBC Injury Claims, Past Wage Loss and Income Tax

I normally don’t blog about tax law but in certain circumstances the interplay of tax law and personal injury law can have very significant consequences in ICBC Injury Claims.
If you are injured through the fault of another in a motor vehicle collision in BC and advance a tort claim for your past wage loss you need to be familiar with s. 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act which limits past income loss awards to past ‘net’ income loss.
Serious injury claims usually take many years before making their way to trial, mostly because it is important for injuries to reach a point of maximum medical improvement before trying to value them.
As a result of this Plaintiffs with serious injuries such as brain or spinal cord injuries often have several years of past wage loss by the time their claim gets to trial.   How then, should s. 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act operate for past wage loss in these circumstances?  Take the following example:
Imagine a Plaintiff who earned $50,000 per year had 4 years of income loss before his ICBC Injury Claim got to trial.  His gross income loss would be $200,000.  What would the net loss be?  Would it be the income tax on $200,000 at today’s rate or would the income be taxed at the lower rate (the taxes payable on a salary of $50,000 in each calaner year)?  
In a 2003 decision named Hudniuk, the BC Supreme Court stated that taxes must be assessed “as if the past income had all been earned at the effective date of the jury’s assessment namely, the first day of trial”  Since 2003 this approach has been generally accepted as being correct.  This approach, in my opinion, unfairly penalized Plaintiffs by taking an amount off their award for taxes far greater then what they actually would have paid in taxes had they earned the income year by year.  Fortunately, very important reasons were released today by the BC Court of Appeal (Lines v. Gordon) adding clarity to the application of section 98. 
In today’s case the BC Court of Appeal weighed in how s. 98 of the Insurance Vehicle Act should be applied.  In doing so the Court first reaffirmed the important principle in tort law that:
Damages should, so far as any monetary award can do so, restore the plaintiff to the position in which he would have stood but for the defendant’s wrongdoing. On this basis they should represent compensation for loss of earning capacity and not for loss of earnings. In a case of personal injuries, what the plaintiff has lost is the whole or part, as the case may be, of his natural capital equipment and to tax him on this is contrary to generally accepted principles of taxation.
The Court then went on to decide that the approach taken by the trial judge in Hudniuk was not inflexible and not appropriate in all circumstances and stated as follows:

[181]        Although the wording of ss. 95 and 98 contemplates the possibility of calculating net income loss for multiple periods between the date of the accident and the date of trial, it is my opinion that the Legislature did not intend to require in every case that gross past income loss be allocated to each of the calendar years between the date of the accident and the date of trial and to never allow net income loss to be calculated on the basis that the compensation for it was all received on the first day of trial.  If the Legislature had so intended, it would not have used the words “for any period” in the introductory portion of the s. 95 definition of “net income loss”.  Rather, if that had been the intention, the Legislature would have used words to the effect of “for each calendar year”.

[182]        In my opinion, the Legislature recognized that there may be difficulties in allocating gross income loss to particular periods between the date of the accident and the date of trial.  For example, as in Hudniuk, a jury may make a finding as to the gross income loss without being asked to allocate the loss to any calendar year or other period, and the judge may consider it inappropriate to speculate on the jury’s reasoning process.  The difficulty could be compounded if, again as in Hudniuk, the tax rules applicable to the income earned in a particular year are different from the tax rules applicable to the income allocated to that year.

[183]        Another example is a situation where the plaintiff was unemployed at the time of the accident and had no imminent prospects of employment.  The judge or jury could make an award for loss of past earning capacity, but it would be artificial to allocate it among different periods.

[184]        In my opinion, by the use of the phrase “for any period”, it was the intention of the Legislature to give a discretion to the judge to determine what period or periods are appropriate for the determination of net income loss in all of the circumstances.  In the two examples I have given, it would be appropriate for the judge to use only one period for the calculation of net income loss (namely, the entire period from the date of the accident to the first day of trial).  In such a case, net income loss would be calculated as if the gross income award was received by the plaintiff on the first day of trial.

[185]        By way of contrast to the two examples I have given, in the situation where, at the time of injury, the plaintiff was working at a job and returned to that job after sufficiently recovering from the injuries, it would be appropriate, absent any complications, for the judge to allocate the gross income loss to the calendar years between the date of the accident and the date of trial as if the plaintiff had continued working.  This would accord with the principle that, insofar as is possible, the plaintiff should be put in the position he or she would have been in if not for the injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence.

