Reasons for judgement were released today awarding an ‘ideal Plaintiff’ just over $100,000 in total damages as a result of a 2006 BC Car Crash which occurred near Kelowna, BC.
Both fault and quantum (value of the injuries) were at issue at trial. The collision happened when the Plaintiff’s vehicle, which was stationary, was hit by the Defendant’s tractor trailer unit. The evidence that was accepted was that the tractor trailer, while passing the stationary vehicle, jackknifed to its right. The collision was significant causing about $12,000 in vehicle damage.
The Defendant gave a different version of what happened saying that the Plaintiff vehicle ‘suddenly and without warning turning into his vehicle’. This was rejected.
This case is worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Josephson’s findings of credibility. In rejecting the defendant’s evidence he noted that the defence theory ‘is contrary to locig and common sense‘ and that the defendant’s testimony was ‘impatient, dogmatic and almost haughty‘.
As is often the case in ICBC claims the court heard from competing medical expert who disagreed as to the extent of the injuries sustained. Here the court preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s expert, a highly regarded rheumatologist who is no stranger to severe soft tissue injuries.
The court accepted the Plaintiff’s doctors evidence of injury which is summarized at paragraph 23 of the judgement reading as follows:
 She diagnosed the problem as being with the sacroiliac joint, a joint located between the tail bone and the hip. Ligaments cross over the sacroiliac and can be stretched in a motor vehicle accident, particularly if a foot is pressed on a brake pedal at the time, which can cause the symptoms of pain experienced by the plaintiff. While not certain, Dr. Shuckett was of the opinion that the plaintiff’s hyper-mobility may have exacerbated the injury. This type of injury is difficult to treat when, as in this case, recovery has not occurred. Medicines are not effective as the sacroiliac area does not have a rich blood supply.
In explaining why he preferred Dr. Shuckett’s evidence to the defence doctor’s evidence the court noted that:
 I do not place great weight on the evidence of Dr. Schwiegel, a neurosurgeon retained by the defence for an independent medical examination. Dr. Schwiegel does not possess the same degree of expertise as does Dr. Shuckett in this type of injury. He did not diagnose the involvement of the sacroiliac joint in the symptoms, though now agrees that may be the case. Put simply, I prefer the expert opinion evidence of Dr. Shuckett where it conflicts with that of Dr. Schwiegel.
The court found that the effects of these injuries were significant, summarizing them as follows:
 In summary, as a result of these soft tissue injuries, the plaintiff has gone from a gifted and active athlete to a person unable to engage in sports and other activities that were a large and important part of her life. It has affected her personal relationships. For example, family and friends now see her retreat to the sofa in pain after a family dinner. Only her strong will and determination has led to some improvement in her symptoms with aggressive physiotherapy. Her future remains “uncertain”. After the expiration of this much time and effort with only modest improvement, it may well be that significant symptoms will continue in the foreseeable future.
$48,500 was awarded for pain and suffering.
Also of interest is the judges awards for past and future wage loss. Here the Plaintiff was a commisioned sales person whose past income loss could not be caluclaed with real precision. Nonetheless compelling evidence was awarded that a loss occurred and an award was made. Simialry, it was found that the injuries may have an impact on future earnings and an award was made for loss of earning capacity.
In making an award for loss of earning capacity the court noted that:
 In this case, the plaintiff’s ability to perform at the high level she would have been performing but for the accident will be compromised by her injuries to some degree, though that degree is difficult to measure. Her determination and outstanding personal qualities will diminish that loss. Regular weekly appointments and daily multiple sessions of recommended exercises diminish her ability to perform to the same high level that she would have been able to perform but for the accident.
 Her physical limitations, as well, render her less marketable to potential employers in future. Employment requiring even temporary physical stress will not be available to her.
 The period of time that the plaintiff will be so affected is also difficult to measure. The best medical evidence is that her future is “uncertain”. That there has been so little improvement over the long period of time since the accident leads to the conclusion that recovery will more likely be long term than short.
 The plaintiff seeks a not unreasonable $20,000 for loss of earning capacity. I award the plaintiff $18,000.
In another example of our courts dealing with the issue of fault and intersection crashes, reasons for judgment were released last week faulting a ‘through driver’ 100% for a crash involving a left hand turner in Langley, BC.
I have previously blogged about this and will blog more on this topic in the future. The issue of fault is probably the most litigated when it comes to intersection crashes involving left hand turning vehicles.
