Tag: low back pain

$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Chronic Low Back Pain With Poor Prognosis

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $64,000 in total damages as a result of BC car crash.
In this week’s case (Elgood v. Ellison) the Plaintiff was injured in 2006 when he was struck by a vehicle in Langley, BC.  The Plaintiff was walking in a marked cross-walk with the right of way when the Defendant driver made a left hand turn and struck the Plaintiff.  Fault was admitted and the trial focused solely on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff suffered minor injuries to his legs and neck which quickly and fully recovered.  His most serious symptom was low back pain which persisted from the time of the accident through trial.   The evidence accepted by the Court was that the Plaintiff had mechanical pain around the lumbar spine and that these symptoms may be an ongoing problem for the Plaintiff.
(highlighted portion of illustration depicts the lumbar spine)
In awarding the 65 year old Plaintiff $35,000 for his non-pecuniary damages Mr. Justice Bracken made the following notable findings:

[39]        Dr. Hirsch concluded that the plaintiff has made a full recovery with respect to his legs and that he had a relatively minor neck injury that has now essentially resolved.

[40]        The more difficult problem is the lower lumbar spine area and Dr. Hirsch said that this condition was likely caused by the accident.  He described it as likely mechanical in nature and that it is exacerbated by stress or loading on the back.  He believes that the plaintiff should continue his home-based exercise program and perhaps attend for structured appointments with a kinesiologist or physiotherapist.  He also thought that some exercise such as tai chi, yoga, pilates or water-based exercises would be helpful.

[41]        He concluded that the plaintiff’s restrictions were attributable to chronic low back pain that was caused by the accident and that the prognosis for complete recovery was guarded given the plaintiff’s age and the duration of the symptoms.

[42]        He did believe that the plaintiff should be capable of performing his domestic chores but that he may have to pace himself and that he will have ongoing problems with more strenuous activities such as lifting, snow shovelling or completing significant household repairs.  He did not foresee any need for future care or for any surgery.

[43]        In summary, it appears that the plaintiff’s leg and shoulder injuries resolved very quickly and his neck pain diminished gradually over time, to the point where it is now only occasional pain and of a non-debilitating nature.  He had some early headaches which have now become occasional.

[44]        The significant pain that the plaintiff suffers is chronic low back pain that Dr. Hirsch predicts will likely be with him for the foreseeable future.  No doubt the low back pain will prevent him from doing many jobs, particularly those that require long periods of sitting.  Given his age and background, it is most likely that sedentary jobs will most likely be what are available to him.  He has sharply reduced his recreation, although some of the intense recreational and physical activities engaged in by the plaintiff would likely diminish in intensity over time due to the normal aging process regardless of his injury.  He will likely still have the ability to engage in mild recreational activities. The plaintiff says that even mild recreation or physical activity is too painful for him.

[45]        As Dr. Hirsch pointed out at p. 6 of his January 20, 2009 report:

Three years have elapsed since Mr. Elgood suffered his low back injury in the subject motor vehicle accident.  Given the duration of his symptoms, the prognosis regarding complete resolution of his low back pain has to be viewed as guarded at this juncture.  Given the temporal profile to date, I would consider it more likely than not that Mr. Elgood will experience low back pain indefinitely.  Low back symptoms of sufficient intensity will probably limit his ability to perform tasks which biomechanically stress his low back…

[51] While the plaintiff has been able to carry on with work, he and his wife both said that he has only been able to do so by enduring a level of chronic pain.  Based on the opinion of Dr. Hirsch, which I accept, his condition is not likely to be alleviated over time.  Bearing in mind his age and the impact of his injuries on his personal life and work life since the accident, in my view, the range of damages is between that of the plaintiff and defendant and I assess general damages at $35,000.

BC Supreme Court awards $229,890 for Concussion and Chronic Back Pain

In written reasons for judgement released today, a Plaintiff who was injured in a 2003 single vehicle accident was awarded a total of $229,890 for his injuries and losses.
The Plaintiff, who was 18 at the time, was the centre passenger in a pick-up truck that lost control. The accident was significant. The truck “crossed a cattle guard and then hit loose gravel. The Driver lost control and the truck slid off the embankment. It rolled a number of times and apparently flipped end over end once. In ended up lying on its right side.”
For a time, the Plaintiff lost consciousness. He suffered a concussion and for a while suffered symptoms of headaches, light headedness, imbalance and tinnitus (ringing in the ears.) These symptoms resolved by the time of trial. He also had a neck injury which largely resolved and a shoulder injury which fully resolved by the time of trial.
The Plaintiff’s main injury by the time of trial was chronic low back pain.
4 doctors testified on the Plaintiff’s behalf. His family doctor painted a positive picture of the Plaintiff.
A specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatrist) testified that the Plaintiff suffered from a soft tissue injuries to the cervical and lumbar spine (neck and low back).
A rheumatologist testified that the Plaintiff suffered from chronic back pain and that this pain “would have a significant negative influence upon his ability to compete in the workforce in the area of strenuous laboring jobs.”
A specialist in occupational medicine testified that the Plaintiff had not recovered from the soft tissue injuries to his back and that “it is unlikely the Plaintiff will have full resolution of his back injuries“.
The defence had the Plaintiff assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon. This is a common choice of ICBC for their ‘independent medical exams” when dealing with soft tissue injuries. The doctor hired by the defence testified that one of the factors leading to the Plaintiff’s ongoing complaints was ‘psychosocial factors‘ and that he would ‘strongly recommend that the plaintiff be assessed by a psychiatrist“.
The court preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s physicians and stated that “I conclude there is little, if anything, in (the defence doctors) report that would detract from the evidence from the other medical personnel or the lay witness evidence with respect to the Plaintiff’s present condition“.
In the end, damages were assessed as follows:

Non-Pecuniary Damages

$ 85,000

Past Wage Loss

$ 23,000

Future Wage Loss

$120,000

Cost of Future Care

$ 1,890

Total:

$229,890

$550,828 Awarded for Chronic Pain and Disc Herniation

In reasons for judgement released today, Madam Justice Morrison awarded a total of $550,828 in compensation for an August, 2004 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a 45 year old senior commercial lines insurance underwriter. She was injured in a rear-end collision. As in most ICBC rear-end collisions, the defence lawyer admitted fault on behalf of the defendant leaving only quantum of damages (value of the claim) at issue.
A neurosurgeon who testified on behalf of the Plaintiff was found to give ‘compelling’ evidence. In summarizing the Plaintiff’s injuries the neurosurgon stated as follows
My diagnosis is soft tissue injuries to the lumbar spine, referable to the motor vehicle accident in question, traumatic left L3-4 disc herniation causing left L4 nerve root pain and contributing to low back pain. In my opinion, it is also possible that the motor vehicle accident may have negatively impacted on the eventual outcome from the right L5-S1 disc herniation. The preoperative CT scan did show a focal disc herniation at the right L5-S1 level. This was confirmed on the post motor vehicle accident MRI scan. It is conceivable that the force that was sustained during the motor vehicle accident could have further damaged the compressed right S1 nerve root. In other words, were it not for the accident, her outcome from the right L5-S1 discectomy may have been better
Commenting on the vocational impact of the injuries the Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon stated that:
It is my opinion that (the Plaintiff) will be left with permanent back pain. This will result in some limitation of her vocational potential, especially as it relates to jobs that require a lot of sitting, repetitive twisting or turning of the lumbar spine, or lifting.
The trial judge reached a favourable conclusion regarding the Plaintiff’s claim stating that:
On causation, I am satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the motor vehicle accident of August 8, 2004, more likely than not, was the cause, or contributed to the injuries of the plaintiff. No other conclusion makes sense. The chronic pain would not have occurred except for that accident. I conclude, on a balance of probabilities, that the right-sided pain would not have recurred, but for that accident, and that the left-sided pain was due to the accident, without question
After accepting virtually all of the Plaintiff’s evidence Madam Justice Morrison awarded damages as follows:
Non Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering): $100,000
Special Damages: $7,828
Past Income Loss: $73,000
Loss of income earning capacity: $200,000
Cost of Future Care: $170,000

$30,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Mild/Moderate Soft Tissue Injuries

In a judgement released today by BC Supreme Court, Madame Justice MacKenzie awarded a total of $30,900 plus wage loss in compensation as a result of a September, 2005 rear-end accident which occurred in Langley, BC.
The Plaintiff was a 55 year old woman. Prior to the accident she suffered from back pain, particularly she had osteoarthritic changes affecting all of her lumbar discs.
ICBC, on behalf of the Defendant, called evidence trying to paint the picture of a minor accident. ICBC called vehicle estimators who gave evidence that the vehicles basically sustained minimal damage. The purpose of this is to cast doubt on the ability of a minor accident to cause injury. The theory is basically that if the vehicle damage is not significant the injuries must not be significant. This tactic is often used by ICBC defence lawyers as a result of ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) policy.
After hearing all the evidence the court found that the Plaintiff’s pre-existing condition did not impair her previous activities, that the accident caused mild to moderate soft tissue injuries, that these injuries have resolved somewhat by the time of trial and that there was no evidence of a minor permanent partial disability as a result of her accident related injuries. In other words, she should get better.
The court was not persuaded that a substantial possibility existed that the injuries would result in a diminished earning capacity. The court concluded that “In my opinion, with exercise and motivation, the Plaintiff will return to her condition before the accident”. In the end the court awarded $30,000 for non-pecuniary damages (Pain and Suffering), $400 for special damages (out of pocket accident related expenses), compensation for lost past income, and $500 for future care to permit the Plaintiff to pay for a 6 month gym membership with some supervision with a personal trainer.

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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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