Tag: Low Velocity Impact

ICBC Injury Claims and Relevance of Minimal Vehicle Damage

Further to my numerous previous posts on Low Velocity Impacts (LVI Claims) reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with the relevance of photographs depicting minimal vehicle damage in Injury Litigation.
In today’s case (Deventer v. Woods) the Plaintiff was involved in 3 rear-end collisions.  Fault was admitted for all three crashes.   The Plaintiff claimed she was injured as a result of these crashes.  The matter was set down for a Jury Trial (ICBC normally sets LVI cases for Jury Trial) and proposed to put photos which ‘show very little damage to an of the cars involved’ to the Jury.
The Plaintiff objected arguing that the photos were not relevant.  Madam Justice Fenlon disagreed with the Plaintiff and allowed the photos to be put to the Jury.  In coming to this conclusion Madam Justice Fenlon referred to and summarized 2 previous authorities dealing with this issue at paragraphs 8-13 and went on to hold as follows:

[14] In any event, I am of the view that photographs showing the extent of the damage to the vehicles in this case are relevant and therefore admissible. They are relevant because it is a matter of common sense and common understanding that the greater the force with which two vehicles collide, the more likely it is that occupants of those vehicles will be injured. The relationship between increased force and damage and increased probability of injury does not mean that parties involved in lower impact collisions that do not cause very much damage to the vehicles involved cannot suffer significant injuries. Many cases have recognized that serious injuries can result from collisions involving little or no damage, as Mr. Justice Thackray observed in Gordon.

[15] In Brar v. Johal, 2002 BCSC 150, Mr. Justice Cohen, at para. 11, held that the onus would be on the defendant to lead engineering or medical evidence to support the submission that a plaintiff’s injuries are inconsistent with the force generated by the impact between two vehicles.

[16] The relevance of photographs showing the extent of damage to the plaintiff’s and defendants’ vehicles can be tested by considering photographs of highly damaged vehicles. It would be hard to imagine plaintiff’s counsel in such a case arguing that photographs of the damage were not relevant to the issue of whether the plaintiff suffered injuries in the accident.

[17] I have considered whether the probative value of the photographs in this case is outweighed by their prejudicial effect on the jury’s assessment. For the reasons set out inMakara by Mr. Justice Barrow, I am of the view that such prejudice can be adequately addressed by way of appropriate instructions to the jury. Such directions would not simply be to ignore the photographs, as plaintiff’s counsel argued, but rather, a direction to put the pictures into the context of the evidence as a whole. The pictures are one piece of evidence about the impact and the vehicles, as is the plaintiff’s evidence.  There would also likely be a direction that the fact that no or little damage has occurred to vehicles does not mean that a plaintiff cannot be injured.

[18] In conclusion on this issue, the photographs are admissible, subject to objections about their authenticity or accuracy.

Another intresting aspect of this judgement is the Court’ discussion of the Plaintiff’s financial status.  The Defendants wished to highlight certain elements of the Plaintiff’s finances in support of an argument that  “such information is relevant in assessing the quantum of damages for future wage loss because that information provides the context within which the jury must determine whether the plaintiff would have worked full-time in the future if the injuries sustained in the accident had not occurred.”

Madam Justice Fenlon agreed that such evidence is admissible in addressing a claim for future wage loss holding that:

[35] The plaintiff argues that the cases cited by the defendants in which a plaintiff’s financial circumstances were considered in relation to future wage loss were not jury cases. However, if the plaintiff’s financial circumstances are relevant to the assessment of future wage loss in a judge alone case, they are also relevant in a jury trial. The only additional question on a jury trial is whether the prejudicial effect of such evidence outweighs its probative value. The concern raised by plaintiff’s counsel, and it is a real concern, is that the jury may assume that because the plaintiff is relatively well-off she does not need to be compensated for future wage loss and they may reduce their awards for general and special damages as well. That would indeed be improper, but as I stated in relation to this issue on the admissibility of the photographs, I am of the view that the jury can be properly instructed to avoid this error and can be trusted to properly assess damages.

