Tag: Low Velocity Impacts

LVI Defence Rejected; Costs Awarded Despite Small Claims Quantum Judgement

In my continued effort to document judicial treatment of the LVI Defence, I summarize reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, yet again addressing and rejecting submissions based on this defence.
In last week’s case (Johnson v. Keats) the Plaintiff was injured in a low-speed rear end crash in Burnaby, BC.  The collision resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries of a relatively minor nature and claimed damages.
At trial the Defendant argued that the injuries were not connected to this low velocity collision.  Madam Justice Wedge disagreed and found the Plaintiff proved his case and awarded $16,000 in non-pecuniary damages.  In dismissing the LVI Defence the Court provided the following reasons:

[24] The defendant argued that the plaintiff had not established causation between the accident and his alleged injuries. The gist of the defendant’s position on causation was that it did not follow that the plaintiff, a strapping young man in reasonable physical shape, could suffer the alleged soft tissue injuries from such a low velocity impact.

[25] The difficulty with this argument is that there is simply no evidence to support it. The defendant did not have the plaintiff examined by a physician or call any evidence to suggest that low velocity impacts could not cause the kind of soft tissue injuries that the plaintiff claimed to suffer as a result of the accident.

[26] Moreover, the defendant did not put that theory to Dr. Lim when she testified. It was not suggested in cross-examination of Dr. Lim that Mr. Johnson was malingering or exaggerating his injuries.

[27] The defendant attempted to attack the plaintiff’s credibility by pointing to what I can only describe as minuscule discrepancies in his evidence.

[28] The plaintiff was a credible and even a quite remarkably low-key witness. He did not attempt to exaggerate his symptoms. His evidence was straightforward and matter of fact. He readily acknowledged he was sufficiently recovered after three weeks to return to light duties and in slightly less than three months was fit to take on the more strenuous labouring tasks of a longshoreman.

[29] Dr. Lim, too, gave forthright and factual evidence. She did not attempt to advocate on her patient’s behalf.

[30] In summary, I am satisfied the accident of March 12, 2009, caused the soft tissue injuries described by the plaintiff and his physician Dr. Lim.

The global damages awarded were below $25,000.  Despite this the Court awarded the Plaintiff costs finding there was sufficient reason to bring the claim in Supreme Court.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

…I am cognizant that the amount of the award falls within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court. However, the case law establishes that if there is sufficient basis for the plaintiff’s proceeding in this Court, this Court has discretion to depart from the provisions of the Rules limiting costs.

[50] I have considered the issue of costs carefully given the range of non-pecuniary damages for injuries of the nature suffered by the plaintiff. It was reasonable for him to bring his claim in this Court. Accordingly, it is reasonable and fair that the plaintiff receive his costs pursuant to Rule 15-1.

Court Finds "LVI" Evidence Relevant But Not a Significant Consideration

In keeping with the ongoing trend of judicial criticism of ICBC’s ‘low velocity impact‘ defence (you can click here to access dozens of my archived posts detailing this) reasons for judgement were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, confirming that while defendants are free to put evidence of minimal vehicle damage before the court, it likely is not a significant consideration.
In this week’s case (Gron v. Brown) the Plaintiff was involved in two rear-end collisions, the first in 2003, the second in 2008.  ICBC admitted fault on behalf of the rear drivers.  Both collisions were low velocity impacts.  ICBC stressed this evidence at trial.  Mr. Justice Brown found that despite the low impact of the crashes the Plaintiff did suffer injury.  The Court awarded $24,000 in non-pecuniary damages and provided the following practical critique of low velocity impact evidence:

[10] The defendants called two ICBC estimators, Mr. J. Hansen and Mr. J. Gali. Following the May 31, 2008 accident, they examined damage to the plaintiff’s Toyota Yaris and Mr. Godwin’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.

[11] Mr. Hansen, who examined the Yaris, noticed some minor damage on the Yaris’s bumper cover and slight sheet metal distortion on the Yaris’s trunk lid.

[12] Mr. Gali, who examined the Oldsmobile, found minor damage to the strip moulding on its bumper. Mr. Godwin did not want to have it repaired.

[13] Neither estimator looked under the bumpers for damage, which, they granted, possibly could have been present.

[14] Low velocity impacts are common. Defendants often question the relationship between minimal vehicular damage and physical injuries claimed after low velocity impacts. In the case at bar, neither of the estimators ventured an opinion on the inherent potential for injury from the minimal physical damage they found after examining the vehicles nor claimed the expertise to do so, but as noted by Vickers J. at para. 15 in Kirsebom v. Russell, [1995] B.C.J. No. 359 (S.C.), the defendants are “entitled to argue in this or any other case that, because there has not been motor vehicle damage, there can be no injury.”

