Tag: migraine headaches

$90,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Migraine Headaches

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, assessing damages for chronic migraine headaches along with a low back injury caused by a collision.
In today’s case (MacDonald v. Joseph) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2011 head on collision caused by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries, some of which recovered but was left with a legacy of chronic migraine headaches and low back pain.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

[21]         The plaintiff had substantially recovered from the accident after 18 months but he continued to suffer and continues to suffer accident caused symptoms related to migraine headaches, lower back pain and occasional neck pain. The headaches suffered as a result of the accident are of a different nature and consistency than any headaches before the accident which dated back to 2009 and were not medically treated. The treatment for chronic headache related to head and neck trauma is difficult and often unhelpful, according to Dr. Robinson who considered that the plaintiff was not a candidate for preventative medications. He expected the plaintiff to have recurring headaches for the next three to five years with a definite risk for persisting headaches indefinitely. These would not be expected to be a “substantial impediment” in continuing with the plaintiff’s janitorial career.

[22]         Decisions in similar cases presented by counsel suggest a range for the non-pecuniary damages suffered by the plaintiff from $55,000 to $100,000. In my view, the plaintiff here suffers headaches more frequently at present than the plaintiff in Sandhu v. Gabri, 2014 BCSC 2283. The nature of his job doing heavy physical work places him in a more precarious position at work than the plaintiff in Rutledge v. Jimmie, 2014 BCSC 41. The plaintiff was off work for a considerably longer period than the plaintiff in Wepryk v. Juraschka, 2012 BCSC 974. At the same time, the plaintiff is not in constant pain as was the plaintiff in Smith v. Fremlin, 2013 BCSC 800 and has not developed psychological or pain disorders as a result of the accident as the plaintiff did in Roth v. Hes, 2015 BCSC 161. Nonetheless, the plaintiff’s prognosis of persisting debilitative headaches into the future with unresolved low back and neck pain more than four years after the accident place him at the higher end of the range. Non-pecuniary damages are awarded in the amount of $90,000.

Pain and Suffering Damages Discussed for Severe Post Traumatic Migraine Headaches


Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff damages for post accident migraine headaches.
In today’s case (Ward v. Klaus) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end collision in Chilliwack, BC.  Fault was admitted by the rear-motorist focusing the trial on the value of the claim.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries the most serious of which were post-traumatic migraine headaches.  These were so invasive that they required surgical intervention with the installation of a “neurostimulator” in the back of her head.  The Court provide the following summary of the Plaintiff’s surgeries:

[16]         In May 2008, the plaintiff consulted Dr. Kumar, a neurosurgeon in Regina, for an assessment on the suitability for neurostimulator implants.  She qualified and in September, at Regina Saskatchewan, a neurotransmitter was implanted in the back of her neck.  It had two leads and an external remote that connected the wires under her skin.  From September to mid-October 2008, she had two more operations in Regina and two more temporary implants were imbedded.  In December 2008, two permanent implants were installed in the back of her head in the same area as before.  To deal with the pain of the operation, she took more medication.

[17]         In January 2009, the plaintiff had permanent leads installed at the front of her head.

[18]         The implant battery has to be recharged, usually once a week.  She keeps it on at all times other than when she is driving.  She has a device that plugs into an electrical outlet.  It tells her if the battery needs to be recharged.  Sometimes it has to charge for up to four hours, but usually it takes an hour or an hour and a half.  When pain flares, she can increase the strength of the current from the stimulator.  Again, she does not see it as the answer.  It simply “takes the edge off”.

Mr. Justice Rice assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $150,000.  In arriving at this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

[52]         In this case, counsel on both sides agree that this was a soft-tissue injury to the neck resulting in continuing neck pain, and continuing generalized moderate headaches with severe migraine headaches, occurring two or three times per week.  The pain during such migraine headaches is excruciating, and her pain and suffering as a whole have affected very negatively almost every aspect of her life.  According to doctors’ recommendations, she has taken medications that only partially help, and at one point led her to addiction to narcotics.  She has undergone surgeries to implant a neurostimulator which has only been moderately successful at best as a means of alleviating the pain.  The consensus of the medical experts has been that the plaintiff has reached the point of maximum medical improvement, and that the headaches and pain will continue indefinitely.

[53]         At the same time, observing her demeanour as she gave evidence, as well as seeing the videotape evidence shown in court, and considering her inability to answer many questions on the basis that she could not remember, I am afraid there is room for mild caution in accepting her testimony unreservedly.  Her frequent inability to recall answers to questions leads me to doubt the reliability of her memory when giving testimony.  By this, I do not mean to resile from the impression that she was generally honest and truthful in explaining the excruciating pain she had suffered.  It is only in respect of a few details, particularly her work capacity and motivation, that her evidence was not completely satisfactory…

[56]         The purpose of non-pecuniary damage awards is to compensate the plaintiff for “pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”: Jackson v. Lai, 2007 BCSC 1023 at para. 134. While each award must be made with reference to the particular circumstances and facts of the case, other cases may serve as a guide to assist the court in arriving at an award that is just and fair to both parties: Kuskis v. Tin, 2008 BCSC 862 at para. 136.

