Tag: icbc injury claims

$115,000 Awarded in ICBC Low Velocity Impact (LVI) Claim

(Please note the case discussed in this post was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgment released on September 21, 2010.  You can go to my September 2010 archives to read my summary of the BC Court of Appeal Decision)
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Mariano v. Campbell) awarding a Plaintiff just over $115,000 as a result of injuries sustained in a 2006 rear end collision.
This was an ICBC Claim that apparently fit into ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) Program.  The vehicles sustained modest damage and the ICBC Claims Lawyer defending the Claim argued the Low Velocity Impact defence.  The details of this are set out in paragraphs 33-41 of the judgment.

[33] The defendant says the accident was a low velocity impact claim.  The cost of repair for the Ms. Mariano’s 2005 Ford Escape was $1,712.96.  The cost of repair to Ms. Campbell’s 2000 Honda Civic was $3,714.07.

[34] The defendant argues that Ms. Mariano’s injuries should be consistent with a modest low impact accident and anything more than modest injuries from the accident are an unreasonable consequence.  Relying on Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27 at paras. 11-18, the defence argues that the injuries alleged are not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the minor motor vehicle accident.

[35] Ms. Campbell was called by the defence presumably to testify that the collision was only a minor one.  However even Ms. Campbell admitted to sustaining whiplash injuries.

[36] Ms. Campbell was stopped in gridlocked traffic waiting for the traffic light to change.  When she saw the light turn green and traffic ahead of her starting to move, Ms. Campbell starting moving her vehicle.  When Ms. Mariano’s vehicle suddenly stopped, Ms. Campbell did not apply her brakes before she rear-ended the Ford.  When she got out of her vehicle, Ms. Campbell saw a stalled vehicle, one or two vehicles in front of her.

[37] Ms. Campbell could not estimate the speed of her vehicle at the time of impact but defence relies on her evidence that another car could not have fitted in between her vehicle and Ms. Mariano’s vehicle.  However, Ms. Campbell said that on the impact, she immediately felt pain in her neck, the middle of her back, and her right arm.  She went into shock and her whiplash injuries took three months to resolve.

[38] The defendant tried unsuccessfully to attack Ms. Mariano’s credibility and argues that because of the minimal impact, Ms. Mariano can only have suffered minimal injuries.  However I find Ms. Mariano a very credible witness.  She continues to work despite her symptoms.  The pain in her neck and shoulders prevents her from working the way she used to work, and from doing the things she used to enjoy doing.  She was unable to buy her sons a big pumpkin for Halloween as she had always done before because she is now unable to carry a big pumpkin.  Ms. Mariano became quite visibly distressed when she described the activities she can no longer participate in with her children because of her injuries or because she is now simply too tired at the end of the work day to do anything else.

[39] The defendant points to Ms. Mariano’s application for mortgage life and disability insurance where she filled in “March 2006” as the “date of the last episode” of neck pain and that Dr. Darby wrote a note to the insurance company indicating that Ms. Mariano had fully recovered from the accident with no complications or sequelae.

[40] The statements may not have been entirely accurate but it was understandable.  Ms. Mariano tried to put herself in the best light she could so that she could obtain, as she did before the accident, mortgage disability insurance with no exclusions.  The defendant’s negligence caused the insurance company to dramatically limit the mortgage disability insurance available to Ms. Mariano through no fault of her own.  The defendant should not be heard to be complaining too loudly.

[41] Terry Watson, an estimator for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, testified that neither Ms. Mariano’s vehicle nor Ms. Campbell’s vehicle sustained structural damage.  However, the hood of Ms. Campbell’s vehicle collapsed and slid under the Ford Escape, striking the spare tire underneath.  Mr. Watson agreed that that the impact of the collision was likely not absorbed by the bumpers.

The Defendants ICBC Claims Lawyer went on to argue that minimal damages should be paid because more severe injuries are not reasonably foreseeable from a minor or modest collision.
Madame Justice Loo rejected the defence arguments and accepted that the Plaintiff was indeed injured in this collision.  The court found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which have resulted in chronic pain and that there was a chance that these symptoms would linger in the future.
Damages were awarded as follows:
1.  Non Pecuniary Damages: $30,000
2.  Past Wage Loss: $45,428.91
3.  Loss of Earning Capacity: $15,000
4.  Special Damages: $574.16
5.  Cost of future care: $1,000
6.  cost of re-training: $23,307

ICBC Expert Rejected in Injury Claim, $100,000 Awarded for Myofacial Pain

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a 22 year old Plaintiff $50,000 for pain and suffering and a further $50,000 for loss of earning capacity as a result of soft tissue injuries.
The court’s findings of injuries are summarized at paragraphs 45-46 which stated as follows:

[45]            In the final analysis, I am unable to place much weight to Dr. Schweigel’s report.  I accept Dr. Anton’s evidence that as a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered soft tissue injuries of the cervical and thoracic spine and shoulder girdle, which in turn have given rise to a myofascial pain syndrome. 