In this case the Plaintiff was attempting to turn left. The Defendant, approaching in the opposite direction, was attempting to go through the intersection. The light was amber or red. This is a common recipe for disaster and indeed they crashed with each other. As is often the case in ICBC claims involving intersection crashes the 2 sides had different versions of evidence, particularly as to whether the light was red or amber at the time.
The court found that the light was red at the time of the crash. While both vehicles where, therefore, in the intersection on a red light, only the ‘through driver’ was found at fault because the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection.
The court quoted a case that is well known to ICBC claims lawyers which is helpful to left hand turning motorists in such a situation. The cases is Kokkinis v. Hall from the BC Court of Appeal where the court held that:
9 This discussion, however, detracts from the more important question of law, which is whether Mrs. Kokkinis was on one hand entitled reasonably to assume that Mr. Hall would stop before entering the intersection or on the other hand, whether she can be faulted for failing to see his van “until it was on top of her”, i.e. constituted an immediate hazard. In this regard, Mr. Johnson cites Feng v. Graham  5 W.W.R. 137 (B.C.C.A.), (not a left turn case), for the principle that the plaintiff’s entitlement to assume that other traffic will obey the law, is “subject to the proviso” (in counsel’s phrase) that where it is apparent or should be apparent that an oncoming driver is not going to yield the right-of-way, then at that point the other driver must act reasonably and cannot simply proceed into the collision, as it were. At the least, Mr. Johnson says, it was open to the trial judge to find that in the circumstances, Ms. Kokkinis failed to exercise reasonable care for her own safety and the safety of others, and that she must therefore bear some responsibility for the accident.
10 I must say this argument has given me pause; but ultimately I resolve it by asking whether in law Mrs. Kokkinis should be faulted for diverting her attention momentarily from oncoming traffic to check cross traffic at the point in time in question, i.e., as she prepared to start her turn – to see if any of those cars had jumped the light or were going to pose a threat to her turn. Was this an unreasonable or careless thing to do? I think not, given both the realities of the situation (which of course occurred over only a few seconds) and past decisions of this Court that have imposed on left-turning drivers the duty to be aware not only of oncoming traffic, but also of cross traffic, pedestrians, and whatever else may be present in the intersection. To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. An amber light is not, as the current witticism suggests, a signal to accelerate or to pass traffic that is slowing to a stop. Indeed, as Mr. Justice Esson noted in Uyeyama, in a busy city like Vancouver and at a busy intersection like 25th and Granville, an amber is likely the only time one can complete a left turn. Drivers approaching intersections must expect that this will be occurring. Putting a burden on a left turning driver to wait until he or she sees that all approaching drivers have stopped would, in my view, bring traffic to a standstill. We should not endorse such a result.
11 Accordingly, notwithstanding the principle (which I do not doubt) that questions of apportionment are generally questions of fact with which we should interfere only in exceptional cases, I would conclude that the issues I have referred to are ones of law and that the learned trial judge erred in law in placing too high a standard on the plaintiff and in failing to consider the assumptions she was entitled to make. I would not apportion any of the fault to her and would apportion 100 percent to Mr. Hall.
The court held that this was a similar case to Kokkinis and found the through driver at fault.
In terms of injuries the Plainitff suffered from general body trauma, bruising and soreness, soft tissue injuries to the neck, chest wrist and knee. The most significant injury was to the back and the court found that “3 years post-accident the Plaintiff continues to have significant pain from his back. Any prolonged activity, such as sitting in a lecture hall or travelling in a sitting position over 45 minutes causes soreness and pain. The Plaintiff is not recommended to pursue recreationbal activities of a physical nature such as football, which he had formerly done.”
The court awarded damages totalling $74,978.13 including $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
In reasons for judgment released today, the BC Supreme Court valued a Plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $75,000 for soft tissue injuries.
The Plaintiff was a nurse’s aid. She was injured in a BC car accident which occurred in 2004 in New Westminster. The crash occurred at an intersection and both liability (fault) and quantum (value of injuries) were in dispute at trial. This is often the case when ICBC injury claims resulting from an intersection crash go to trial.
The Plaintiff was making a right hand turn. When starting her turn she felt it was safe to do so. At about the same time the Defendant was proceeding through the intersection and had recently changed into the right hand lane. Both motorists failed to recognize the hazard they posed to each other until it was too late.
