Tag: ICBC’s LVI program

Why ICBC's "Low Velocity Impact Program" Is Not the Law in British Columbia

Countless people have been injured in car crashes over the years in British Columbia and had their injury claims denied by ICBC on the basis of the Low Velocity Impact Program.
I have written many times about this program explaining that it has no legal force in BC.  Reasons for judgement were released today proving this yet again and in doing so providing one of the better explanations of why a certain threshold of vehicle damage is not necessary in order to have a successful personal injury claim in this Province.
In today’s case (Gignac v. Rozylo) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2004 collision in Victoria, BC .  At trial a ‘senior estimator‘ employed by ICBC testified that the Plaintiff’s vehicle suffered “cosmetic damage only to the rear bumper cover. ‘ and that ‘there is no bumper misalignment or sheet metal damage‘.
The Plaintiff was injured but ICBC advanced the LVI defence arguing that “given the very minor nature of the collision it is difficult to conceive how someone could possibly be injured, or injured in the significant fashion the plaintiff claims‘.
Despite finding that the crash was ‘one of the more minimal contacts between motor vehicles in the history of the internal combustion engine‘ Mr. Justice Wilson outright rejected the LVI defence and in doing so provided the following very useful summary of the law:

[30] I am not persuaded that the third party’s argument is open to me to accept.  There are two propositions which lead me to that opinion.

[31] First, in Gordon v. Palmer , Thackray J. (as he then was) made the following observations:

I do not subscribe to the view that if there is no motor vehicle damage then there is no injury.  …  It is not a legal principle of which I am aware and I have never heard it endorsed as a medical principle.

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slips and falls.  … The presence and extent of injuries are to be determined on the basis of evidence given in court.

[32] Second, in Price v. Kostryba,McEachern, C.J.S.C. (as he then was), said at para 4:

Perhaps no injury has been the subject of so much judicial consideration as the whiplash.  Human experience tells us that these injuries normally resolve themselves within six months to a year or so.  Yet every physician knows some patients whose complaint continues for years, and some apparently never recover.

[33] Therefore, I conclude that Gordon is authority for the proposition that the magnitude of forces unleashed, in any given contact, is not determinative of the injuries sustained.  Accordingly, in this case, there was a “real risk” of the harm now complained of.

[34] And, Price is authority for the proposition that, objectively, some patients, of “ordinary fortitude” sustain injuries which are permanent.  In this case, I am not dealing with the particular vulnerabilities of this particular plaintiff.

[35] In result, I find the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.  That is to say, the defendant’s carelessness caused, as I will describe below, the plaintiff’s injuries, in fact and in law.

BC Court of Appeal Weighs in on ICBC's LVI Program and Human Rights

In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of whether ICBC’s LVI Program violates Human Rights in BC.
In today’s case the Appellant was involved in a BC Car Crash.  He allegedly was injured and brought a tort claim against the other motorist.  ICBC, as is often the case in BC Car Crash cases, was the insurer for both the Appellant and the other motorist.  In the course of defending the tort claim ICBC relied on their LVI Program and denied that any compensable injury took place.
The Appellant brought a human rights complaint claiming that ICBC’s LVI Program was a ‘discriminatory practice’.   In response ICBC brought a motion seeking to have the complaint dismissed on the basis that it had ‘no reasonable prospect of success”.  The Human Rights Tribunal dismissed ICBC’s application. ICBC appealed to the BC Supreme Court and the Court held that the Tribunal was wrong and indeed the Appellant’s complaint had no reasonable chance of success.
The appellant brought this matter to the BC Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal agreed that the claim was ‘patently unreasonable’ and that the Appellant’s Human Rights Tribunal Complaint should have been dismissed.
Below I reproduce the key portions of the Court of Appeal’s reasoning:

[16] The issue before the Tribunal was a straightforward one. Mr. Yuan’s claim was placed in the LVI program because he was involved in a low-speed collision. As the chambers judge pointed out, nothing in the Human Rights Code serves to protect people from being treated differently by reason of the speed of collision that they are involved in.

[17] The tribunal member confused the issue by referring to the matter as one that might be characterized as discrimination on the basis of physical disability. This characterization was erroneous for two reasons. Firstly, the Code does not protect anyone from being discriminated against on the basis that he or she suffers no disability. It does not, in other words, prevent anyone from treating the disabled better than those who are not disabled.