[186]        There will be a wide variety of circumstances facing trial judges.  In each case, the trial judge will have to decide whether it is appropriate in the circumstances before him or her to calculate net income loss on the basis of one period, calendar-year periods or other multiple periods.  In making a decision in this regard, the trial judge should consider all of the circumstances and apply s. 98 in a manner that is most consistent with the principles of damage assessment to which I have referred.

[187]        The application of s. 98 in jury trials should be consistent with its application in trials by judge alone.  The judge will typically consult with counsel as to whether the jury will be requested to only make an award for the gross amount of the loss of past earning capacity or to also make a finding of fact with respect to the net income loss prior to trial.  Whether the jury will be requested to provide a lump sum amount of the past gross income loss, or will be requested to provide periodic gross amounts, for use in calculating the net income award, will depend on the circumstances of the case.

[188]        In the present case, the plaintiff did not earn any income between the date of the accident and the date of trial, with the result that there is no complication of using different tax rules for actual and allocated income.  Although the trial judge made a global assessment of the past income loss, he specifically accepted a scenario which allocated projected income among the calendar years between the accident and the trial, and he then applied contingencies to arrive at the award he made.  In the circumstances, it is reasonable to infer that he applied the contingencies to the projected annual incomes on a pro rata basis.

[189]         In addition, it is apparent from the supplementary reasons for judgment that the trial judge felt constrained to follow what he understood to be the inflexible approach of Hudniuk in circumstances where he felt that approach diverted from the damage assessment principle that a plaintiff should be made whole.  It is reasonable to conclude, in my opinion, that if the judge appreciated that he had a discretion to allocate the gross income loss to more than one period, he would have allocated it to each of the calendar years between the accident and the trial on a pro rata basis according to the incomes projected in the scenario he accepted.

This case is certainly good news for any Plantiffs injured in BC motor vehicle collisions.  The flexibility the Court of Appeal has given trial judges in the applicaiton of s. 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act will result in more fair assessments in past income loss by not penalizing plaintiff’s with a tax rate that they never would in reality be exposed to.

Another interesting highlight of this judgement was the Courts comments on past wage loss awards being in reality awards for a diminished capital asset, specifically the court said:

 

[172]        I have already alluded to the principle that past income loss is properly characterized as loss of past earning capacity or loss of a capital asset.  Mr. Justice Pitfield made a similar point when he made reference in para. 40 of Hudniuk to the fact that the jury award was an assessment of damages and not a mechanical calculation. 

[173]        Despite the fact that past income loss is an assessment of damages for loss of a capital asset, there is normally a correlation between the time worked by a person and the amount of income earned by them.  In the majority of personal injury cases, the plaintiff, at the time of the injury, will have been working at a job and will return to the same job when he or she has recovered sufficiently from the injury.  Although it is technically an assessment of damages for loss of capital asset, there is no suggestion that the plaintiff would have worked at a different job if he or she had not been injured, and the assessment of damages does involve a calculation of the income the plaintiff would have earned at the job had he or she not been injured.

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.