[36] In the circumstances of this case, I find that the probative value relating to the life insurance proceeds and the absence or existence of a mortgage outweighs the prejudicial effect of such evidence. However, I also find that the value of the new family home has such little probative value in relation to the propensity of the plaintiff to be working full-time or part-time that it is outweighed by the prejudicial effect of such evidence. I would therefore disallow that evidence.

[37] In conclusion on this issue, evidence relating to life insurance proceeds received, the payout of the mortgage on the family home at the time as a result of another life insurance policy, the existence of a current mortgage, and other evidence of that nature is admissible. Evidence regarding the value of the home the plaintiff is currently living in is not.

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages Awarded in Low Velocity Impact

Reasons for judgement were released yesterday (Boyd v. Shortreed) by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with a Low Velocity Impact (LVI).  The Plaintiff testified that she was involved in a rear-end crash and that she was injured despite having minimal damage to her vehicle.  Interestingly, the Defendant denied that the crash happened at all.
Mr. Justice Harvey rejected the Defendant’s evidence and concluded that a crash did occur.  Specifically he held that:
[33] The plaintiff reported the accident on April 19, 2005 by telephone and advised the adjuster for ICBC of the damage to her vehicle and the fact she had been injured.  Without first bringing the vehicle to ICBC, she took the car to an auto body shop for repairs and the bumper was fixed.  She testifies that the total cost of repairs was about $360.  No documentary evidence concerning the repairs was ever produced in evidence.  Photographs of the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s vehicle were of little assistance in determining whether there was any damage visible.  It is conceded that the damage amounted to nothing more than an abrasion or scratch requiring repainting.  There was no structural damage to the plaintiff’s car…

[59] There were other inconsistencies in the evidence of the defendant which cause me to reject his evidence as to the happening of the incident.  Accordingly, wherever the evidence of the plaintiff and the defendant conflict, I accept the evidence of the plaintiff as being the accurate version of events.

[60] That being found, I conclude that the defendant struck the plaintiff’s car from the rear.  While I accept there was a situation of peril created by the driver of the tractor trailer, the proximate cause of the collision between the defendant’s vehicle and that of the plaintiff was the inattention of the defendant by travelling too close to the rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle or, alternatively, the condition of the brakes on his vehicle which did not allow him to slow his vehicle in time to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s vehicle.

[61] I do not find the plaintiff’s reaction to the danger created by the tractor trailer driver to be wanting and decline to apportion any fault for the accident to her.  She reacted appropriately to a situation of emergency created by another driver who is not a party to the action.

[62] As a result, the defendant is 100% liable for the collision and resultant damages.

In valuing the Plaintiff’s Non-Pecuniary Damages at $25,000 Mr. Justice Harvey made the following findings with respect to her accident related injuries:

[76] The only new complaint arising from the accident appears to be the onset of mid-back pain.  This is based mainly on self report.  The extent and duration of these symptoms are described in some detail in the reports of Dr. O’Connor and Dr. McKenzie.  This complaint seems to have occasioned the most pain and has persisted, although significantly improved, to the date of trial.  Her recovery was estimated by the plaintiff to be at 85% of normal when she last attended Dr. McKenzie in August 2009.  There is no ongoing disability related to the complaints nor has there been for some since late in 2007.

[77] In summary, the plaintiff suffered an exacerbation of her previous symptoms in her neck and lower back.  I find these complaints had substantially resolved to their pre-accident condition inside of one year.  In April of 2006, according to the notes of Dr. Shah, there was a further onset of lower back pain but, on the whole of the evidence, I cannot relate this flare up to the accident of April 2005.  The injury to her mid-back was as a result of the accident.  It persisted longer and caused her more discomfort than the exacerbation of her pre-existing symptoms.

[78] Accordingly, taking all of this into account, I assess general damages in the amount of $25,000 in respect of her soft tissue injuries.