[46]            I accept his evidence that while there is some room for improvement, the plaintiff will likely suffer intermittent headaches and neck and upper back pain indefinitely.  She must be careful to modify her activities and avoid bending, leaning, heavy lifting or repetitive lifting—particularly those involving sustained postures of the neck and upper arms or repetitive use of the upper arms—which will exacerbate her pain. 

What interested me most in this judgement was the judges discussion weighing the Plaintiff’s medical evidence against the evidence tendered by the Defendant.  The Defendant relied on Dr. Schweigel, a senior orthopaedic surgeon who is often retained by ICBC to review injury claims and often disagrees with Plaintiff’s physicians regarding the long term prognosis of soft tissue injuries.  In today’s case the court largely rejected his opinion and offered the following analysis:

[36]            The defence relies heavily on the evidence of Dr. Schweigel, an orthopaedic surgeon who examined the plaintiff in January 2008.  Dr. Schweigel concluded the plaintiff suffered no more than a very minor soft tissue injury to the cervical and upper back area. 

[37]            In Dr. Schweigel’s opinion, cervical soft tissue injuries may be classified as either minor, moderate or severe, depending on the presence of various findings and complaints.  In his opinion, a cervical soft tissue injury must be in the moderate to severe category before it will give rise to a chronic myofascial pain syndrome. 

[38]            In his opinion, before being diagnosed with a moderate to severe soft tissue injury the patient must present with a constellation of at least three complaints including:  moderate to severe spasm, moderate to severe deformity, and a moderate loss of motion.  Sometimes the patient will also present with neurological findings and/or x-ray changes and sometimes the patient will require strong pain medication for a few days. 

[39]            Based on his review of Dr. Fahim’s clinical records, including the CL-19 report, which he understood was completed on March 3, 2003, Dr. Schweigel concluded that the plaintiff did not suffer a moderate to severe soft tissue injury.  In his view, since the CL-19 report reflects pain and tenderness of the neck and upper back, a good range of motion of the neck and upper back and mild tenderness of the neck and upper back, the physical abnormalities noted at this time were “extremely minimal”.  He noted that “(s)he had mild tenderness of the neck muscles with good range of motion”. 

[40]            The difficulty here is that the CL-19 report relied upon by Dr. Schweigel was actually authored on March 3, 2004 rather than March 3, 2003.  At that time the plaintiff was in Grade 12, she was dancing regularly and the intensive final examination study period had not begun.  She was in fact doing quite well. 

[41]            This is in contrast to her condition just over a year earlier when Dr. Fahim examined her on February 15, 2003.  At that point he noted her complaints of pain and tenderness in both the trapezius and upper back areas, and the decreased range of motion of her neck in all directions.  There is no recording of “mild” tenderness with a good range of motion as Dr. Schweigel suggests in his report of January 14, 2008. 

[42]            While Dr. Fahim’s clinical records were available for review, Dr. Schweigel made no reference to them in his report.  Nor did he refer to the records of the physiotherapist, Dawn Stevens, who, three weeks post accident, noted that the plaintiff’s neck was “very stiff” and that it was “very hard to mobilize (her) neck”.  

[43]            Quite apart from his erroneous reliance on the March 3, 2004 CL-19 report, I am not persuaded that Dr. Schweigel’s rigid classification of soft tissue injuries and his insistence that a myofascial pain syndrome may only arise in the case of a moderate to severe soft tissue injury case are reliable. 

[44]            While I accept that Dr. Schweigel is a very senior and experienced orthopaedic surgeon, with a long career focused particularly on spinal cord injury, in my view he did not demonstrate the same degree of expertise as Dr. Anton in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injury.  His categorization of soft tissue injuries struck me as both rigid and simplistic.  No peer reviewed journals or other medical literature were produced to support his analysis.  Nor did he demonstrate any in depth appreciation of the characteristics of a “trigger point”, as described by Dr. Anton. 