[15] Barrow J. endorsed this view in Makara v. Weihmann, 2005 BCSC 1757, where he said at para. 7:

[7]        I share this view. It follows that the extent of the damages to motor vehicles involved in a collision may well be relevant notwithstanding an admission of liability where the remaining issues make it so. In this case, the issues include whether the plaintiff suffered the injuries complained of in the accident or elsewhere. They include an assessment of the extent of the injuries generally. The nature of the collision is a relevant consideration in resolving these matters. It may not be a significant consideration, but it remains a relevant one. …

LVI Defence Rejected; $12,000 Awarded For Modest Injuries

Further to my dozens of previous posts discussing ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) Defence to tort claims involving crashes with little vehicle damage, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, once again rejecting this defence.
Today’s case is a great example demonstrating that compensable injuries can be sustained even in true ‘low velocity impacts‘.  In today’s case (De Leon v. Harold) the Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle collision in 2007 in Vancouver, BC.  The Defendant rear-ended the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Fault for the crash was admitted.  The trial focussed on whether the Plaintiff sustained any injuries.
There was no dispute that the collision was minor.  The Plaintiff described the impact as a “bump“.  The Defendant testified that her car “tapped” the Plaintiff’s car.  The modest impact resulted in $0 in vehicle damage.
Despite this the Plaintiff was injured.  The injuries were, fortunatley, relatively modest and made a meaningful recovery within 6 months.  ICBC defended the case based on the LVI program and argued that the Plaintiff was not injured in the collision.  Madam Justice Power rejected this argument and in doing so repeated the following helpful reasons addressing the LVI defence:

[14]         In Lubick v. Mei [2008] B.C.C.A. No. 777, Macaulay J. stated at paragraph 5:

[5]        The courts have long debunked the suggestion that low impact can be directly correlated with lack of compensable injury. In Gordon v. Palmer [1993] B.C.J. No. 474 (S.C.), Thackeray J. as he then was, made the following comments that are still apposite today.

I do not subscribe to the view that if there is no motor vehicle damage then there is no injury. This is the philosophy that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may follow, but it has no application in court. It is not a legal principle of which I am aware and I have not heard it endorsed as a medical principle.

He goes on to point out that the presence and extent of injuries are determined on the evidence, not with “extraneous philosophies that some would impose on the judicial process.”  In particular he noted that there was no evidence to substantiate the defence theory in the case before him. . . .

[15]         In Dao v. Vance 2008 BCSC 1092 Williams J. stated:

[18]      This was undoubtedly a low-velocity collision where damage to the vehicle 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 principle evidence in support of the plaintiff’s claim is subjective, that is, it is her self report. There is not a great deal of objective evidence to support her description of the injuries she claims to have suffered.

[19]      In response to those concerns, I would observe that there is no principle of law which says that because damage to the vehicle 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, any injury is somewhat likely at least to be less severe than in a situation where the forces are greater, such as to result in significant physical damage to the automobiles. Nevertheless, I do not accept that there can be no injury where there is no physical damage to the vehicles.

Madam Justice Power assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $12,000 and in doing so made the following findings about her injuries:

[19]         I am satisfied that the plaintiff has discharged this burden and that soft-tissue injuries to her neck and back were suffered as the result of the accident. I am satisfied that the injuries were substantially resolved within two months of the accident as the result of the plaintiff’s active efforts in the first two months to attend chiropractic and massage therapy and that the injury was almost completely resolved within six months…

[22]         Having regard to the fact that each award must be based on the unique circumstances of the case, and that the plaintiff’s stoicism is a factor that should not penalize the plaintiff (Giang v. Clayton 2005 B.C.J 163 2005, (B.C.C.A.)), I am of the view that an appropriate award for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages in this case is $12,000. The plaintiff will be awarded $1,200 for four days of lost work as the agreed-to amount of the parties for special damages.

[23]         Therefore the total damage award is $13,200. Costs may be spoken to or written submissions may be made at the agreement of the parties.

