Tag: low velocity impact program

Another LVI Case, Another Award for Damages

I’ve blogged many times about ICBC’s LVI program.  This program is not unique to ICBC.  Many auto insurers have a similar program where they deny compensible injury in tort claims where little vehicle damage occurs in the collision.
The difficulty with the LVI defence, however, is that to successfully run it the defence lawyer is basically inviting the court to find that the Plaintiff is lying about or exaggerating their injuries.  There have been many LVI cases that have gone to trial recently and the overwhelming judicial response to these was to find that compensible injury in fact did occur. Reasons for judgment were released today dealing with 2 LVI cases and such a finding was made again.
In today’s case (Loik v. Hannah) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 collisions in 2006.  Fault was admitted in each case leaving the Court to deal with the issue of quantum of damages (value of the claims).  The cases were defended on the LVI basis where the defence lawyer denied that the Plaintiff was injured in either of the accidents.
Mr. Justice Goepel rejected this argument and found that, notwithstanding the minor nature of these collisions, the Plaintiff was indeed injured.  The court’s useful analysis is set out at paragraphs 34-36 which I set out below:

[34] Ms. Loik claims damages arising from injuries she alleges to have suffered in what were two admittedly low velocity conditions. If the plaintiff was injured in the accidents, the injuries have persisted much longer than one would normally expect. In determining this case, the comments of Chief Justice McEachern, as he then was, in Price v. Kostryba (1982), 70 B.C.L.R. 397 at 398-99 (S.C.), must be kept in mind:

Perhaps no injury has been the subject of so much judicial consideration as the whiplash. Human experience tells us that these injuries normally resolve themselves within six months to a year or so. Yet every physician knows some patients whose complaint continues for years, and some apparently never recover. For this reason, it is necessary for a court to exercise caution and to examine all the evidence carefully so as to arrive at fair and reasonable compensation. …

In Butler v. Blaylock, decided 7th October 1981, Vancouver No. B781505 (unreported), I referred to counsel’s argument that a defendant is often at the mercy of a plaintiff in actions for damages for personal injuries because complaints of pain cannot easily be disproved. I then said:

I am not stating any new principle when I say that the court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.

An injured person is entitled to be fully and properly compensated for any injury or disability caused by a wrongdoer. But no one can expect his fellow citizen or citizens to compensate him in the absence of convincing evidence – which could be just his own evidence if the surrounding circumstances are consistent – that his complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury.

[35] In this case, as in most soft tissue injury cases, the case largely turns on the plaintiff’s credibility. The evidence of her injuries is based almost entirely on her subjective reporting to her doctors and to the Court. In such circumstances, it is important to consider whether the evidence of the witness accords with the circumstances that are proven on a balance of probabilities:  Faryna v. Chorny (1951), [1952] 2 D.L.R. 354, 4 W.W.R. (N.S.) 171 (B.C.C.A.).

[36] I find the plaintiff to be a credible witness. Her evidence accords with the surrounding circumstances. Prior to the accident, she was living a healthy active life, participating in many activities. She no longer is able to do so. I find that the reason she cannot do so is the ongoing pain she continues to suffer as a result of the motor vehicle accidents.

Mr. Justice Goepel found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries in these collisions “which have caused her ongoing problems with her neck, back and shoulders.”  He went on to value the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $25,000.

In addition to a useful discussion about LVI Accidents, the court went on to discuss a topic that I wrote about yesterday, namely the connection between the value of a claim and the numnber of medical appointments attended.

The Defendant argued that since the Plaintiff did not seek medical treatment between November 2006 and April 2008 her injuries had fully recovered.  Mr. Justice Goepel rejected this argument finding that “She thought she was getting better and continued to do the exercises that had been prescribed for her. When, over the next 18 months, her condition did not improve, she sought further medical treatment. In the circumstances of this case, I find that the failure to seek medical treatment does not establish that the plaintiff had recovered from her injuries by November 2006.”

More from BC Supreme Court on LVI Crashes, Net Past Income Loss Awards

(Note: the case discussed in this post was overturned by the BCCA addressing the issue of tax consequences in ICBC past income loss awards.)
In reasons for judgement published today by the BC Supreme Court (Laxdal v. Robbins) Madam Justice Gerow discussed two interesting issues that often come up in ICBC Claims.
The first is the “LVI Defence“.  In today’s case the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 car crash in Nanaimo, BC.  This collision appears to fit ICBC’s LVI criteria in that the Plaintiff’ vehicle suffered minimal damage and this was stressed by the defence at trial.  In finding that the Plaintiff indeed suffered injury in this crash despite the rather insignificant amount of vehicle damage Madam Justice Gerow had this very practical take on the evidence presented:

[17] Although the severity of the accident is a factor that should be taken into consideration when determining whether Ms. Laxdal suffered injuries in the motor vehicle accident and the extent of those injuries, it is not determinative of either issue. Rather, the whole of the evidence must be considered in determining those issues.