[45]            In the final analysis, I am unable to place much weight to Dr. Schweigel’s report.  I accept Dr. Anton’s evidence that as a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered soft tissue injuries of the cervical and thoracic spine and shoulder girdle, which in turn have given rise to a myofascial pain syndrome. 

[46]            I accept his evidence that while there is some room for improvement, the plaintiff will likely suffer intermittent headaches and neck and upper back pain indefinitely.  She must be careful to modify her activities and avoid bending, leaning, heavy lifting or repetitive lifting—particularly those involving sustained postures of the neck and upper arms or repetitive use of the upper arms—which will exacerbate her pain.  

How a Telephone Pole can be Responsible for a Car Crash

One thing that I find irritating as a personal injury lawyer is when cases with merit are mis-reported by the media and spun as ‘frivolous lawsuits’.
Yes there are frivolous lawsuits out there.  Yes some of the facts behind such cases are, to say the least, embarrassing for the profession.  But there are many cases with merit that at quick glance can appear frivolous but with deeper digging simply are not so.
Reasons for judgement in such a case were released today by the BC Court of Appeal.  In this case the Plaintiff suffered serious injuries when struck by a motor vehicle while crossing a marked cross-walk.  The trial court found that the District of Campbell River and the Telus Corporation were each 20% at fault for this crash for the negligent placement of a utility pole.  How can a utility pole be at fault for a crash between a motorist and a pedestrian?  I could see this getting spun the wrong way so I thought I would take the first crack at reporting this case.
The facts of the case are well summarized in paragraphs 6-7 of the reasons for judgment.  I reproduce these below:

[6]                Around 9:00 p.m. on 3 January 2003, in Campbell River, Robert Simpson was walking home from his job as a pharmacist.  It was dark and raining.  Mr. Simpson, who was wearing dark clothing and carrying an umbrella, stepped into a marked crosswalk from the south side of a wooden utility pole and was struck by a southbound pick-up truck driven by Mr. Baechler.

[7]                Mr. Simpson’s injuries were serious: they included a fracture of both knees that required surgery and will require future surgical attention, a fractured pelvis, an abrasion to the forehead, and a moderate closed head injury that has impaired Mr. Simpson’s functional capacity

A Claim was made against the driver of the vehicle, the City and the telephone Company (who were co-owners of the pole).  The Claim against the City and the utility company were that they placed the pole in a hazardous place in relationship to the road and the pedestrian crossing.  Frivolous?  Consider these facts that the Court of Appeal reviewed in upholding the trial judge’s finding that the City and the telephone company were partially to blame for this crash:

[12]            The utility pole was embedded in the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the intersection.  Its near edge was about 14.6 inches from the curb.  Telus Corporation, part owner of the utility pole, had installed a plastic pilaster on the westerly aspect of the pole, to protect some cables.  With the pilaster, the pole was about 18.9 inches wide at eye level and 23.6 inches wide at its base. (BC Hydro was co-owner of the utility pole.  Mr. Simpson’s action against BC Hydro settled and was dismissed by consent).

[13]            The pole had not always been embedded in the sidewalk.  It was originally west of the sidewalk, but in the process of widening Dogwood Street in the 1980s the pole’s base was incorporated into the sidewalk.

[14]            In 1996, Campbell River, the RCMP and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia identified Dogwood Street between 11th and 13th Avenues as accident prone and problematic with respect to traffic operations.  An engineering firm studied the corridor, found that the pole obscured pedestrians from the view of southbound drivers, and recommended (among other things) the relocation of the utility pole.

[15]            In 1997, Campbell River authorized relocation of the pole.  BC Hydro agreed. Telus Corporation was opposed, apparently because its cables were an impediment. All of the other recommended improvements to the intersection were made, but the pole remained where it had been.

[16]            The location of the utility pole was a continuing safety concern for Campbell River.  It was recognized as a safety hazard by the City’s engineering services manager.  In 2001, a second safety review of the Dogwood corridor found that the Dogwood Street and 12th Avenue intersection had a low accident frequency and severity history, but that rear-end collisions occurred in the southbound lanes with “relatively high” “pedestrian involvement”.  A new plan to modify the corridor was approved.

[17]            The trial judge held that the T intersection at 12th Avenue and Dogwood Street had “long been considered dangerous among Campbell River residents (para. 6).  He also found that Mr. Baechler was familiar with the intersection (para. 40) and with its “dangerous nature” (para. 23).

[18]             In 2003, after the accident involving Mr. Simpson and Mr. Baechler, the utility pole was relocated about 3 metres away and the other Telus equipment reinstalled.  The cost of about $3,000 was shared by Telus, BC Hydro, and Campbell River.  The obstruction to visibility was eliminated.

