Tag: Jezdic v. Danielisz

ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims, Low Velocity Impacts and Credibility

When ICBC denies compensation for an injury claim due to their LVI Program the credibility of the Plaintiff is usually put squarely at issue. In Soft Tissue Injury Claims ICBC often challenges the veracity of the Plaintiff alleging that the injuries are being exaggerated or perhaps wholly made up.
Reasons for judgement were transcribed today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with such a defence.
In today’s case (Jezdic v. Danielisz) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 BC Car Crash.  The crash occurred in a parking lot and was a low velocity impact which resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Plaintiff alleged that she suffered various injuries in this collision.  Mr. Justice Sigrudson dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim finding that she ‘has not dischared the burden on her to establish on a balance of probabilities that she was injured in the car accident’.   In reaching this conclusion the Court made the following comments on credibility, low velocity impacts and soft tissue injury claims:

[30] I should consider the circumstances of the collision.  I am mindful that persistent injuries can arise from low velocity collisions.  This was a low velocity collision.  The defendant’s pickup truck was backing out of a spot two spaces (or at least one space) over from the plaintiff’s father’s vehicle.  The parking lot was slightly higher on the side where the defendant was parked, and lower on the side where the plaintiff’s vehicle was.  The accident occurred, I find, when the defendant’s vehicle backed into the plaintiff’s vehicle at an angle.  The defendant’s bumper rode up over the plaintiff’s bumper causing it to compress and split the paint on the bumper, and then the defendant’s vehicle struck the area around the trunk with the left rear corner of the defendant’s vehicle’s bumper.  The damage to the plaintiff’s father’s vehicle was to the lower part of the trunk.  The cost of repairs was $1,122 and the trunk was still operational.  There was no misalignment of the plaintiff’s bumper.

[31] I found the defendant to be a reliable witness.  The circumstances of the accident seem to accord with his evidence.  I think he was prepared to concede things when his evidence was shown to possibly be incorrect.  I accept that he was moving slowly – he described backing up at “a snail’s pace” with his foot on the brake pedal.  The evidence indicates that there were cars parked close to him that required him to move slowly as he backed out.  However, he was careless in ensuring that he did not make contact with the vehicles behind him as he was backing up.  He testified that he did not feel the impact, but agreed on cross-examination that it was possible that the plaintiff’s car moved two to three inches.

[32] Mr. Addision points to the fact that the defendant’s bumper appears lower on the left side, and the fact that there was a “wow” in the bar that attaches the bumper to the frame, but I find it extremely unlikely that those things occurred in this accident.  The accident, I find, was a very minor one with minor damage.

[33] Given the nature of the accident, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that the plaintiff says she was thrown first into the steering wheel and then back, and had immediate pain in her neck and her back.  But as has been noted, there is no rule of law or physics that a person cannot be injured in a low speed collision.  There was no expert evidence lead as to the anticipated body movement in an accident of the type that the plaintiff described.  However, I find some merit in Mr. Addison’s submission that it is probably difficult for a person to recall with any precision exactly how her body moves when she is in a collision.

[34] Although I found that Dr. Petrovic was a reasonable witness, his evidence depended on the veracity and reliability of the symptoms that were described to him by the plaintiff from time to time.

[35] Let me turn to the evidence of the plaintiff.  I have a number of concerns about the plaintiff’s evidence.  The plaintiff’s evidence contained significant inconsistencies in the manner in which she described her symptoms at trial, to her doctor and on discovery.

(a)        She testified at trial that her neck pain got better in the first eight months and there were times that she did not have neck pain, but on discovery she said that the pain in her neck was constant.

(b)        At trial, she said that the back pain was there for two years and got better, but came back depending on the weather.  However, on discovery in December 2005, more than two years after the accident, she said that the back pain was as constant and severe and had not changed since the accident.

(c)        Her description of her symptoms and their duration is inconsistent with Dr. Petrovic’s report that on July 17, 2003, three months after the accident, the plaintiff noted no neck or lower back symptomatolgy.

(d)        Her description of the fact that her injuries had resolved by about two years after the accident was inconsistent with her description to Dr Sovio in May 2007, four years after the accident, that she had pain in the back since the time of the accident.

[36] There were other aspects of the plaintiff’s evidence which were contradictory to other evidence that she gave or inconsistent with evidence that I accepted on a balance of probabilities.

(a)        Her evidence at trial was that she had spoken to Dr Petrovic’s office rather than going in, that she received the doctor’s advice from his receptionist but did not speak to him on the telephone, but on discovery I find that she said that she had spoken with the doctor on the telephone;

(b)        Her evidence about whether she was a member of the Lady Dyna-fit health club before the accident was different at trial than on discovery.  She explained her evidence at trial that before trial she went to that club on a free pass or tickets or on a promotion before the accident but the evidence of the owner Ms. Humphries suggests that the ability to use the club on that basis was quite limited.  This evidence suggested to me that on discovery and at trial she exaggerated to a degree the amount of her physical activity prior to the accident.

(c)        The plaintiff’s evidence at trial that she saw the truck moving pretty fast towards her vehicle was inconsistent with her evidence on discovery where she said that she heard the truck and did not see it.

(d)        In a statement given by the plaintiff after the accident she said that the impact moved the car she was in one meter but at trial she professed not to know how long a meter was and held her hands up four to six inches indicating that might be the distance that the car moved

(e)        She said at trial that she was upset after the accident and told the defendant it was because of the pain that she suffered but the defendant denied that she said that.  I accept the defendant’s description of the accident and of his subsequent discussion with the plaintiff.

[37] In assessing the plaintiff’s credibility I must take into account that English is not her first language, but also that she has been in Canada for ten years and appeared to me to be able to converse easily in English.  At the end of her cross-examination, she was indicating a lack of understanding of the terms and questions used during the discovery.  The plaintiff was offered an interpreter for the discovery but did not take that offer up.  Her inability to understand questions near the end of her cross-examination I found to be disingenuous.  It appeared to become an excuse that she felt she could use to fend off questions on cross-examination that she found difficult.  She appeared to be able to use the transcript from the discovery to analyze the questions for the purpose of explaining her evidence.

[38] I think that the inconsistencies in her evidence that I described are significant and are not explained by her lack of understanding of the questions on discovery or at trial.

[39] The burden is on the plaintiff to prove on a balance of probabilities that she was injured in the accident that was caused by the admitted negligence of the defendant.  Even in the absence of any objective symptoms, the court can be and often is persuaded by the evidence of the plaintiff.

[40] What is my overall assessment?  Has the plaintiff’s evidence persuaded me that she was injured, and the extent to which she was injured in the accident?

[41] I have concluded that on all the evidence that plaintiff has not discharged the burden on her to prove that she has suffered any injury in this accident.  I find the plaintiff’s evidence to be exaggerated and significantly inconsistent both internally and with facts that I find have been established such that I have serious reservations about her credibility to the extent that I can not rely on it alone to determine whether the plaintiff has discharged the burden on her to prove that she was injured in this accident.

[42] I find no support for the plaintiff’s case in the other evidence in this trial.  Dr. Petrovic’s report depends entirely on the reliability of the plaintiff’s reporting and accordingly his report can be given little weight.  I found no evidence that provided corroboration for the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.  The circumstances of the accident I find were very minor and did not provide corroboration for the injuries of the type that the plaintiff asserts.

[43] Looking at the plaintiff’s evidence in light of all of the evidence, I have concluded that the plaintiff has not discharged the burden on her to establish on a balance of probabilities that she was injured in the car accident.

[44] The plaintiff’s action must be dismissed.

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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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