[18] In this case, the uncontradicted evidence of both Ms. Laxdal and Dr. Roy, her family doctor, is that Ms. Laxdal suffered a soft tissue injury in the accident. As a result, I have concluded that Ms. Laxdal’s injuries were caused by the motor vehicle accident of September 11, 2006.

The court went on to award $15,000 for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering for “mild to moderate soft tissue injury in her neck and back with some pain radiating into her shoulders.  Her injuries had mostly recovered…approximately 8.5 months after the accident, and it is unlikely that there will be any significant residual symptoms as a result of the accident“.

The second issue dealt with by the court worth noting was the award for past loss of income and the proper calculation of “net income loss”.

There is a debate amongst lawyers in the Personal Injury Bar with respect to the proper calculation of “net income loss” when the amount of past wage loss in a BC Vehicle Crash tort claim for any given year is so small that the figure would be tax exempt but when added up with the other income earned by the Plaintiff the gross figure would be taxable.  The answer to this question is important as it effects the amount that can be awarded for past wage loss in a BC Car Crash tort claim due to s. 98 of the Insurnance (Vehicle) Act.

In today’s case, Madam Justice Gerow decided as follows:

In my view, the authorities support the conclusion that where the gross award is at or below the amount exempt from taxation, there would be no tax payable so that the net past income loss would be the same as the gross past income loss….Accordingly there will be no deduction for income tax as the amount of past wage loss is below the personal exemption.”

This is a great result for BC Plaintiff’s injured in car crashes who suffer a modest past wage loss as it permits the gross amount to be recovered so long as the award fall below the personal income tax exemption for any given calendar year.  I imagine ICBC is not as pleased as Plaintiffs are with this interpretation and perhaps this issue will go up to the Court of Appeal for consideration.  If it does I will be sure to write about the result.

BC Court of Appeal Weighs in on ICBC's LVI Program and Human Rights

In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of whether ICBC’s LVI Program violates Human Rights in BC.
In today’s case the Appellant was involved in a BC Car Crash.  He allegedly was injured and brought a tort claim against the other motorist.  ICBC, as is often the case in BC Car Crash cases, was the insurer for both the Appellant and the other motorist.  In the course of defending the tort claim ICBC relied on their LVI Program and denied that any compensable injury took place.
The Appellant brought a human rights complaint claiming that ICBC’s LVI Program was a ‘discriminatory practice’.   In response ICBC brought a motion seeking to have the complaint dismissed on the basis that it had ‘no reasonable prospect of success”.  The Human Rights Tribunal dismissed ICBC’s application. ICBC appealed to the BC Supreme Court and the Court held that the Tribunal was wrong and indeed the Appellant’s complaint had no reasonable chance of success.
The appellant brought this matter to the BC Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal agreed that the claim was ‘patently unreasonable’ and that the Appellant’s Human Rights Tribunal Complaint should have been dismissed.
Below I reproduce the key portions of the Court of Appeal’s reasoning:

[16] The issue before the Tribunal was a straightforward one. Mr. Yuan’s claim was placed in the LVI program because he was involved in a low-speed collision. As the chambers judge pointed out, nothing in the Human Rights Code serves to protect people from being treated differently by reason of the speed of collision that they are involved in.

[17] The tribunal member confused the issue by referring to the matter as one that might be characterized as discrimination on the basis of physical disability. This characterization was erroneous for two reasons. Firstly, the Code does not protect anyone from being discriminated against on the basis that he or she suffers no disability. It does not, in other words, prevent anyone from treating the disabled better than those who are not disabled.

[18] Just as importantly, it cannot be said that an insurance company, whose contractual and statutory duties are to compensate those who suffer disabilities as a result of motor vehicle accidents, “discriminates” when it treats those who it perceives as having compensable injuries differently from those who it perceives as uninjured. That sort of differentiation is the very function of the corporation; it does not constitute discrimination.

