Tag: lumbar spine injury

$50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for "Mechanical Spine Pain"

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, awarding total damages of just over $95,000 as a result of a 2005 BC Car Crash.
In today’s case (Mar v. Young) the Plaintiff was rear-ended while in a vehicle on the Island Highway near Nanoose, BC.   Fault was not formally admitted.  Mr. Justice Bracken found the rear vehicle 100% liable for the collision.
A physiatrist who gave evidence on behalf of the Plaintiff explained that he suffered from mechanical spine pain as a result of the collision and this was different from a soft tissue injury because “mechanical spine pain originates in the tissues that are part of the spine itself and not the muscle or soft tissue that surround the spine.  These tissues lay quite deep under the skin and provide support for the spine itself.”
In assessing the non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $50,000 Mr. Justice Bracken summarized the accident related injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:

[37] On all of the evidence I conclude that the plaintiff suffered injuries to his thoracic and lumbar spine and that while his condition has improved he has not yet fully recovered.  The physical examinations conducted by Dr. Wahl and Dr. McKean indicate that the plaintiff has good range of motion of his neck and hips, but that he still has pain in his mid and lower back.  Both doctors testified that the plaintiff says that his pain and discomfort prevents him from carrying out his normal day-to-day activities of work and recreation, but the doctors disagree on his prognosis.  Dr. McKean considers it quite possible that the plaintiff will continue to experience some pain that will affect him for the foreseeable future.  Dr. Wahl is more optimistic and believes that there will at least be significant improvement and possibly full recovery.

[38] I find that the plaintiff still experiences pain 4 years post accident and it is likely that he will do so for some time to come.  It is clear from the evidence that he can carry out many of his normal activities, but not without some pain.  He has limited many of his activities somewhat and says that he is still prevented from participating in others.  There is no supportive objective medical evidence other than the disc bulge and early degeneration in the lumbar spine that Dr. Wahl considered to be within the normal range for the plaintiff’s age.  The plaintiff has been able to continue working, at times for long periods at a time, but he has experienced pain and discomfort and says that he must get up and move around and stretch at frequent intervals to ease his discomfort.  Former co-workers corroborate his evidence on his work related limits.  He purchased an expensive chair for use when he is working at his computer, but while it helps him, it does not completely eliminate pain and discomfort.

[39] The defendant noted that the plaintiff seemed to move easily and without obvious pain while he was in the courtroom.  I agree that the plaintiff seemed to have a reasonable range of flexibility when rotating from his hips and he could move his arms easily.  That does not seem inconsistent with the observations of both Dr. McKean and Dr. Wahl, but both note that the plaintiff continues to complain of pain in the mid to lower back.  The plaintiff testified that he still experiences some pain in that part of his back and his wife and friends corroborate his evidence.  There is no evidence before me to contradict that evidence.  No doubt the injuries have taken some time to resolve, but I accept that the plaintiff still has some pain and discomfort from the injuries caused by the accident.

[40] While each of the cases referred to above were cited as cases that had similar fact patterns, as it was stated in Tong v. Sidhu, above, no two cases are exactly alike and in the final result each case stands on its own facts.  In this case I find that the plaintiff’s injuries are more serious than the range suggested by the defendant.  The injuries have lasted with diminishing disability for 4 years and will likely continue to affect the plaintiff for a considerable period of time to at least some degree.

[41] The plaintiff has a sedentary job and to some extent that is an advantage as he is not likely to be exposed to the need for any hard physical labour in the course of his work.  However, he will likely spend the majority of his working life sitting at a desk working on a computer.  The impact of even mild pain or discomfort in his back will be a problem that will affect his concentration and ability to focus on his work.  He will have to take frequent short breaks from his work to compensate.  He will be at least somewhat limited in his recreational and home maintenance activities, although I accept Dr. Wahl’s view that the impact of his injuries will likely diminish over time as his condition improves and his disability lessens.

[42] On all of the evidence, it is my view that an award of $50,000 is appropriate for non-pecuniary damages.

ICBC Claims, Ruptured Discs and Causation

Reasons for judgment were released today involving a disc injury with 2 potential causes.
The Plaintiff was involved in 3 car accidents. This lawsuit involved the second accident. The Plaintiff was ultimatley diagnosed with a ruptured disc in her back. The issue at trial was whether the ruptured disc was caused by the first or second accident (apparently no-one blamed the third accident as a potential cause).
“Causation” is often a key issue at many ICBC claims and frequently ICBC takes the position at trial that while a Plaintiff is injured the injury would have existed even without the car accident as it was caused by previous or subsequent events.
In this case a physiatrist and a GP testified on behalf of the Plaintiff. No defence medical evidence was called, instead, the defence relied on their lawyer’s cross examination of the Plaintiff experts.
The Plaintiff had an MRI which showed a moderate sized diffuse disc bulge or protrusion at L-4/5 with associated disc desiccation or drying.
The court was not satisfied with the Plaintiff’s experts explanations linking the disc protrusion to the second car accident. The court instead found that it is more likely that the disc injury was caused by the first car accident and the second accident aggravated this injury for a period of time.
For the aggravation of this disc injury the court awarded general damages (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) of $30,000. The Plaintiff’s claim for loss of earning capacity and cost of future care were dismissed on the basis that the disc injury was not caused by the accident and any exacerbation of the injury caused by the accident ended in 2005.
This case shows that nothing should be taken for granted when taking an ICBC claim to trial.  Here both doctors seemed in agreement that the second car accident caused the disc injury and no medical experts disagreed with this finding.  After hearing this evidence first hand in court the trial judge did not agree with the Plaintiff’s experts and dismissed the allegation that the second car accident caused the disc injury.  Even where the medical evidence is not contradicted you cannot guarantee that a court will accept it!  This is the risk of trial and cross-examination.  Trial risks need to be accounted for when considering ICBC claim settlement and valuing fair payment for injuries.

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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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