[19]            Embedded in the sidewalk as the utility pole remained at 9:00 p.m. on the night of 3 January 2003, when Mr. Baechler was driving home after dinner with some friends, and Mr. Simpson was walking home after work, the pole continued to obscure the view of pedestrians on its south side looking north for vehicles and the view of southbound drivers looking for pedestrians on the northwest corner of the intersection.

In upholding the liability of the City and the Telephone Company the court gave the following reasons:

[52]            There was ample evidence to support the finding that the pole was a contributing cause of the accident.  There was evidence that the pole presented a hazard known to both Telus and Campbell River that they had failed to remove.  The learned trial judge found that had the pole not obstructed his view, Mr. Simpson would have been able to see and would have seen Mr. Baechler’s vehicle approaching.  Telus and Campbell River have not established any error with respect to that factual finding.  Mr. Simpson’s failure to see oncoming traffic when he had the opportunity to do so does not render “irrelevant” the fact of his view’s being obstructed by the hazardous utility pole as he waited to cross the street.  I would not disturb the finding of the trial judge that the utility pole was a cause of the accident.

When frivolous lawsuits are reported the cases are worth taking a detailed look at.  In this case there was compelling pre accident evidence that the pole “obscured pedestrians from view of drivers” and that this created a hazard with “relatively high”  “pedestrian involvment” yet to save about $3,000 this known hazard was not moved!  

Don’t always believe the headlines that summarize lengthy legal proceedings in a sound bite.  Surly there are frivolous cases out there but decisions such as this one show that things are not always as they first appear.  This case also illustrates that the discovery powers given to litigants in the BC Supreme Court can go a long way in uncovering blameworthy conduct which is not so apparent at first glance.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Independent Medical Exams

One of the most frequently litigated issues in ICBC claims is the nature and number of ‘indpendent’ medical examiners (“IME”) that Defendants are entitled to have Plaintiffs examined by.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court ordering a Plaintiff to be examined by a psychiatrist of the Defendant’s choosing.  In this case the Defendant’s need for a psychiatric IME of the Plaintiff was not seriously challenged, what was challenged was the timing.
Rule 40-A of the Supreme Court Rules deals with the admissibility of expert opinion evidence in Supreme Court trials.   Rule 40A(5) requires such expert evidence to be exchanged with the other party 60 days before it is tendered in evidence.
In today’s case the requested examination would take place less than 60 days from trial.  The Plaintiff argued that if the medical exam went ahead he would be prejudiced because the Plaintiff would have insufficient time to hire his own expert to respond to the opinion that was being sought.  This, the Plaintiff argued, would likely lead to an adjournment which would be prejudicial to the Plaintiff.
Master Tokarek of the BC Supreme Court ordered that the medical exam proceed despite the Plaintiff’s objection.  In doing so he stated that “the timing of the application, without more, is largely irrelevant”.  The key reasons are set out in paragraphs 23-27 which I set out below:

[23]            The comment about the balancing of prejudice is of some significance in the context of submissions made in the case at bar with respect to when defence counsel could or would be able to seek an IME.  Plaintiff’s counsel submitted that whenever the plaintiff would be unable to obtain expert evidence to rebut or deal with any defence IME report, an order should not be made.  Counsel indicated that his dilemma would be the same even if this application was brought in December because he would need approximately one year to get an appointment with his own expert.  The logic of that seems to be that unless defence counsel applied for the psychiatric IME a year or more in advance of the trial date, the application should be denied because plaintiff’s counsel would be in exactly the same position of not being able to get his expert to deal with it and prejudiced because of an adjournment.  I utterly reject that logic

[24]            I believe the more appropriate approach is to balance the prejudice of a potential adjournment against the prejudice to the defendant in not obtaining relevant evidence.  Here the requested IME is not with respect to an inconsequential or insignificant issue.  The defendant seeks to reasonably establish that the plaintiff’s complaints are wholly or largely unconnected to the MVA.

[25]            The balance of the authorities are similarly either distinguishable or unhelpful.  Master Barber, in the Bubra decision said:

. . . the defendant has had full opportunity to have this matter brought forward at an earlier date so that these matters could be dealt with in a reasonable way.  For their own reasons, they have not done so. 

I do not find that to be the situation here.

[26]            The last authority, the Barron case, is another decision of Master Patterson.  At paragraph 21 he said:

. . . it seems to me that it is the obligation of the defence to not sit and wait until the last minute and then scramble to bring an application like this on.