BC Supreme Court Reminds ICBC That The LVI Defence is "Illogical"

I’ve written numerous times about the so-called “Low Velocity Impact Defence” to tort claims and that is has been soundly rejected by the BC Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were published this week on the BC Supreme Court website further criticizing the LVI Defence.
In this week’s case (Lee v. Hawari) the Plaintiff was injured in 2006 motor vehicle collision.  The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff could not have been injured because this was a low velocity crash.  Madam Justice Adair disagreed and found that the Plaintiff suffered “mild to moderate soft-tissue injuries to her neck, shoulder (including the right trapezius strain) and back, and she continues to suffer some symptoms, including pain, from those injuries as of trial“.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $21,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  Prior to doing so Madam Justice Adair provided the following sound criticism of the LVI defence:
[53] Mr. Hawari appears to suggest that because this was a low velocity collision, Ms. Lee could not have suffered any injury, or could only have suffered minor injuries.  However, this does not follow, either as a matter of logic or legal principle,  as Mr. Justice Thackray reminded litigants (and their insurers) in Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236 (S.C.), at para. 4 to 6.  See also Jackman v. All Season Labour Supplies Ltd., 2006 BCSC 2053, at paras 12 to 13, and Ceraldi v. Dathie, 2008 BCSC 1812, at para. 27.  The presence and extent of injuries are to be determined on the basis of evidence given in court.
Published reasons such as these aimed at insurance companies behind the defendants are a welcome reminder that deciding whether compensable injuries were sustained in a collision should be determined by viewing all of the evidence, not by artificial standards giving undue focus to vehicle repair costs.

Another Judicial Rejection of ICBC's "Low Velocity Impact" Defence


I’ve written numerous times that ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact Defence (“LVI”) is not a legal principle.  A defence based on this principle was rejected yet again in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry,
In today’s case (Hunter v. Yuan) the Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended by a taxi driven by the Defendant in 2006 in North Vancouver, BC.  Fault for the crash was admitted by the rear motorist.
Both parties agreed that the accident was “minor in nature“.  Despite the minor nature of the crash the Plaintiff was injured and continued to be troubled by her injuries by the time the claim reached trial some 4 years later.  The Defendant argued that this was a “minor accident which resulted in a minimal injury“.  In keeping with ICBC’s LVI policy the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff should receive nothing for non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) or in the alternative “If the court were to award damages for non-pecuniary loss, the defence suggests that an award should be very modest“.
Madam Justice Morrison rejected the defence submission and awarded the Plaintiff damages for her losses including $35,000 for non-pecuniary damages.  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[68]        First, I found the plaintiff to be entirely credible.  She did not seek to exaggerate, and gave her evidence in a very direct manner.  She was responsive to questions, and did not seek to avoid or be defensive with the tough questions posed on cross-examination.  I certainly accept her evidence with regard to her symptoms, past and present.  There is no credible or reliable evidence of any pre-existing injuries or conditions, and her injuries and ongoing symptoms are due to the accident of October 20, 2006.

[69]        It is true that the force of the accident was not major, but the evidence points to no other cause of the injuries and symptoms experienced by the plaintiff, other than the accident of October 20, 2006.

[70]        To say that the plaintiff experienced only three weeks of disability, or six or eight weeks at the most, is to ignore most of the evidence of the plaintiff, her family doctor, her fiancée, her father and Dr. Travlos.

[71]        Although by the summer of 2008 the plaintiff felt she was 85% recovered, she testified that at the present time, the flare-ups occur frequently, sometimes once every week or two, or more often, if she does activities that cause such flare-ups.  The flare-ups result in tension and muscle knots between her shoulder blades, particularly toward her right shoulder and neck area, and headaches occur.  She has sleep disruptions, difficulty getting to sleep, and voluntarily avoids some activities that she enjoyed prior to the accident; she avoids them rather than put herself in a position where pain or a flare-up will occur.

[72]        The evidence would indicate that her recovery has plateaued.  She takes Tylenol and Cyclobenzaprine on occasion, and she finds that she must remain active and exercise, as inactivity will make her symptoms worse.

[73]        The plaintiff’s pain is not chronic and continuous, but she suffers pain and increased pain with certain kinds of exertion.  It has been four years since the accident occurred, and Ms. Hunter continues to have pain in her shoulders, particularly her upper right back, and neck.  Ordinary daily activities such as carrying groceries, doing the laundry, vacuuming, and certain types of cleaning cause flare-ups, which result in pain.

[74]        Counsel for the plaintiff, in addressing the issue of non-pecuniary damages, has cited six cases where non-pecuniary damages ranged from $30,000 to $50,000.  Relying primarily onJackman v. All Season Labour Supplies Ltd. and Crichton v. McNaughton, the plaintiff submits that an award of $40,000 would be reasonable for non-pecuniary damages.

