Tag: ICBC Wage Loss

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.

ICBC Tort Claims and Net Wage Loss

If you have been injured in a BC motor vehicle accident and suffered a wage loss you may have had ICBC tell you that they can only pay you your ‘net wage loss’ in your tort claim.
I have often often seen ICBC calculate a person’s gross wage loss and deduct 25% to account for income taxes prior to paying the past wage loss.  Is this proper?  The answer is sometimes.  It depends on the amnount of your past wage loss award.
Great reasons for judgement were released today by Madam Justice Boyd of the BC Supreme Court.  In this case the court awarded $8,750.36 for past wage loss.  ICBC then tried to deduct income taxes on this amount prior to paying it.  Madame Justice Boyd summarized the applicable law very well and concluded that the leading BC Supreme Court dealing with this issue(Hudniuk v. Warkentin) applies, and using its principles
the Plaintiff’s net income loss should be calculated by deducting the necessary income tax from the agreed gross income loss of $8,750.36.  Further, as Hudniuk requires, for the purposes of tax calculations, this formula assumes that this amount is the only income earned by the Plaintiff in 2008.  Since the first day of trial was May 12, 2008, the tax rates in effect of the previous calendar year, as or December 31, 2007, are applicable
The court then noted that at the time personal income under $9,027 was exempt from taxation meaning the Plaintiff was entitled to the whole amount of past wage loss.
So, according to this judgement, if the past income loss you are entitled to in a BC ICBC tort claim is less than the personal income amount that is exempt from taxation you are entitled to the whole of your past wage loss.
I have heard through the grape-vine that the BC Court of Appeal will soon further clarify this area of the law, but until that time today’s case sets a great precedent for Plaintiff’s with less than $9,000 in past wage loss.
 

BC Supreme Court Awards $58,000 for Soft Tissue Injuries and Depression

In a judgement released today by Madam Justice Humphries, a total of $58,000 was awarded to a 37 year old plaintiff as a result of a 2004 motor vehicle accident in Vancouver, BC.
The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries in her neck, shoulder and low back. The accident also caused depression which was, according to the court, at least as debilitating as the physical injuries. The court found that the physical and psychological injuries were inter-connected.
The Plaintiff did suffer from pre-existing injuries in all of the above areas as a result of a 1996 motor vehicle accident. Evidence was presented that she was largely recovered from her pre-existing soft tissue injuries and depression by the time of the 2004 accident.
The court summarized her injuries as follows:
From all the medical reports and from her own evidence, (the Plaintiff) appears to have recovered from the physical effects of this accident by late 2005 or early 2006 in the sense that she had ceased experiencing daily and ongoing pain. However, she continues to have and can expect to have bouts of pain depending on her activities. This is somewhat similar to the same state she was in prior to the accident, when she could work long hours, attending physiotherapy once in awhile if she was experiencing discomfort caused by her job. However, I accept that the effects of over-exertion and work-related activities since the second accident are more limiting than they were just prior to it
In the end the court awarded $45,000 for pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages), $3,000 for past wage loss and $10,000 for loss of earning capacity.
If you have an ICBC claim and have suffered from pre-existing injuries that were re-injured or aggravated by a subsequent car accident this case is worth reading to see some of the factors courts consider in these circumstances.
Also of interest is the courts reasoning in awarding some money for past wage loss despite the “flimsy” evidence that was advanced in support of an income loss claim. The Plaintiff was a self-employed photographer and there was no hard evidence of lost income. The court, at paragraph 40, held as follows:
It is only common sense that a self-employed person whose work depends on dealing with the public, persuading people to hire her, and being able to carry heavy cameras and position herself quickly in order to take pictures must be able to rely on physical agility and a pleasant personality in order to work to her full capacity. I accept that (the Plaintiff) was putting in many hours building her contacts and working on various facets of her business just prior to the accident, and due to her temporary physical limitations and some periods of depression, she was able to work less after the accident for a period of time. However, the amount of the loss is not amenable to a calculation, and many of the hours she put in were not necessarily hours for which she would be able to bill a client. As well, her earnings in the years prior to the accident were very low; in fact, she made more in 2004 than she did in 2002 and 2003. I assess an amount of $3,000 for past wage loss based on the plaintiff’s evidence of the restrictions she faced in carrying on with her existing business and the delay in her plans to expand her baby/pet photography.
If you are having difficulty agreeing to settlement of an ICBC claim because of pre-existing injuries or because of a disputed claim for past-loss of income from a self-employed business this case is worth a read to see how our courts sometimes deal with these issues.
Do you have any questions about this case? If so feel free to contact the author.

Plaintiff Awarded $96,970 For a Disc Herniation

In a case that can be characterized as “the straw the broke the camel’s back”, a Plaintiff was awarded over $90,000 soft-tissue injuries and a L5-S1 disc herniation which were caused (at least in part) as a result of a 2003 car accident.
The Plaintiff was a 47 year old with a long history of back injuries. She had pre-exsting low back pain, neck pain and a bilateral facet-joint arthropathy.
She was involved in a fairly serious car accident in 2003. Her vehicle sustained damage which took close to $5,000 to repair.
At trial both a neurosurgeon and an physiatrist testified on behalf of the Plaintiff. The neurosurgeon’s opinion was that “(the Plaintiff’s) disk herniation was caused by small tears to the annular fibres surrounding the disc which eventually ruptured due to the ongoing stresses from day to day living” and that “(since the car accident) was the last major trauma before (the Plaintiff) experienced the disc herniation, it was a significant contributor to the problem.” The Plaintiff’s physiatrist largely shared this opinion.
ICBC lawyers defending claims often retain orthopaedic surgeons who disagree with treating physicians. This common insurance defence step was followed in this case as the defence lawyers retained an orthopaedic surgeon who testified there was “no objective evidence of ongoing injury to explain the Plaintiff’s ongoing pain“.
The Defence also showed video surveillance of the Plaintiff doing various activities including getting in and out of her car on many occasions with minimal difficulty. I have previously blogged about surveillance evidence and ICBC claims and don’t intend to re-visit this subject at length but will point out that this is a common tactic ICBC lawyers take when defending injury claims and Justice Fenton, at paragraph 10 and 11 of the judgement canvasses the position that many ICBC lawyers take at trial when they have surveillance evidence which shows a Plaintiff potentially overstating injuries.
After hearing all the medical evidence the court accepted the opinions of the Plaintiff’s physiatrist and neurologist and stated that “(the Plaintiff’s) earlier accidents, along with degenerative changes to her spine, made her more vulnerable to lower back injury. Accordingly, while I cannot find the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of the Plaintiff’s problems after February 13, 2003, on a balance of probabilities, I find that the defendant’s negligence materially contributed to the occurrence of those injuries
The court assessed the Plaintiff’s damages as follows:
1. Pain and Suffering: $65,000
2. Special Damages (out of pocket expenses): $3,118
3. Past Wage Loss: $88,000
4. Cost of Future Care: $5,000
Justice Fenlon then reduced the total award by 40% to account for the risk that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing condition in her spine and her psychological fragility would have detrimentally affected her in the future, regardless of the car accident.
Justice Fenlon did a great job in canvassing the applicable law in determining whether the car accident caused the Plaintiff injury. This case is worth reading to get insight into the factors courts consider when addressing pre-existing injuries that were aggravated by a car accident, and further to see the “thin-skull” legal principle in action which is well canvassed at paragraphs 42-44 of the judgement.

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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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