With all due respect, the timing of the application without more, is largely irrelevant.  All of the authorities relied on by the plaintiff came to the conclusion, in some fashion unknown to me, certainly not discernable from the reasons, that the timing would lead to an adjournment and that an adjournment would prejudice the plaintiff.  Apart from the Mackichan decision, there is nothing to suggest that any consideration was given to balancing the prejudice to the plaintiff against that of the defendant.

[27]            In this case, I have no evidence to conclude that there would be an adjournment or that if that was so, it would amount to a prejudice that outweighs the prejudice to the defendant in not being able to obtain material evidence going to the heart of the plaintiff’s claim.  Consequently I grant the application and order that an IME take place as requested.

Botox Injections for Rehabilitation and ICBC No-Fault Benefits

You are insured with ICBC and are injured in a BC Car Accident.  You experience chronic pain and your doctor tells you that you will likely benefit from Botox Injections to aid in your rehabilitation.  Botox treatment is expensive, so you apply to ICBC to have this covered under your No-Fault Benefits (sometimes referred to as Part 7 benefits).  ICBC tells you, “sorry, Botox treatment for injury is not covered under Part 7.” Are they right?  Wrong.
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court ordering that ICBC cover the expenses associated with a Plaintiff receiving Botox treatment.
The Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 BC car crash.  The Plaintiff applied for and received previous funding for various treatments of injuries from ICBC.  The Plaintiff then saw a rehabilitation specialist who recommended Botox injections.  The cost of these was expected to be $3,500.  ICBC, without a contrary medical opinion as to the reasonableness of this treatment, failed to fund it and took the position that this expense did not have to be covered.
Section 88 (1) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation deals with ICBC’s no-fault medical and rehabilitation benefits and requires that ICBC cover all reasonable expenses incurred by the insured as a result of the injury for necessary services, therapy or treatment as set out in the Regulation.
Justice Macaulay, in very well thought out reasons for judgment, ordered that ICBC had to pay for the Botox injections in the circumstances of this case.  The key reasoning in the judgment can be found at paragraphs 33 – 40 which I will publish as soon as the judgement is released on the BC Court’s website.
This case is also very interesting to me from a procedural point of view.  The Plaintiff brought this application by way of summary trial under Rule 18-A.  The Plaintiff relied on his affidavit and a medico-legal report.  ICBC did not have the opportunity to cross examine the Plaintiff or the treating doctor and typically litigants are entitled to do so.  ICBC took the position that this application should not be heard until they had the chance to cross-examine.
Mr. Justice Macaulay disagreed with ICBC and allowed the application to proceed.  He ruled that “There is nothing to be gained by directing cross examination of either the doctor or the Plaintiff.  The doctor makes it clear that she recommends this treatment as one of several options because the plaintiff’s lower back problems have been intractable.  It is primarily a legal issue whether that is sufficient to trigger an obligation on ICBC under s. 88(1).  There is also no reason to expect that the cross examination of the plaintiff will result in any alteration of the evidence…cross examination will not be ordered [in Rule 18A summary trials] absent some likelihood that the procedure will produce evidence in support of the other side…I am satisfied that the proposed cross-examination of the plaintiff and his doctor are speculative and not likely to produce evidence in support of ICBC.

ICBC Injury Claims, Criminal Charges and Police Records

What kind of disclosure are you entitled to from the police if you are injured in a BC Car Accident that resulted from a criminal act?  For example, say you were injured by a drunk driver or someone fleeing from the police.  Are you entitled to the police departments records documenting their investigation in your ICBC claim or do you have to wait until criminal charges are finally dealt with?  Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with this issue.
In this case the Plaintiff was killed in a motor vehicle accident.  Charges were brought against the alleged operator of the vehicle alleging criminal negligence causing death.  In the ICBC claim the identity of the Defendant driver was put in issue.  The Plaintiff’s estate brought a motion seeking production of the Vancouver Police Departments documents concerning this accident.  The Attorney General, on behalf of the VPD,  opposed this motion.  Mr. Justice Pitfield ordered that the documents be disclosed finding that ‘the accused’ should not be in a better position with respect to the police evidence (such evidence typically gets disclosed to the accused as part of the criminal disclosure process) than the Plaintiff.  His key analysis can be found at paragraphs 43-47 of the judgment which I reproduce below:

[43]            The issue in the present application then is whether the actual or implied undertaking to refrain from using Crown disclosure documentation for any purpose other than making full answer and defence should be modified to permit disclosure to a plaintiff in a related civil action in which the accused is a defendant.  A number of factors must be considered:

1.         As with any request for production, the requested documentation or the information that may be derived from it, must relate to an issue in the proceeding in which use of the documentation is intended.