More on BC Supreme Court Trials and Costs

I’ve previously posted that when a Plaintiff in a BC Supreme Court Lawsuit is awarded damages in the Small Claims Court Jurisdiction ($25,000 or less) the Plaintiff is usually not permitted to court ‘costs’.
This is so because Rule 57(10) of the Supreme Court Rules holds that:
A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there is sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
Today, reasons for judgement were released by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this section and the issue of when there is ‘sufficient reason for bringing a proceeding in the Supreme Court.’
In today’s case (Munro v. Thompson) the Plaintiff was awarded just over $12,000 for injuries sustained in a 2006 BC Car Crash.  The Defendant was apparently insured by ICBC and subject to ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Defence.
The Plaintiff brought application seeking court ‘costs’.  He argued as follows:

[7]             The plaintiff says that “sufficient reason” is to be considered as at the time of commencement of proceedings: Riemann v. Aziz [2009] BCCA 448.

[8]             He says that at the date of commencement of the action, he had in hand the reports of two medical experts.  The conclusion arising from those is that it was a moderate/severe whiplash injury impacting on his future vocational capabilities, indicating a loss of capacity claim.

[9]             In these circumstances, counsel for the plaintiff contends there was good reason to bring his action in this court as opposed to the Small Claims division of the Provincial Court.

The defence lawyer argued that the Plaintiff should be deprived of ‘costs’ because the Plaintiff only recovered half of what could have been awarded in Small Claims Court therefore the Plaintiff should have started the lawsuit there.
In accepting the Plaintiff’s position Mr. Justice Williams applied the law as follows:

[22]         In order to determine the merit of the plaintiff’s claim for costs, it is necessary to examine whether he has shown that there was sufficient reason to have justified the decision to commence the proceeding in the Supreme Court.

[23]         Both parties accept that to be the correct analysis.  As well, both agree that the point in time at which the assessment is to be made is when the action in initiated.

[24]         In this case, plaintiff’s counsel had in hand the reports of two medical practitioners when he commenced the proceeding.  The report of Dr. Paterson, a treating chiropractor, concluded that the plaintiff’s symptoms of neck pain and stiffness, headaches, left shoulder pain and weakness are the result of a Grade III whiplash (moderate/severe) that he sustained in his July 6, 2006 motor vehicle accident. …

[25] There was also a medical-legal opinion from Dr. Condon….

26] Based on those opinions, it was not unreasonable for the plaintiff’s counsel to conclude that the action should be commenced in the Supreme Court.  The evidence indicated the likelihood of a viable claim for loss of future earning capacity as well as a not-insignificant claim for general damages.  Taking that into account, I am not prepared to find that his decision to bring the claim as he did was improper:  he had sufficient reason to proceed as he did when the writ was filed….

32] In the result, there is no basis to find that he deliberately misrepresented his situation to the doctors.  I stand by my conclusion that there was sufficient reason for bringing this proceeding in the Supreme Court, and reject the argument that he should be disentitled to the benefit of that finding because of his own conduct.

On another note, I posted yesterday about the new BC Supreme Court Civil Rules which come into force next year.   I have referenced these and it appears that the law as set out in Rule 57(10) of the current rules remains in place in the New Rules.  The relevant provision is set out in Rule 14-1(10) of the new Civil Rules.  The language there is identical to the current Rule 57(10) so precedents such as this case should remain good law after the new rules take effect.

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.

$115,000 Awarded in ICBC Low Velocity Impact (LVI) Claim

(Please note the case discussed in this post was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgment released on September 21, 2010.  You can go to my September 2010 archives to read my summary of the BC Court of Appeal Decision)
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Mariano v. Campbell) awarding a Plaintiff just over $115,000 as a result of injuries sustained in a 2006 rear end collision.
This was an ICBC Claim that apparently fit into ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) Program.  The vehicles sustained modest damage and the ICBC Claims Lawyer defending the Claim argued the Low Velocity Impact defence.  The details of this are set out in paragraphs 33-41 of the judgment.

[33] The defendant says the accident was a low velocity impact claim.  The cost of repair for the Ms. Mariano’s 2005 Ford Escape was $1,712.96.  The cost of repair to Ms. Campbell’s 2000 Honda Civic was $3,714.07.

[34] The defendant argues that Ms. Mariano’s injuries should be consistent with a modest low impact accident and anything more than modest injuries from the accident are an unreasonable consequence.  Relying on Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27 at paras. 11-18, the defence argues that the injuries alleged are not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the minor motor vehicle accident.