[19] In the result, it is obvious that Mr. Yuan’s claim had no reasonable prospect of success. Indeed, it had no prospect of success at all; it was entirely misconceived. That, however, is not the issue that was before the Supreme Court on judicial review.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and the LVI Defence

I’ve blogged and written many times about ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Program (LVI) and today Mr. Justice Williams shared his opinions about the so called LVI defence.
In today’s case (Munro v. Thompson) the Plaintiff suffered a whiplash injury in a 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Court found that the impact was indeed quite minimal when considering the vehicle damage.  In awarding $9,000 for the Plaintiff’s injuries (which the court found largely resolved several months following the collision) Mr. Justice Williams summarized the law as it related to Low Impact Collisions as follows:

[50]            The issue of the legitimacy of injury claims arising from accidents in which property damage is very minor is one that comes before the court not infrequently.

[51]            The accident at bar was a low velocity collision where damage to the vehicles was so minimal as to be almost non-existent.  All of the evidence supports that conclusion.  In such instances, claims for compensation for injury are often resisted on the basis that there is reason to doubt their legitimacy.  Furthermore, in this case the principal evidence in support of the plaintiff’s claim is subjective, that is, it is his self-report.  There is not a great deal of objective evidence to support his description of the injuries he claims to have suffered.

[52]            In response to those concerns, I would observe that there is no principle of law which says that because the damage to the vehicles is slight or non-detectable, that it must follow that there is no injury.  Certainly, as a matter of common sense, where the collision is of slight force, it is probably more likely that resulting injuries will be less severe than where the forces were greater, such as to result in significant physical damage to the automobiles.  However, I would not hold that out as a reliable thesis, but rather a statement of very general expectation. Suffice to say, I do not accept that there can be no injury where there is no physical damage to the vehicles.

[53]            With respect to the lack of objective evidence of physical injury and ongoing symptoms, it is well accepted that the court must be cautious in assessing the evidence.  The determination must be made in a way that the outcome will be fair to both the plaintiff and the defendant.

[54]            The plaintiff, to succeed in his claim, must establish on a balance of probabilities that this incident caused injury to him, and that those injuries entitle him to an award of compensatory damages against the defendant.

[55]            I am satisfied in this case that Mr. Munro was injured as a consequence of the accident, notwithstanding its apparently minor nature.  Accordingly, it is necessary to determine the extent of the effect of those injuries on him and the quantum of the damages to which he is entitled.

If you are injured by the fault of another in a BC Car Crash and ICBC tells you that your crash fits their LVI criteria therefore you suffered no compensable injuries its worth reviewing cases like this.  ICBC’s LVI policy is not the law, it is simply a corporate policy that has no legal force.  If you were injured in a car crash through the fault of another in BC your rights to make a tort claim are not diminished any because of the amount of vehicle damage. 

$30,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages awarded in Minimal Damage Collision

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $40,000 in total damages as a result of a 2003 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was stopped at a stop sign in Surrey, BC when her vehicle was rear-ended by the Defendant.  The issue of fault was not disputed.  What was disputed was whether the Plaintiff was injured in this crash and if so what the amount of her damages ought to be.
This case seems to be one that fit ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) criteria.  The vehicles involved had very little damage.  Evidence was called from an insurance estimator who testified that there was nothing more than cosmetic damage to the vehicle and the repair estimate was slightly more than $500.  It is a frequent strategy of ICBC defence lawyers to focus on the amount of vehicle damage in LVI cases and this strategy appears to have been employed in this trial.
Despite the LVI-nature of this crash the Plaintiff satisfied the court she sustained injuries.  The Court was impressed with the Plaintiff and made the following finding:
[43]            I find that Ms. Orrell is an honest witness and accept her evidence of the event and the injuries that she sustained.  I am satisfied that she was injured in the collision, and that, as a consequence, she experienced pain and discomfort and disruption to her usual activities.  Those have not fully resolved at the time of trial.
Mr. Justice Williams summarized the injuries as follows in concluding that $30,000 was fair for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages) 
[51]             The accident and the resultant injuries caused a reasonably significant measure of pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life for Ms. Orrell following the event.  Considering both her evidence and the first report of Dr. Miki, that effect was most pronounced for a period of approximately six months, but continued, albeit in a less debilitating way, up to the point of trial.  It has impacted on her participation in many endeavours, including being physically active in such pastimes as running, going to the gym, gardening, ordinary household tasks and, importantly, being as active with her son as she otherwise would have been. As I have indicated earlier, there are however other factors that must be taken into account, including her pre-accident status and her pregnancy in 2006.  Both of those contributed to her discomfort too.
Cases like this one show time and time again that the extent of vehicle damage does not determine what a person’s tortious injuries are worth in British Columbia, rather medical evidence is key in valuing ICBC injury tort claims.

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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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