2.         The information likely to be obtained from the documentation must not be available from other sources, thereby necessitating production.

3.         The public interest in ensuring the conduct of a prosecution in a manner that is fair from the perspective of both the Crown and the defence must be balanced against the private interest of ensuring the capacity of a plaintiff to advance a bona fide and meritorious claim in a civil action.  In other words, the balance of convenience must favour disclosure.  As the Ontario Court of Appeal said in D.P. v. Wagg (2004), 239 D.L.R. (4th) 501, 71 O.R. (3d) 229, [2004] O.J. No. 2053, at para. 53:

53.       …Society has an interest in seeing that justice is done in civil cases as well as criminal cases, and generally speaking that will occur when the parties have the opportunity to put all relevant evidence before the court.  The Crown disclosure may be helpful to the parties in ensuring that they secure all relevant evidence.

[44]            The court may be required to engage in a screening process conducted with the participation of Crown, police and defence in order to identify the documentation that must be produced and to ensure that the preconditions to production have been satisfied.  The screening process will only be avoided in the event that consent to production is forthcoming.

[45]            I am persuaded by the affidavit evidence that documents in the VPD file that may afford evidence of, or point to the source of evidence regarding, the operator of the vehicle involved in Mr. Wong’s death and its manner of operation, are relevant and material in so far as the family compensation action is concerned.  I am also satisfied that the evidence cannot be obtained by the plaintiff from other sources available to him.  The plaintiff does not possess any of the investigative tools that were likely employed by the VPD in its attempts to identify the driver.

[46]            The remaining question is whether the balancing of the public and private interests should result in production of the relevant documents at this point in time.  The Crown has tendered affidavit evidence suggesting that the criminal prosecution might be jeopardized by disclosure of any documents to the plaintiff because the material might find its way to potential witnesses, to the jury pool, or to persons who could seek to subvert the course of justice.  While the affidavit evidence contains general statements of possible adverse effects resulting from premature disclosure, it does not identify any specific concerns in the context of the Antunes prosecution.  Moreover, the possibility of any adverse effect can be materially reduced, or eliminated, by an appropriate undertaking from counsel and the plaintiff in the civil action.

[47]            In sum, I can see no reason why, in the circumstances, the accused should be in a position to know of the police evidence or sources of evidence pertaining to the identity of the driver and the allegation of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, but the plaintiff who sues on behalf of the victim of the operator’s negligence should not.  

ICBC Injury Claims, Trials and Disbursements

Generally speaking it can be very expensive to bring an ICBC injury claim to trial in British Columbia.  I’m not talking about lawyers fees here.  There are many very well qualified personal injury lawyers in BC who handle ICBC injury claims on a ‘contingency basis’ and most Plaintiffs with a good claim have the luxury of shopping around finding a lawyer that is the right fit for them.  What I’m referring to is the actual out of pocket cost of bringing a case to trial in the British Columbia Supreme Court.  These are called ‘disbursmemnts’.
Most ICBC injury claims focus heavily on the nature and extent of car accident related injuries.  To properly present such a case in court expert opinion evidence is necessary.  Doctors are entitled to charge fees for providing this service and these fees can quickly get into the thousands of dollars, particularly with complex injury cases such as brain injury claims and chronic pain disorders.  Other fees, such as court filing fees, witness fees, process servers fees, photocopying expenses (these can quickly add up particularly in ICBC jury trials where multiple copies of all exhibits must be made) are also commonly incurred.
Most lawyers that advance ICBC injury claims on a contingency basis fund the disbursements to bring the case to trial.  After judgement the court has certain powers set out in the Rules of Court to award the victorious party their ‘costs and disbursemnts’.  If the parties can’t agree on which disbursements were reasonable an application can be made to the Court to make a ruling.
Reasons for judgment were released today dealing with the issue of ‘reasonable disbursements’ following a BC personal injury claim.  Some of the more interesting expenses allowed, from my perspective, were 3 MRI scans paid for privately through Canadian Medial Imaging.  These were allowed because “(a doctor) clearly did recommend an MRI to try to assess the cause of (the Plaintiff’s) ongoing problems”.  Also, the Trust Administration Fee (a fee lawyers must charge in BC when opening a new file) was held to be reasonable and the Defendant was ordered to pay this cost.  
While this judgement does not create any new law it is worth reviewing to see the types of expenses that are sometimes incurred in prosecuting ICBC injury claims and to see how the BC Supreme Court deals with the issue of reimbursement of these expenses.  If you are advancing an ICBC injury claim in the BC Supreme Court you should keep judgement such as this one in mind when deciding what expenses you will incur while preparing your case for trial.