[35] Ms. Campbell was called by the defence presumably to testify that the collision was only a minor one.  However even Ms. Campbell admitted to sustaining whiplash injuries.

[36] Ms. Campbell was stopped in gridlocked traffic waiting for the traffic light to change.  When she saw the light turn green and traffic ahead of her starting to move, Ms. Campbell starting moving her vehicle.  When Ms. Mariano’s vehicle suddenly stopped, Ms. Campbell did not apply her brakes before she rear-ended the Ford.  When she got out of her vehicle, Ms. Campbell saw a stalled vehicle, one or two vehicles in front of her.

[37] Ms. Campbell could not estimate the speed of her vehicle at the time of impact but defence relies on her evidence that another car could not have fitted in between her vehicle and Ms. Mariano’s vehicle.  However, Ms. Campbell said that on the impact, she immediately felt pain in her neck, the middle of her back, and her right arm.  She went into shock and her whiplash injuries took three months to resolve.

[38] The defendant tried unsuccessfully to attack Ms. Mariano’s credibility and argues that because of the minimal impact, Ms. Mariano can only have suffered minimal injuries.  However I find Ms. Mariano a very credible witness.  She continues to work despite her symptoms.  The pain in her neck and shoulders prevents her from working the way she used to work, and from doing the things she used to enjoy doing.  She was unable to buy her sons a big pumpkin for Halloween as she had always done before because she is now unable to carry a big pumpkin.  Ms. Mariano became quite visibly distressed when she described the activities she can no longer participate in with her children because of her injuries or because she is now simply too tired at the end of the work day to do anything else.

[39] The defendant points to Ms. Mariano’s application for mortgage life and disability insurance where she filled in “March 2006” as the “date of the last episode” of neck pain and that Dr. Darby wrote a note to the insurance company indicating that Ms. Mariano had fully recovered from the accident with no complications or sequelae.

[40] The statements may not have been entirely accurate but it was understandable.  Ms. Mariano tried to put herself in the best light she could so that she could obtain, as she did before the accident, mortgage disability insurance with no exclusions.  The defendant’s negligence caused the insurance company to dramatically limit the mortgage disability insurance available to Ms. Mariano through no fault of her own.  The defendant should not be heard to be complaining too loudly.

[41] Terry Watson, an estimator for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, testified that neither Ms. Mariano’s vehicle nor Ms. Campbell’s vehicle sustained structural damage.  However, the hood of Ms. Campbell’s vehicle collapsed and slid under the Ford Escape, striking the spare tire underneath.  Mr. Watson agreed that that the impact of the collision was likely not absorbed by the bumpers.

The Defendants ICBC Claims Lawyer went on to argue that minimal damages should be paid because more severe injuries are not reasonably foreseeable from a minor or modest collision.
Madame Justice Loo rejected the defence arguments and accepted that the Plaintiff was indeed injured in this collision.  The court found that the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries which have resulted in chronic pain and that there was a chance that these symptoms would linger in the future.
Damages were awarded as follows:
1.  Non Pecuniary Damages: $30,000
2.  Past Wage Loss: $45,428.91
3.  Loss of Earning Capacity: $15,000
4.  Special Damages: $574.16
5.  Cost of future care: $1,000
6.  cost of re-training: $23,307

$70,000 Non Pecuniary Damages for Disc Herniation and Labral Tear

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff close to $120,000 in damages as a result of a 2006 BC car accident.
The accident occurred when the Defendant failed to see the Plaintiff’s vehicle and struck the driver’s side door of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
All the doctors who gave evidence at trial agreed that the Plaintiff ‘suffered a slight tear to the cartilage of her left hip (a labral tear) and a disc bulge in the lumbar spine, and that these two conditions contribute to her ongoing pain…’
The issue at trial was one of causation, that is, did this accident (which apparently did not cause a lot of vehicle damage) cause the Labral tear?  After hearing from several medical witnesses Madam Justice Gerow concluded that there was a causal connection, finding that ‘I accept the opinions of Dr. Gilbart and Dr. Sahjpaul that the accident either caused the disc herniation and the labral tear, or caused those asymptomatic conditions to become symptomatic, and that (the Plaintiff’s) degenerative disease is minimal at this point.’
Dealing with the argument ICBC often makes at LVI trials (low velocity impact) that ‘the force of the accident was not such that it could have caused the injuries to the lumbar spine’ Madam Justice Gerow stated as follows:

35]            The evidence is that the defendants’ vehicle struck the driver’s side of Ms. Grant’s vehicle.  The defendants argue that the cost of repair of approximately $1200 indicates that this was a relatively minor accident and, therefore, unlikely to have caused the plaintiff’s ongoing injuries. 

[36]            Although the force of the impact is a factor to be considered in assessing the injuries sustained in an accident, it is only one factor to be considered.  The nature and extent of the injuries suffered by a plaintiff should be assessed on the basis of all of the evidence.

[37]            As noted by Thackray J. (as he then was) in Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.):

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slips and falls.  Conversely, accidents causing extensive property damage may leave those involved unscathed.

In the end, damages were assessed as follows:

Non Pecuniary Damages: $70,000

Past Wage Loss: $13,452

Loss of Earning Capacity: $30,000

Special Damages: $1,498

Cost of Future Care: $5,000

This case is worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC claim where the issue of causation of a disc bulge is at issue to see the types of competing positions that can be advanced by the doctors at trial along with the analysis that a court can engage in to navigate the waters of expert opinions.

$30,000 Pain and Suffering for 2 year 'mild to moderate' Soft Tissue Neck Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff compensation as a result of a 2002 motor vehicle collision.
The collision happened in Victoria.  It was a rear end crash and the Defendant admitted fault.  This appears to be a crash that fit into ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) criteria as the vehicles suffered minimal damage.
The Plaintiff claimed significant injury which was on-going more than 5 years post collision which would impact her future earning capacity.  The defence position was that that crash caused a mild soft tissue injury which resolved by October 2003.
The court found that the crashed caused a 2 year soft tissue injury and made the following findings:
[26] I have some difficult in assessing (the Plaintiff’s) evidence.  She describes the resulting dent in her car as huge, yet it does not look like that in the pictures and the cost to repair was estimated at only $53.  She said she was in incredible pain immediately after the accident, yet Ms. Lobb spoke to her and was under the impression everyone was fine.  No ambulance was called, nor did she seek immediate medical attention which I would expect would happen if the pain was immediately “incredible” and “excruciating”.  On the other hand, I have no doubt that (the Plaintiff) suffered pain caused by the accident which, as documented by the medical reports, gradually got worse over the ensuing weeks.  I also have no doubt that (the Plaintiff) continues to have pain to this day – it seems to me on looking at her that it is written in her face.  As Dr. Vincent testified, people do not go for injection therapy unless they have pain.  Furthermore, there is evidence from her mother, her friend and her employers that she is not the high energy person she once was.  The difficulty is to assess the degree to which the collision is the cause of her pain and the true effect of that upon her life.  There is a tendency to attribute a multitude of difficulties following a car accident to that one cause when often there are many…….

[31] (the Plaintiff) bears the onus of proving that the condition for which she seeks compensation was on the balance of probabilities caused by the December 30th, 2002 collision. I  find on the evidence that she did suffer a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and back as initially diagnosed in her early months of treatment by Dr. Down which was caused by the collision.  I am not persuaded, however, on the balance of probabilities, that her condition caused by the accident injuries extended beyond the two year period initially foreseen by Dr. Down.  She was clearly on a course of recovery in that two year period.  What happened thereafter has not been proven to have been caused by the December 30th, 2002 collision.

[32] I assess (the Plaintiff’s) general damages for a mild to moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and back extending over a period of two years at $30,000.