[75]        I agree that those two cases are helpful, given the evidence in this case, and I would award $35,000 for non-pecuniary damages.

This judgement demonstrates the reality that minimal crashes can result in injury including long-standing injury. The LVI Defence is divorced from medicine and law.  The rare occasions when the LVI defence succeeds before a judge is where the Plaintiff is found to lack credibility.   When injuries are supported with medical evidence it is rare for a lack of substantial vehicle damage to prove fatal to a personal injury lawsuit.

More on ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims and Plaintiff Credibility


As I’ve previously posted, when Plaintiff’s sue for damages from soft tissue injuries sustained in so-called “Low Velocity Impacts” their credibility often plays a crucial role at trial.  The simple reason for this is that without objectively verified injuries a Court must make a favourable finding to accept the Plaintiff’s evidence that they experienced pain following the collision.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the relationship between soft tissue injuries and plaintiff credibility.
In today’s case (Chandra v. Chen) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2007 BC motor vehicle collision.   The claim was defended with the argument that “the Plaintiff did not suffer an injury in the accident which was so slight that the other driver involved  in the accident could not even recall an impact to the front of his vehicle“.
This defence was rejected with the Court finding that the Plaintiff did indeed sustain “some minor injuries…which have merged into a continuum with stresses that have arisen at work“.  Mr. Justice McEwan went on to award the Plaintiff $20,000 for her non-pecuniary damages.  Prior to doing so the Court made the following useful comments about the significance of Plaintiff credibility in soft tissue injury cases and the relationship of the collision to her injuries:

[21]         It is often difficult to assess injuries where the mechanism of injury is not obvious – as is often the case in low damage accidents – and there is little other than the plaintiff’s own evidence to support a claim of ongoing pain. Because “credibility” is crucial, much is often made of inconsistencies in medical records that ostensibly record the impressions of physicians of the plaintiff’s remarks under circumstances that are themselves difficult to assess. The court is often left with making what it can of the impression given by the plaintiff in the witness box.

[22]         The plaintiff did not appear to be exaggerating. She gave her evidence in a straightforward manner. I accept that she suffered some pain associated with the accident and I accept that she is sincere in her effort to recall the pain she has suffered since that time. To the extent that she has been unspecific, and at times somewhat inconsistent, I do not think she has been motivated to mislead. I think her attempt to recall all of the pain she attributes to the accident somewhat at odds with her actual experience, which appears to have been of some aches and pains that would come and go over time. I also think that the stresses of a physical occupation have at times been assigned to the accident when they have actually arisen independently.

BC Supreme Court Calls LVI Defence a "Myth"

Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with a Low Velocity Impact (LVI).  ICBC, like many insurance companies, has set up a policy with respect to handling LVI Claims by denying that the Plaintiff could have sustained injuries where little vehicle damage occurred.
BC Courts have time and time again rejected such a position and in reasons for judgement released today by Mr. Justice Macaulay of the BC Supreme Court called out the LVI defence as a ‘myth’.
In today’s case (Thomas v.  Wormsley) The Plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries in 2 rear-end car crashes.  The court awarded total damages of just over $30,000 for the Plaintiff’s injuries and losses.  In doing so, Mr. Justice Macaulay used the following strong language when referring to the defence often used by ICBC in response to Low Velocity Impacts:

[1] The plaintiff, Ms. Thomas, claims damages for injuries and losses caused by two car accidents, the first on October 3, 2005, and the second on October 13, 2007. According to Ms. Thomas, she suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck, shoulders and low back areas in each accident and was not fully recovered from the first accident at the time of the second.

[2] In each case, Ms. Thomas was at the wheel of her car in a stopped position when she was hit from behind by another vehicle. Both collisions occurred at minimal speeds. There was no damage to Ms. Thomas’ car in the first collision and minimal damage in the second. Nonetheless, as I and other judges have stated before, it is a myth to suggest that low impact correlates directly with lack of compensable injury: Lubick v. Mei, 2008 BCSC 555, at para. 5 and Jezdic v. Danielisz, 2008 BCSC 1863, at paras. 30 and 33.

[3] Persistent pain and discomfort may result from soft tissue injuries in such circumstances. Each case depends, of course, on the particular facts. There may be no injury in spite of a very severe impact or persistent injury after a minimal impact. While common sense suggests that one is less likely to be severely injured in a minimal impact collision, the real question is whether the injured party proved the injuries alleged to be caused by the collision on a balance of probabilities.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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