$30,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages awarded in Minimal Damage Collision

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $40,000 in total damages as a result of a 2003 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was stopped at a stop sign in Surrey, BC when her vehicle was rear-ended by the Defendant.  The issue of fault was not disputed.  What was disputed was whether the Plaintiff was injured in this crash and if so what the amount of her damages ought to be.
This case seems to be one that fit ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) criteria.  The vehicles involved had very little damage.  Evidence was called from an insurance estimator who testified that there was nothing more than cosmetic damage to the vehicle and the repair estimate was slightly more than $500.  It is a frequent strategy of ICBC defence lawyers to focus on the amount of vehicle damage in LVI cases and this strategy appears to have been employed in this trial.
Despite the LVI-nature of this crash the Plaintiff satisfied the court she sustained injuries.  The Court was impressed with the Plaintiff and made the following finding:
[43]            I find that Ms. Orrell is an honest witness and accept her evidence of the event and the injuries that she sustained.  I am satisfied that she was injured in the collision, and that, as a consequence, she experienced pain and discomfort and disruption to her usual activities.  Those have not fully resolved at the time of trial.
Mr. Justice Williams summarized the injuries as follows in concluding that $30,000 was fair for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) 
[51]             The accident and the resultant injuries caused a reasonably significant measure of pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life for Ms. Orrell following the event.  Considering both her evidence and the first report of Dr. Miki, that effect was most pronounced for a period of approximately six months, but continued, albeit in a less debilitating way, up to the point of trial.  It has impacted on her participation in many endeavours, including being physically active in such pastimes as running, going to the gym, gardening, ordinary household tasks and, importantly, being as active with her son as she otherwise would have been. As I have indicated earlier, there are however other factors that must be taken into account, including her pre-accident status and her pregnancy in 2006.  Both of those contributed to her discomfort too.
Cases like this one show time and time again that the extent of vehicle damage does not determine what a person’s tortious injuries are worth in British Columbia, rather medical evidence is key in valuing ICBC injury tort claims.

More on ICBC Claims, Impaired Driving and Civil Consequences in BC

Reasons for judgment were released on November 21, 2008 awarding a Plaintiff just over $230,000 in damages as a result of injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 Vancouver Island motor vehicle collision.
The Defendant was impaired by alcohol when the collision occurred.   As a result the Defendant was in breach of his ICBC insurance and ICBC defended the action as a statutory Third Party.  In such situations the issue of fault is rarely admitted and although that was the case here liability was not seriously contested at trial and the court found the impaired driver wholly liable for the crash.
It was a significant crash and the Plaintiff sustained various injuries.  The most contentious injury of the Plaintiff was a hip injury and the reasons for judgment focus largely on whether the Plaintiff’s hip ongoing hip problems were causally related to the collision.  The court found in the Plaintiff’s favor with the key findings being made at paragraphs 75-79 which I reproduce below:

[75]            The findings of Dr. Leith indicate a causal connection between the plaintiff’s hip injury and the Accident.  Dr. Leith found that Mr. Hartnett’s left hip injury is a soft tissue injury to the left greater trochanter region of the hip.  Dr. Leith concluded, at pages 4 and 5 of his report, that Mr. Hartnett’s hip symptoms are “most likely the result of the subject MVA based on the temporal relationship to the Accident and the fact that there is no indication that Mr. Hartnett had any pre-existing conditions to these areas”.

[76]            Dr. Leith’s finding that Mr. Hartnett had no prior injuries to his hip is consistent with the evidence led at trial.  The evidence did not disclose that Mr. Hartnett had any hip problems, or physical limitations in performing road service prior to the Accident.  Further, the evidence of Mr. Hartnett and his wife demonstrates Mr. Hartnett’s willingness to work through pain and his stoic nature.  Mr. Hartnett’s reluctance to disclose his hip injury to his physicians does not indicate a lack of connection between the Accident and the injury.  Rather, it simply demonstrates that Mr. Hartnett was reluctant to complain about his hip injury based on his personality and his hope that it would gradually heal on its own. 

[77]            I find Mr. Hartnett’s hip injury is casually related to the Accident since the evidence demonstrates, on a balance of probabilities, that he would not be suffering a hip pain but for the Accident.