[18] Just as importantly, it cannot be said that an insurance company, whose contractual and statutory duties are to compensate those who suffer disabilities as a result of motor vehicle accidents, “discriminates” when it treats those who it perceives as having compensable injuries differently from those who it perceives as uninjured. That sort of differentiation is the very function of the corporation; it does not constitute discrimination.

[19] In the result, it is obvious that Mr. Yuan’s claim had no reasonable prospect of success. Indeed, it had no prospect of success at all; it was entirely misconceived. That, however, is not the issue that was before the Supreme Court on judicial review.

$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

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Low Velocity Impacts

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff $21,500 for pain and suffering plus ‘special damages’ (accident related out of pocket expenses) as a result of a 2005 motor vehicle collision.
While the judgement does not mention ICBC directly (BC personal injury tort judgements rarely mention who the insurer for the defendant is) this case appears to me to be one which was defended on the basis of ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) program.  The reason why I reach this conclusion is because the defence lawyer argued that “this was such a minor motor vehicle accident that no damages should be awarded”.  This is a standard argument behind ICBC’s LVI program.
The accident did not occur at a significant rate of speed and resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle cost approximately $1,500 to repair.
The Plaintiff’s injuries are discussed at paragraphs 5-16 of the reasons for judgement which I reproduce below:

[6]                She described her symptoms as significant pain in her wrist, pain in her neck, shoulders, lower back, and a small amount of pain in her jaw. 

[7]                The doctor told her to “take it easy”.  She went home and put an ice pack on her wrist and shoulders. 

[8]                The pain in her wrist resolved within a month of the accident.  The pain in her neck lasted for approximately a year and a half.  Massage therapy helped with the pain in her neck; she developed better range of motion.

[9]                She also began to experience headaches which resolved within a year and a half of the accident.

[10]            The muscles in her jaw tightened and she experienced pain.  She described the jaw pain starting after the accident as minor, though it continued to get worse.  She still has some symptoms of jaw pain but it has improved with the use of a night guard.

[11]            Three weeks after the accident she developed chest pains.  She first noted the chest pains when she was jogging.  She did not have this pain prior to the accident.  When she developed the pain she stopped jogging.  She has gradually built up her jogging and she can now jog for 6 km before the chest pain sets in.

[12]            Her back pain first developed approximately an hour after she left work and it got worse the next day, but it resolved itself within a month of the accident.

[13]            She did not play tennis for almost a year and a half because the right side of her body was sore.

[14]            She attended the drop-in clinic on three occasions and saw her family doctor, Dr. Sewell, on three occasions.  She had difficulty making appointments with Dr. Sewell because he did not work on Saturdays.  Initially, however, she did not think her symptoms would last very long and therefore did not see him sooner.

[15]            She has had massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment, attended her dentist for a night guard, and attended Pilates, and has incurred special damages in the amount of $3,982.

[16]            The massage therapy was commenced shortly after the accident and a friend of hers did some initial massage therapy on her until she saw Ms. Chung who provided massage treatments for her from approximately December 2005 to April 2007, a total of 22 treatments.  She had approximately 10 physiotherapy treatments between June and November 2006.  She also had chiropractic treatments on 6 occasions in February and March 2006.

The court, in awarding damages, made the following findings:
[26]            Here, however, I am satisfied that the plaintiff is a credible witness.  She did not exaggerate any of her claims and the massage therapy provided by her friend Ms. Chung was done on a professional basis and she paid somewhat less than the going rate.  Nevertheless, the massage therapy was beneficial and she should be reimbursed for those disbursements….
[28]            I have no difficulty accepting those principles, but as stated above I found the plaintiff to be a credible witness.  There is a lack of objective evidence and that has made me exceedingly careful in weighing the evidence, but at the end of the day I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered the injuries over the periods of time referred to in this judgment.  I am of the view that this is a mild to moderate soft-tissue type injury and I am satisfied that the range of damages is between $20,000 to $25,000, as set out in Reyes v. Pascual, 2008 BCSC 1324, Pardanyi v. Wilson, 2004 BCSC 1804, and Walker v. Webb, 2001 BCSC 216.  I am satisfied that she is entitled to non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $21,500 and special damages in the amount of $3,982.  The plaintiff is also entitled to her costs.

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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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