The court found that both drivers were at fault. The Plaintiff was liable for ‘not keeping a proper lookout’ and that she should have seen the Defendant travelling in the curb lane prior to the collision.
The defendant was also found at fault for changing lanes at an unsafe time. The key finding is made at paragraph 70 where the court held that:
I find that at the time that the defendant changed lanes on Braid from the eastbound inside lane to the curb lane, 80 feet west of the intersection of Garrett and Braid, the plaintiff had already left the stop sign on Garrett and was in the process of making a right hand turn into the eastbound curb lane on Braid. I find that in making his lane change at this point on Braid the defendant was in such close proximity to the plaintiff’s car that his lane change could not be made safely. The weight of the evidence leaves no doubt that the defendant’s van was far too close to the plaintiff’s car for the defendant’s change of lanes to be made safely.
When 2 or more people are responsible for a BC car accident the Negligence Act requires a court to apportion fault between the parties. In this case the court held that both the Plaintiff and Defendant were 50% at fault for the accident. In doing so the court stated that “I do not think it can be found that blame for the accident rests more with one party than the other. In my opinion, they are equally guilty of breaching the rules of the road.”
The Plaintiff was a nurse’s aid. She claimed that as a result of the accident she became disabled from not only that job but also from ‘any other employment at a competitive level’
The Plaintiff’s doctor diagnosed the following injuries:
1) New large left central parracentral disc herniation posterior to the L5 vertebral body secondary to new onset degenerative L5/S1 disc change. This would be rated severe.
2) Left L5/S1 nerve root compression, also rated severe.
3) Milder degenerative changes at L3/L4, L4/L5 levels with early neural foraminal stenosis at L4/L5 and L5/S1, which are rated moderate to severe.
4) New onset degenerative CT spine changes rated moderate.
5) Musculoskeletal changes within the left side of her body, left arm, left chest, left hip and left leg, resolved within a week or two after the motor vehicle injury, rated mild.
6) Iatrogenic hypertension secondary to COX-2 inhibitor use for the treatment of the patient’s back injuries.
The bulk of the reasons for judgement focused on causation, that is, whether the above injuries were related to the accident or to other causes. As with most ICBC injury claims, the court heard from several ‘expert witnesses’ who commented on the plaintiff’s injuries and their cause.
In the end the court found that the Plaintiff failed to prove that the accident caused her disc herniation. The key findings can be found at paragraph 317 where the court held that:
 In the result, I find that the evidence does not establish a temporal link between the accident and the onset of the plaintiff’s low back symptoms ultimately leading to the diagnosis of disc herniation and disc herniation surgery. In my opinion, the plaintiff has failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that the accident caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s disc herniation. She has failed to prove that her disc herniation would not have occurred but for the negligence of the defendants.
 In arriving at this conclusion I accept the opinion of Dr. Maloon, in preference to that of the plaintiff’s medical experts, that the soft tissue injuries the plaintiff sustained in the accident would not have been “significant enough to alter the natural history of her neck or low back condition” and that the “disc herniation would be the result of the natural history of the lumbar degenerative disc disease and not the result of injuries that she may have sustained in [the accident].”
Since the court did not find the disc herniation related to the accident damages were assessed for soft tissue injuries. The court made the following finding prior to valuing the injuries at $75,000 for pain and suffering:
 I find that the plaintiff sustained mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck and back as a result of the accident which have had an affect on her personal, employment, social and recreational pursuits and activities. However, I also find that the plaintiff has failed to establish that the injuries sustained by her in the accident have caused her disability from employment.
 In the result, I find that the plaintiff’s award for general damages should be based on the fact that her condition had improved and recovered to the stage that by March 4, 2005 he felt well enough to return to work on a gradual basis. Moreover, I find that the fact her physical and emotional condition deteriorated after her fall on March 5, 2005 cannot be attributed to the injuries she sustained in the accident.
The Plaintiff’s award was then cut by 50% to reflect the fact that she was 50% responsible for the accident. This is the direct result of ‘contributory negligent’ in ICBC injury cases. If a Plaintiff is any percent at fault then the value of what can be recovered in tort is reduced by that percentage.
Do you have questions about this case or about an ICBC injury claim involving soft tissue injuries or a disk herniation? If so please click here to arrange your free consultation with Victoria ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken (Services provided for ICBC injury claims throughout BC!)