Supreme Court of BC and Trial Costs

Today I’m blogging from sunny Kamloops from my colleague Peter Jensen’s office.  Clients are coming soon so I have to keep this short.
The Supreme Court of BC has an unlimited monetary jurisdiction whereas BC small claims court currently has a jurisdiction of $25,000 or less.  When suing for damages as a result of a BC car accident you have to decide which court you will sue in.
When involved in an ICBC tort claim in the BC Supreme Court the winner can be awarded Costs, whereas in Small Claims Court the winner can only be awarded disbursements as opposed to Tariff Costs.
When you bring an ICBC claim in Supreme Court and are awarded less than $25,000 can you still be awarded your court tariff Costs?  The answer is sometimes.
Rule 57(10) of the BC Supreme Court rules states that
A plaintiff who recovers a sum within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court under the Small Claims Act is not entitled to costs, other than disbursements, unless the court finds that there was sufficient reason for bringing the proceeding in the Supreme Court and so orders.
The question then is, did you have a good reason to sue in Supreme Court when you started the lawsuit?
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff Costs even though the ultimate award was below $25,000.  At Paragraphs 7-10, the trial judge (Madam Justice Humphries) explained why in this case the Plaintiff had ‘sufficient reason’ to bring the suit is Supreme Court holding that:

[7] The relevant time at which the value of (the Plaintiff’s) claim should be assessed, then, is when the action was commenced.  At that time, (the Plaintiff) still had some residual effects from the accident and was missing the occasional day of work.  I found this evidence credible, and noted that she still had occasional flare-ups, with decreasing frequency.  Her voluntary retirement worked to the benefit of the defendant in that any potential ongoing wage loss from these flare-ups would not be claimed against him.  (the Plaintiff) was careful to ensure that only those days attributable to the effects of the accident were claimed for.  She asserted a claim for loss of earning capacity, but decided not to pursue it by the time of trial.  Although such an award would not have been large, if any at all were established, it is difficult to say, in hindsight, that the entire claim would obviously have come under the Small Claims limit of $25,000 at the time the action was commenced.  Plaintiff’s counsel subsequently came to assess the claim with the advantage of all the information available by the time of trial and to put forward a realistic and sustainable range of damages in his final submissions, but that is not, according to Reimann, relevant to the present issue.

[8] In Faedo v. Dowell and Wachter, M064051 (October 19, 2007) Vancouver, Curtis J. held that in a situation where the defendant put the plaintiff to the proof of having suffered any injury at all, thus making her credibility a crucial issue at trial, it was reasonable for the plaintiff to require the assistance of counsel.  She was therefore justified in commencing the action in Supreme Court where she could hope to recover some of the costs it was necessary for her to expend in retaining counsel to recover the compensation to which she was found to be entitled.  This reasoning has application here as well.

[9] In the result, the plaintiff has advanced sufficient reason for having commenced her action in this court and is entitled to her costs pursuant to Rule 66.

This is a good judgement for Plaintiffs bringing ICBC claims, particularly those involved in Low Velocity Impacts (LVI’s) where ICBC denies that injury occurred.  It recognizes the fact that ICBC often tells people that they aren’t injured at all and this brings their credibility into play.   Here the court realized that in such circumstances it is appropriate to hire a personal injury lawyer and try to offset some of these costs by suing in Supreme Court even though the Small Claims Court has sufficient monetary jursidiction to deal with the tort claim.