More Snow in BC….More Advice in dealing with ICBC

Its now mid March and like many others I welcome Spring coming and coming fast but its snowing again in Victoria, BC.
With yet another snowfall I thought I’d repost a previous blog entry dealing with single vehicle weather related collisions and ICBC claims. 
Snow in BC has two reliable results 1. Car Accidents, 2. Phone call to BC personal injury lawyers about those car accidents. The second is particularly true for Victoria personal injury and ICBC claims lawyers because of the local populations relative inexperience dealing with winter driving conditions.
In anticipation of the almost certain phone calls I will receive this week as a Victoria ICBC claims lawyer I write this post.
If you are the driver involved in a single vehicle accident in British Columbia, and you lost control due to the weather, all you can likely claim from ICBC are Part 7 Benefits (also referred to as no fault benefits). There is (except in some unusually peculiar situations such as an ICBC insured driver contributing to the road hazards) in all likelihood no claim from ICBC for pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) in these circumstances. A person’s right to claim pain and suffering and other “tort” damages only arises if someone else is at fault for your injuries. In these single vehicle accidents you usually only have yourself or the weather to blame, and last time I checked you can’t sue mother nature.
If someone else contributed to the accident (perhaps the road maintenance company for failing to act in a timely fashion or perhaps a mechanic for failing to bring your vehicle up to snuff last time you had it inspected) you will have to make a claim against them. Chances are they are not insured through ICBC for such claims and instead you will have to go against their policy of private insurance.
Now, if you are a passenger in a single vehicle, weather related accident, you may very well have a claim for pain and suffering. This claim would be against your driver (except perhaps in the unusual circumstances mentioned above). If your driver did not operate the vehicle safely in all the circumstances (for example driving too fast for the known or anticipated poor road conditions) and this caused or contributed to the collision then you have a tort claim. Assuming the driver is ICBC insured then you have the right to apply for both no-fault benefits from your own insurance and make a tort claim against the driver that will be covered through his third party liability ICBC insurance.
If you are advancing a tort claim against a driver be weary of the defence of “inevitable accident”. ICBC defends claims. One of the best defences to a weather related accident is that it was “inevitable”. What this means is that the driver, operating safely, could not have avoided losing control of his vehicle. If this can be proven than the tort claim can be defeated.
People naturally don’t want to get those known to them in trouble and it is all too common that when reporting such a claim to ICBC passengers too readily agree to how unexpected the accident was and how the driver was operating the vehicle very carefully. If this is true that’s fine. My words of caution are as follows: If the driver was not safe (I’m not talking about driving like a maniac here, I’m talking about driving less than carefully for the winter driving conditions) and you give ICBC the alternate impression with a view towards helping the driver out, the result may be severely damaging your ability to bring a tort claim.
Tell the truth and know what’s at stake when doing so. If ICBC gets the false impression that the accident was inevitable you will have a much harder time advancing or settling your ICBC tort claim.
The bottom line is this: If an accident truly is inevitable and there is no tort claim so be it, but, don’t lead ICBC to this conclusion if it isn’t true. Doing so will hurt your claim for pain and suffering
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More on ICBC Injury Claims and Independent Medical Exams

Ok, second post of the day on this topic.
Typically ICBC (on behalf of their insured defendant) are able to send a Plaintiff to an Independent Medical Exam in the course of a BC Supreme Court lawsuit in order to level the playing field.  In certain cases they are entitled to more than one exam.
Reasons for judgement were released today (Norsworthy v. Greene) dismissing a defence applicaiton for a second examination in an ICBC Injury Claim.
In this case the Plaintiff obtained several medico-legal reports including the report of a physical medicine specialist and a Functional Capacity Evaluation.  ICBC had the Plaintiff examined by Dr. Schweigel.  Dr. Schweigel provided the opinion that the Plaintiff had soft tissue injuries and that she “could have been off work for roughly 3 months.  After that she should have been able to return to work in a graduated fashion.  Within five to six months, she should have been able to return to full time work.  This lady is not disabled now from all the activities she was doing prior to the two MVA’s“.
The Plaintiff’s experts disagreed and provided opinion that her injuries were more severe and disabling that opined by Dr. Schweigel.  ICBC applied for a second ‘independent’ exam on the basis that they should be entitled to reply to the Functional Capacity Evaluation opinion obtained by the Plaintiff.  In rejecting the applicaiton Master Caldwell of the BC Supreme Court gave the following summary of the law regarding requests for multiple Independent Medical Exams:

[22] It should be obvious to any reader of these two reports that each was prepared by two persons with two completely different disciplines and approaches; yet there was a noticeable crossover in some of the observations made by each of them.

[23] In Christopherson v. Krahn, 2002 BCSC 1356, Madam Justice Smith made the observations at para. 9 that the test of reasonable equality does not mean that for each specialist relied upon by the plaintiff, the defendant is entitled to an IME from a similar specialist.  Smith J. went on to deal with this proposition when she quoted from Henry v. Derbyshire, [1997] B.C.J. No. 1750, a decision of Master Nitikman where, at para. 13, the master stated:

A third applicable principle is that the party seeking the examination is not limited to one independent examination but

The court will not order a second examination merely to permit the defendant to get a second opinion on the same matter.  [She went on to say] A second examination may be appropriate where there is some question which could not have been dealt with on the first examination.  The applicant must show a reason why it is necessary for the second examination.

[24] I take the view that in the case at bar the defendants are seeking a second examination pursuant to Rule 30(2).