FUTURE PROGNOSIS:

[78]            The reports of Drs. Leith and Gilbart both indicate the prognosis for Mr. Hartnett’s injuries is positive and that surgery will not be required.  Neither examination finds any substantive problems in Mr. Hartnett’s hip, which is his principal, ongoing complaint, along with his shoulder and lower back.  Based on an initial review of these reports, it may seem that the severity of Mr. Hartnett’s injuries is minimal and any corresponding impacts on his work and personal life would also be negligible.  However, I am persuaded, based on the evidence of Mr. Hartnett and his wife, that the injuries to his hip, lower back and shoulder are in fact significant and continue to cause him considerable pain during various physical activities, especially certain aspects of his employment, recreation and home maintenance activities.  I found that both Mr. Hartnett and his wife gave their evidence in a straightforward and honest manner with respect to their recollections and assessments of the Accident and its impact on Mr. Hartnett and the family.  I also agree with the conclusion reached by Dr. Leith, that given the time elapsed since the Accident and the extent of Mr. Hartnett’s pain, it is likely that these injuries will continue to affect him in the future.

[79]            It is clear that Mr. Hartnett experiences greater amounts of pain while working road service, as compared to yard service.  He has twice attempted to work road service since the Accident, for a total of 12 months, and found the job duties resulted in a significant increase in pain.  As a result, he was forced to elect yard service because the job requirements in that position, while still painful, were more manageable.  Based on all of the evidence, I find these injuries will continue to adversely affect Mr. Hartnett for the foreseeable future.  

The court awarded the following damages:

·         Non-pecuniary damages:                                 $60,000

·         Loss of income-earning capacity:                  $150,000

·         Loss of home maintenance capacity:                          $10,000

·         Past wage loss:                                                 $16,280

  • Future cost of care:                                             $1,000

I have previoulsy blogged about the civil consequences of impaired driving in BC and cases like this serve a stark reminder that the financial consequences can be significant.  As an ICBC personal injury claims lawyer I have unfortunately seen the long term impact of impaired driving too many times.  If a person drives drunk in BC and negligently causes injury to another they can be held in breach of their insurance.  If this happens ICBC (assuming they follow the statutory protocol) have the right to defend resulting tort claims as a ‘statutory third party’ and after they pay the settlement or judgement can come after the Defendant directly for repayment.  Unlike most creditors ICBC enjoys certain statutory rights which give them greater teeth to collect from a breached defendant.  This case shows that the financial consequences of impaired driving causing injury in BC can easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why Can ICBC Claims Take a Long Time to Settle?

1. The medical system is slow
2. The Court system is slow
Personal injury cases depend on both the medical system and the court system. When you add these 2 systems together it is easy to see why it can take a very long time to fairly settle an ICBC injury claim.
In cases of minor injuries that quickly heal there is no reason for the settlement of the ICBC tort claim to take a long time. Once the injuries fully heal your losses can be valued, out of pocket expenses can be added up and a fair range for pain and suffering can be negotiated.
In cases of serious injury it is not that simple. Serious injuries can take a long time to heal. Sometimes they don’t fully heal, instead they plateau at what’s known as a point of ‘maximum medical improvement’. In cases of serious injury it is imprortant to learn what their long term consequences will be prior to settling with ICBC. The following are some of the questions that should be answered prior to settling:
1. Will the injuries fully heal?
2. If so, when will they fully heal?
3. If not, when will they reach the point of maximum medical improvement?
4. Will the injuries get worse with time? (such as the on-set of post-traumatic arthritis)
5. What effect will the injuries have in the long term on one’s ability to work?
6. What future care needs will be necessary to compensate for the long term injuries?
It is very difficult to fairly value an ICBC injury claim involving serious injuries if the answers to the above questions are not known. These questions often can’t be answered quickly. The medical system is slow. It can take a long time to get properly investigated (wait lists for specialists, who then order tests, wait lists for tests, wait lists to see the specialist again….)
Once the full long term impact of injuries is known they can be valued. Settling prematurely can be financially devastating if the long term reality of injuries is worse than anticipated at the time of settlement.  As a personal injury lawyer I often find myself speaking with people who settled their cases prematurely for amounts that significantly short change their injuries. It is only in rare circumstances that such settlements can be set aside.
Keep limitation periods in mind and know that time is on your side when it comes to settling an ICBC injury claim. The desire for quick settlement should never over-ride the desire for a fair settlement.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

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