Tag: l4/5 injury

$130,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for L4/5 Disc Herniation Resulting in Chronic Pain

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for an L4-5 disc herniation.
In this week’s case (Bains v. Brar) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision.  The Defendant admitted fault for the collision.  The crash caused a disc herniation which required a bilateral disectomy.  The Plaintiff was left with chronic pain accompanied with depressive symptoms.   In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $130,000 Mr. Justice Cohen provided the following reasons:
[41]         Before the accident the plaintiff was a happy, healthy, socially and physically active person who enjoyed his work as a machinist and looked forward to one day establishing his own machine shop.  Following the accident, he was a very different person.
[42]         There is a consensus among all of the medical experts that the plaintiff has suffered serious debilitating injuries as a result of the accident and that the chronic pain from his physical injuries has led to him suffering from a major depressive disorder.
[43]         In his September 18, 2012 report, Dr. Sahjpaul stated that the plaintiff will have ongoing symptoms on a permanent basis and that he did not anticipate any resolution or improvement.  He opined that the plaintiff would not return to his pre-accident occupation as a machinist, or be able to work in any vocation that required prolonged sitting, prolonged use of a computer or one that required heavy lifting.
[44]         Dr. L. Caillier, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation expert, who saw the plaintiff on November 4, 2010, and in follow-up on January 24, April 8, June 17, August 18, and October 20, 2011, opined in her report dated December 1, 2011, that the plaintiff has chronic pain that is soft tissue in nature, involving the neck, upper back, and lower back regions, as well as his posterior shoulder girdle regions.  She also opined that he has mechanical lower back pain.  She reported, “Unless there is a significant improvement in his emotional and psychological wellbeing as well as his sleep and improved management of his physical symptoms, I do not see Mr. Bains working in any occupation, let alone his prior occupation as a machinist.”  She also concluded in her prognosis, “It is my opinion that given the chronicity of his physical symptoms, coupled with his ongoing psychological and emotional symptoms and poor sleep, the likelihood of Mr. Bains achieving a pain-free state is very poor.  It is my opinion that he is likely to have ongoing pain now and into the future and beyond that of the next 12 months.”
[45]         Dr. Lu, whose opinion I accept, stated in his May 31, 2012 report that the plaintiff’s major depressive disorder, though in partial remission, has long term impact on his future risk of relapse and that even with complete relief of pain and return to his previous level of function, the plaintiff has a prolonged episode of major depression.  Dr. Lu opined that the plaintiff now has at least a 30% chance of a relapse over the next 5 years with similar functional impairment strictly from a mental health standpoint…
[77]         When I consider the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs in the cited authorities, when compared to those suffered by the plaintiff in the case at bar, I find that a reasonable and fair award to the plaintiff for non-pecuniary damages is $130,000.

Disc Herniation, Nerve Damage and ICBC Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff injured in three separate BC car accidents, the first in August, 2002, the second in December, 2002 and the third in June 2003. At trial the issues were the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and whether these were caused by the car accidents or other life events.
A frequent tactic of ICBC defence lawyers is to call evidence to cast doubt on the connection between motor vehicle accidents and trauma and find other explanations for injuries. In this case the defence lawyer pointed to a car accident that the plaintiff was at fault for and a work incident where the plaintiff aggravated his back as potential causes for the Plaintiff’s problems.
In ICBC claims a Plaintiff has the burden of proving the extent of his injuries and their connection to the car accident. If defence evidence can effectively point to another explanation an ICBC claim can be dismissed.
In this case the injuries were fairly serious. An MRI revealed a ‘tear in the annulus at L5/Ss and a disc bulge at L4/5 wit impingement of the L5 nerve root‘.
The court found that in cases where there are multiple potential causes of injury ‘it is most helpful to have the opinion of (the Plaintiff’s family doctor) who treated the plaintiff throughout and has a long history and detailed knowledge of the Plaintiff as a patient.’ The court found the GP’s findings of objective injury persuasive including ‘muscle spasm, reduced range of motion, and visible hypertonicity of the musculature following each of the three motor vehicle accidents’.
The court assessed damages for all three accidents globally. The court concluded that “the Plaintiff has, since December 7, 2002, experienced functional limitations due to his low, mid back, and neck pain with referral pain from the low back to his leg. The Plaintiff is unlikely to achieve a substantial improvement in future, but exercises and care will assist in controlling pain and flare-ups‘. As a result of this finding the court awarded $70,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
Addressing past wage the court found that there was some failure of mitigation on the Plaintiff’s part. The Plaintiff’s claim for past wage loss exceeded 5 years. The court found that he could have returned to work in some capacity during this time. In all $50,000 was awarded for this loss.
The court also awarded $75,000 in damages for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ finding that

[50] There is no doubt that the plaintiff’s income earning capacity is affected by his chronic pain and physical limitations and disabilities. The plaintiff is by education and experience limited to low income, minimum wage types of employment, although that is reflective of his actual earnings history prior to his injury and disability.

[51] The pool of low income jobs available to the plaintiff is however much diminished as he can no longer work at jobs with a physical component which he can no longer meet. The plaintiff is 49 years old and increasing age will combine to impede access to the work for which he remains qualified.

[52] The plaintiff’s health may be stressed more than the average person requiring that he take more time off work. He may in future be more suited to only part time or work of a sporadic nature.

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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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