[25] The IME sought by Dr. Schweigel was conducted after the defendants had knowledge of the earlier functional capacity evaluation of the plaintiff by an occupational therapist retained by the plaintiff, yet the defendants chose to have an IME conducted by an orthopedic surgeon.  That opinion seems to be firm.  Now the defendants seek an opinion of an occupational therapist which may undermine the opinion of Dr. Schweigel, their own expert.

[26] Respectfully, in my view, although the defendants point to the different purposes of the reports, I do not believe that those differences alone provide a valid reason for a second report pursuant to Rule 30(2).

[27] Accordingly, I dismiss the defendants’ application and award the plaintiff her costs for preparation for and attendance at the hearing of this matter.

$35,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Wrist and Soft Tissue Injuries

Written reasons for judgment were released today by Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein of the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $60,000 for her losses and damages as a result of a 2005 BC Car Accident.
The Plaintiff was in her mid 20’s when she was involved in an intersection crash involving a left turning vehicle. The lawyer for the offending driver admitted liability (fault) for the accident leaving the issue of quantum of damages (value of the injuries) to be addressed at trial.
The Plaintiff suffered several injuries including soft tissue injuries to her neck and lower back. Her most significant injury was a fibro-cartilage tear of her right wrist and a possible scapholunate ligament injury as well.
The Plaintiff had 14 sessions of physiotherapy which created ‘some improvement’ of her neck injury. The Plaintiff had an MRI of her wrist which revealed a tear of the triangular fibro-cartilage complex (a “TFC tear”). The Plaintiff had a cortisone injection in her wrist which offered some temporary relief. Arthroscopic surgery was also recommended by an orthopaedic surgeon but the Plaintiff elected not to have this procedure done until her son was older.
The Plaintiff’s lawyers sought just over $150,000 in damages as a result of these injuries. The defence lawyers suggested numbers were significantly lower. Such a discrepancy is common in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.
After hearing the evidence the court awarded damages as follows:

a) $35,000.00 for non-pecuniary damages;

b) $7,812.00 for past wage loss, subject to Part 7 and statutory deductions;

c) $486.99 for special damages;

d) $20,000.00 for diminishment of earning capacity; and

e) $1000.00 for cost of future care.

The court’s discussion relating to ‘diminshed earning capacity’ is worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim concerned with future wage loss. In this case the Plaintiff was able to return to work for a period of time following the accident before leaving the workforce on maternity leave. By the time of trial the Plaintiff was retraining for a different profession. The court agreed with the defence lawyers point that this change of careers ‘is a natural progression for somebody (in the Plaintiff’s) position‘ and the court also put weight in the defence lawyer’s position that the Plaintiff ‘never worked a full year.’
The court cited one of the better known quotes from the BC Court of Appeal addressing ‘diminished earning capacity‘ which states:
Because it is impairment that is being redressed, even a plaintiff who is apparently going to be able to earn as much as he could have earned if not injured or who, with retraining, on the balance of probabilities will be able to do so, is entitled to some compensation for the impairment. He is entitled to it because for the rest of his life some occupations will be closed to him and it is impossible to say that over his working life the impairment will not harm his income earning ability.
The court concluded that only a ‘modest award‘ was appropriate for the Plaintiff’s diminished capacity and awarded $20,000 for this loss.
Do you have questions about an ICBC wrist injury claim or an ICBC claim involving ‘diminished earning capacity‘ (future wage loss)?  Do you need advice from an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so, click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken (Services provided for ICBC injury claims throughout BC!)

More on Court Costs, Settlement Offers, and Your ICBC Claim

If you are advancing and ICBC injury claim in BC Supreme Court, whether or not you are represented by an ICBC Claims Lawyer, you need to know something about Formal Settlement Offers. These settlement offers bring potential consequences if they are not accepted and these need to be considered when deciding whether an ICBC settlement offer is fair.
Rule 37 of the BC Supreme Court Rules permits parties to a lawsuit to make a Formal Settlement Offer and if the claim goes to trial and the settlement offer is beaten there can be significant Costs consequences (where the losing side has to pay the winning side tarriff court costs and disbursements which can easily exceed $10,000).
If you think of taking an ICBC claim to trial and winning I imagine you think of proving the other driver is at fault and being awarded money for your injuries. With formal settlement offers, winning is not quite that simple. If ICBC makes a formal settlement offer under Rule 37 and the judge or jury awards you less this can be considered a loss. Rule 37(24) sets out the consequences to a Plaintiff for failing to accept a Defendant offer to settle and ‘losing’ at trial, the subrule reads as follows:

