Tag: intersection accident

$70,000 Pain and Suffering for Neck Injury and Debilitating Headaches

In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Bernard of the BC Supreme Court awarded a Plaintiff just over $200,000 in compensation for losses as a result of a 2005 BC car accident.
The accident involved a left-hand turning defendant who failed to see the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The result was a significant, near head on collision. Fault was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum of damages to be decided at trial.
The court’s key findings of fact were made at paragraphs 34-35 of the judgement where it was held that the Plaintiff suffered from debilitating headaches as a result of the BC car crash, that the headaches continue to plague him and that the source of these headaches is the neck injury the Plaintiff suffered in the crash. The court also found that these injuries where likely to plague the Plaintiff for 3-5 years following the trial.
The Plaintiff was a young man starting out in a career in the entertainment industry. The court accepted that the injuries took away his ability to take full advantage of various opportunities that were open to him in his career and this ‘loss of oportunity’ will continue into the future as a result of the on-going injuries.
In the end the court assessed damages as follows:

Non-pecuniary $70,000

Special $5,642

Loss of Opportunity $125,000

Future Care $14,520

This case is interesting for the court’s comments on the use of the various doctor’s clinical records at trial. As any ICBC claims lawyer knows, Plaintiff’s in personal injury claims are often exposed to hard cross-examinations based on previously recorded statements contained in medical records.
When you go to the doctor he/she usually notes your complaints. These ‘clinical notes’ are often put to use by ICBC lawyers to cross examine a Plaintiff’s testimony discussing the extent of injuries and symptoms. Here, the court found that the Plaintiff held up to cross examination very well and made some very practical comments about the reliability of clinical records, namely:

[35] I accept (the Plaintiff’s) evidence in regard to the onset of the headaches, and their intensity, frequency, and endurance. Efforts to discredit him with alleged inconsistencies in doctors’ clinical notes were, in my view, not successful. It must be borne in mind that the primary objective of physicians’ clinical notes is to refresh their own memories as to what transpired during a clinical examination, for the purposes of medical treatment. These notes are not made for investigative and litigation purposes. If this were the purpose then it would, in my opinion, be important for physicians to ensure that they have accurately recorded full and detailed accounts of what a patient said during a clinical visit and then have the patient verify the accuracy of the notes.

[36] Physicians are not investigators. They are neither trained to accurately record what a person says nor to draw out a fulsome account for litigation purposes. The use of clinicians’ notes, made hastily during a clinical visit and never reviewed for accuracy by the patient, may operate unfairly to the patient as plaintiff or witness. It should also be borne in mind that when a patient sees his or her physician with a complaint of significant pain, the circumstances are far less from ideal for obtaining full and accurate information.

[37] I do not suggest by any of the foregoing that it is impermissible to use clinical notes to challenge a plaintiff’s credibility, but the frailties inherent in such recordings should be recognized. In the instant case, I find that the clinician’s notes do not have sufficient accuracy and reliability to undermine the plaintiff’s evidence where the notes allegedly differ from the plaintiff’s testimony at trial.

Cyclist 75% At Fault for Intersection Crash for "Riding With No Reflection"

 
NOTE: This case was overtunred on appeal on February 19, 2009, see my blog post of February 19 to read about this.
Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court determining fault for a 2004 motor vehicle collision which occurred in Vancouver, BC involving a BMW and a bicyclist.
The collision happened at the intersetion of Main Street and East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, BC.  The Plaintiff cyclist was attempting to go through the intersection when the Defendant motorist turned left and collided with him.  The light was green and the cyclist did enter the intersection “in accordance with traffic signals” when the Defendant turned into him (in other words, on a green light).  The impact was significant as the Plaintiff “hit the passenger window of the car with enough force to smash the glass and he suffered personal injuries“. 
Who was at fault for this intersection crash was the issue to be decided at trial.  The trial proceeded by way of ‘summary trial’ pursuant to Rule 18-A of the BC Supreme Court Rules.  For those not familiar with ‘summary trials’ they are commonly referred to as ‘paper-trials’ because no witnesses testify in court, rather the lawyers present their cases through sworn affidavit evidence.  There has been much criticism of this rule over the years and BC personal injury lawyers seldom use this rule to advance ICBC claims to trial.
This case is interesting for Madam Justice Griffin’s analysis in determining fault.  The 5 main factors she considered in reaching her conclusion were
1.  The speed of the car
2.  The speed of the bicycle
3.  The light conditions
4.  The location of the bicyle whent he car began its left turn
5.  The response time of the bicycle rider
The key findings of fact made at trial were that “the Plaintiff was not speeding and was properly riding his bicycle in the correct lane, the curb lane, in accordance with the traffic signals.  It is undisputed that (the bicyclist) was in breach of the Motor Vehicle Act by failing to have a headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle….Given that (the bicyclist) had no headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle, (he) was also negligent in wearing dark clothing insread of bright and reflective clothing…(he) had no opportunity to avoid the collision.  Even though the BMW was clearly poised to mnake a left turn and had its left turn signal activated, there was no reason for (him) to expect that the BMW would turn in front of him.  He would have seen that it had given way to other traffic.”
Madam Justice Griffin concluded that “the bicyclist presented an immediate hazard when the BMW began to turn the vehicle to the left…..(the driver of the BMW) should have considered (the bicylcist) to be an immediate hazard and should not have proceeded with the turn until (the bicyclist) was safely through the intersection.  As such (the driver of the BMW) was negligent.”
When both parties are at fault for a collision BC courts must determine the degrees of fault as between them.  This is required by the BC Negligence Act.  Madam Justice Griffin ruled that the Plaintiff was 75% at fault for the accident and the motorist was 25% at fault.  What this means is that the Plaintiff would only be entitled to recover 25% of the value of his injuries from ICBC in his tort claim.
In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Griffen ruled that

[62]            The streets of Vancouver are shared by drivers and cyclists.  Those who use the streets must anticipate each other and the limitations inherent in each other’s response time and visibility. 

[63]            The plaintiff took a very big risk by riding his bicycle in the dark without any form of illumination or reflection.  He ought to have appreciated the difficulty that drivers of motor vehicles have in seeing fast-moving dark objects.  While he may have counted on the street lights to illuminate him, he was extremely careless and showed little concern for safety.

[64]            In deciding to make a left turn across the intersection, Mr. Schwartz should have appreciated the need to be vigilant for the potential of a cyclist approaching in the curb lane. 

[65]            In conclusion, I apportion fault for the accident 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendant.

This case is a difficult precedent for any BC cyclist injured in a BC car crash who either fails to wear reflective clothing or fails to have a headlamp or reflectors on their bicylce.  It may be troubling to know that a cyclist can be found largely at fault for a collision even though he is “not speeding” “riding in the correct lane and in accordance with traffic signals”  who has “no opportunity to avoid the collision” and have “no reason to expect (a car )to turn in front of him“.
What is striking about this case is the degree of fault attibuted to the cyclist despite all the above findings.  This case serves as a stark reminder that if a cyclist fails to wear refelctive clothing or a headlamp, it may not only increase the risk of collision, but can drastically reduce the settlement value of an ICBC claim following a collision.
If you are an injured cyclist or pedestrian in a BC car crash and at the time did not have ‘any form of illumination’ you should be prepared to address the results of this case in your claim settlement negotiations with ICBC.
Do you have questions about this case, or about a BC crash involving a cyclist or pedestiran, or the issue of fault in an ICBC claim?  Are you looking for a free consultation with an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so, click here to arrange your free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

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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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