More on LVI's, ICBC Claims and Soft Tissue Injuries

There is no shortage of opportunity to blog about ICBC LVI (Low Velocity Impact) cases as these seem to go trial frequently.   While each case is unique and have varying outcomes based on the severity of injury, the courts reactions to the ‘no crash no cash’ position often advanced on ICBC’s behalf seems to end in a predictable result.  It is typically rejected.
The issue always is, on a balance of probabilities, does the evidence establish that the Plaintiff was injured in the crash?  Not “how significant was the vehicle damage”.
In yet another example of BC courts reactions to LVI crashes, reasons for judgment were released today awarding a Plaintiff $12,000 for various soft tissue injuries.
The accident happend in 2005.  It was a rear-end crash.  The defendant gave evidence that the crash was so minor that ‘he did not hear any impact’.  The Plaintiff, on the other hand, stated that the impact was ‘a jolt that threw her forward although she was restrained by her seatbelt‘.
As is often the case in ICBC LVI cases, the lawyers put into evidence the photographs of the vehicles.  The pictures showed minor damage to the Plaintiff vehicle and no visible damage to the Defendant vehicle.
The court accepted that the Plaintiff was injured in this crash.  The Plaintiff complained of headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, right shoulder pain and right ankle pain.
The Plaintiff suffered injuries in previous car accidents and also in a subsequent fall.  This complicates the courts job somewhat in assessing the extent of the injuries suffered in this LVI trial.
The medical evidence was that the Plaintiff, while injured in this LVI crash, should not have any permanent consequenses as a result of her injuries.  In other words, she should get better.  The Plaintiff’s doctor also testified that ‘a lot of her symptoms arise from ‘something else’ (something other than the crash)… She has an underlying condition of depression and alcohol consumption which makes her depression worse’.
One thing that should come to no surprise to ICBC injury lawyers is the position taken by the defence lawyer in this case.  It was argued that ‘there should be no award as the symptoms are not reasonably attributable to the accident’.  In support of this argument the defence lawyer cited Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd.   For full background you can read my former blog on this case but for the sake of this blog here are the broad strokes:
In Mustapha the Plaintiff claimed to suffer psychological injury due finding flies in a bottle of water supplied by Culligan.  The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the lawsuit claiming that such an injury was not ‘foreseeable.’.   Just last week I was discussing Mustapha with a senior colleague ICBC claims lawyer and we concluded it was only a matter of time before an ICBC defence lawyer would bring Mustapha to a court’s attention claiming that injuries from an LVI crash are not ‘forseeable’.  Fortunately, Mr. Justice Savage, rejected such an argument at paragraph 39 of the judgment.
All was not rosy for the Plaintiff, however.  The court found that she ‘tended to exaggerate her symptoms, which, expecially laterrly, are probably not attributabel to the accident.  I accpet, however, that she was injured in the accident but her ongoing symptoms after one year post accident are a result of her failure to mitigate her damages, or other causes’.
For the soft-tissue injuries with headaches and other symptoms which the court found lasted for only one year (at least in terms of being related to the accident) the court awarded non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) of $12,000.

BC Supreme Court Awards $16,324 For Soft Tissue Injuries in an LVI Accident

In brief reasons for judgement released today The Honourable Mr. Justice Masuhara awarded a Plaintiff just over $16,000 in compensation for injuries sustained in a 2006 motor vehicle accident.
The collision occured in Surrey, BC in the evening of February 13, 2006. The Plaintiff’s vehicle, a 1996 Nissan, was stopped at a traffic light. The Defendant, driving a 1998 Astro, rear-ended the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff stated that he injured his lower right back, right neck and right shoulder as a result of the BC car accident. The Plaintiff attended a total of 24 massage therapy sessions and had other treatments such as ultrasound, hot pads, electrical stimulations, massage therapy and stretching exercises.
The matter proceeded to trial and was heard in two days as a Rule 66 Fast Track trial.
This trial could be fairly characterized as a typical ICBC Low Velocity Impact (LVI) claim. That is, where the vehicle damage is slight ICBC Claims lawyers defending such actions typically make a point of bringing this fact to the courts attention hoping that the court will find that ‘no compensible’ injuries occurred.
The Plaintiff used good judgement, in my opinion, in admitting the fact that the vehicle damage cost little money to repair and did not challenge this fact.
In yet another example of our BC courts paying no mind to the ICBC LVI policy, Mr. Justice Masuhara stated that “I have taken into consideration the principle that the level of vehicle damage does not correlate to the level of injury a plaintiff has sustained.”
Medical evidence was led that the Plaintiff sustained injuries along his right paracervical and bilateral paralumbar muscles. These were described as a “strain/spasm”.
The court accepted the Plaintiff was injured in this collision. Specifically that “the collision was a low speed collision and that (the Plaintiff) suffered minor soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and back.” The court found that these ‘minor soft tissue injuries’ resolved withing 14 months and any complaints after that time were ‘residual‘.
In the end $16,000 was awarded for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) and out of pocket expenses for massage therapy and physiotherapy treatments were calculated as ‘special damages’.
Do you have questions about an LVI denial from ICBC or a claim involving soft tissue injuries? If so click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

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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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