Consequences of failure to accept defendant’s offer for monetary relief

(24) If the defendant has made an offer to settle a claim for money and the offer has not expired or been withdrawn or been accepted,

(a) if the plaintiff obtains judgment for the amount of money specified in the offer or a lesser amount, the plaintiff is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and the defendant is entitled to costs assessed from that date, or

(b) if the plaintiff’s claim is dismissed, the defendant is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and to double costs assessed from that date.

On the other side of the coin, there can be more than one way of winning. If you make a formal offer to settle your ICBC claim in compliance with Rule 37 and the judge or jury award you more money, Rule 37(23) sets out the consequences to the Defendant. The subrule reads as follows:

Consequences of failure to accept plaintiff’s offer to settle a monetary claim

(23) If the plaintiff has made an offer to settle a claim for money, and it has not expired or been withdrawn or been accepted, and if the plaintiff obtains a judgment for the amount of money specified in the offer or a greater amount, the plaintiff is entitled to costs assessed to the date the offer was delivered and to double costs assessed from that date.

Now, after absorbing all of the above you need to know that RULE 37 and 37A are being repealed as of July 2, 2008 and being replaced with Rule 37(B)!

That does not mean that you just wasted your time learning the above. If a formal offer to settle an ICBC injury claim is made before July 2, 2008 it needs to comply with Rule 37 or Rule 37A to trigger ‘costs consequences’.

To trigger costs consequences in an ICBC claim that goes to trial any offer made after July 2, 2008 has to comply with Rule 37B. To do so the offer must

1. be made in writing

2. be delivered to all parties of record, and

3. contain the following sentence “the [name of party making the offer] reserves the right to bring this offer to the attention of the court for consideration in relation to costs after the court has rendered judgement on all other issues in this proceeding”.

It seems that the purpose of Rule 37B) is to simplify the process of making formal settlement offers. The consequences of taking ICBC claims to court and beating (or not beating) a formal settlement offer seem to be less certain under this new rule. Rule 37B(4) sets out the consequences as follows: “The court may consider an offer to settle when exercising the court’s discretion in relation to costs”.

The options given to the court are set out in subrule 5 which states:

In a proceeding in which an offer to settle has been made, the court may do one or both of the following:

(a) deprive a party, in whole or in part, of costs to which the party would otherwise be entitled in respect of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of the delivery of the offer to settle;

(b) award double costs of all or some of the steps taken in the proceeding after the date of the delivery of the offer to settle.

Subrule 6 sets out the factors a court may consider in exercising its costs discretion where a formal offer was made stating:

In making an order under subrule (5), the court may consider the following:

(a) whether the offer to settle was one that ought reasonably to have been accepted, either on the date that the offer to settle was delivered or on an later date

(b) the relationship between the terms of the settlement offered and the final judgment of the court;

(c) the relative financial circumstances of the parties;

(d) any other factor the court considers appropriate

I for one welcome Rule 37B. One of the biggest criticisms made by plaintiff ICBC injury claims lawyers was that the old Rule 37 was unfair to plaintiffs as a person injured in a car accident was always in a worse financial position to face the consequences of losing at trial than ICBC. This lopsided reality created a lot of pressure on people advancing ICBC injury claims in BC Supreme Court to consider settlement when faced with a Rule 37 formal settlement offer.

It will be interesting to see if our BC courts, when considering “the relative financial circumstances of the parties” will consider ICBC a party to the lawsuit of an ICBC injury claim. Typically, ICBC is not named as a defendant to a ICBC Injury tort Claim, instead those at fault for the collision are named and often they simply happen to be insured by ICBC. So ICBC is not formally a ‘party’ to most ICBC injury tort claims.

If the court is willing to consider the fact that the Defendant is insured when weighing the ‘relative financial circumstances of the parties‘ then this Rule is a welcome change for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim. If not, perhaps the court is willing to consider this under “any other factor the court considers appropriate“.

Do you have questions about an ICBC settlement offer or the Rules of Court governing settlement offers in BC Supreme Court? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Injury Claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

 

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Contact

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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