[57]         Taking all of the foregoing into account, my view is that the appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss is $150,000.  In this amount I take account of all aspects of general pain and suffering, including a reasonable portion attributable to the effect of diminished capacity in her homemaking role.

$25,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Neck, Shoulder and Back Soft Tissue Injuries

Following a 2 day trial using the Fast Track Rule  (Rule 66), reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff as a result of a 2005 BC car accident.
The Plaintiff was injured as a passenger.  The offending motorist admitted fault and the trial focused on damages (lawful compensation) only.
The Plaintiff had a range of complaints following the accident including pain in her neck, right shoulder and low back, and a significant increase in the frequency of her pre-existing migraine headaches.
In assessing a fair award for pain and suffering the court made the following finding:

[24] I accept the plaintiff’s evidence that she was injured in the August 9, 2005 motor vehicle accident.  In this regard, I note that while the physicians who examined the plaintiff also accepted the plaintiff’s assertions, the fact that they did so does not assist the court in making that finding.  Their observations thereafter are of considerable assistance in assessing the possible course of the plaintiff’s recovery, however.  It does appear, taking account of what is before me, that the plaintiff recovered functionally very quickly although she may suffer some minor aches and pains that will occasionally interfere with her activities.

[25] The plaintiff has suffered some moderate interference with her life due to pain and suffering.  The cases advanced as comparables by the parties are of some assistance in locating this case on an appropriate scale.  I assess her damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life at $25,000.

The Plaintiff also led evidence that she was able to take advantage of fewer overtime opportunities as a result of her injuries.  For this loss the court awarded $20,000.
The court found that the injuries should continue to improve but may linger for a while longer.  In addressing loss of earning capacity the court awarded $15,000 making the following findings:
She is capable of doing her work and of working considerable overtime.  On the basis of the medical evidence there is good reason to expect that she will fully recover in the next few years, with a modest chance of some limited impairment further into the future.  I think some allowance must be made for the possibility that the plaintiff may occasionally suffer losses into the future that are related to the injuries she has suffered.  I think the evidence suggests that these losses will be incurred, for the most part, in the next few years.  I fix the sum of $15,000 for loss of future earning capacity.

Damages of $159,857 Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries and Migraines

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court compensating a Plaintiff for accident related injuries.
The trial concerned a 2001 BC car accident. Her vehicle was struck in a down-town Vancouver intersection by a left-turning van. Liability (fault) was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum (value) of injuries and losses.
The impact was reasonably significant causing the Plaintiff’s head to jerk to the right and hit the window, then snap back.
At the time of the accident the Plaintiff was a 38 year old operations manager at a Vancouver travel agency. As with many ICBC claims that head to trial the Plaintiff’s pre-accident health was explored at trial in some detail. The court found that, prior to the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘continued to suffer regularly from migraine and tension headaches, and from neck and back pain due to stress and postural strain. (the Plaintiff’s) tension induced neck and shoulder pain sometimes precipitated migraines.’
The court concluded that despite these pre-accident problems, the Plaintiff ‘continued to funciton without significant compromise‘ prior to her Vancouver car accident.
As is often the case in ICBC injury claims, the court heard from various medical experts including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopaedic surgeon and an occupational therapist.
After hearing the competing evidence the court found that “the increase in (the Plaintiff’s) headaches and neck and shoulder pain is causally related to the soft tissue injuries she sustained in the accident. I find that her increased neck and shoulder pain sometimes leads to full-blown migraines. In addition, it is related to other painful headaches that she experiences from time to time.”
The court accepted the expert evidence of Dr. Robinson who is a highly-regarded BC neurologist who specialises in headache disorders. He testified in part that “when patients with a stable migraine disorder are exposed to neck trauma they sometimes suffer an indefinite aggravation of their headaches. Due to the neck pain caused by trauma such patients develop a new way to get headaches, which may or may not develop into full blown migraines“.
In terms of prognosis, the court found that ‘with treatment, (the Plaintiff’s) headaches will probably continue to improve over the course of the next five years.‘ and that ‘the low grade neck and shoulder pain caused by the accident will probably persist indefinitely. As a result some aggravation of (the Plaintiff’s) pre-existing headache condition will also persist‘.
The court awarded $65,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering). In doing so the court noted that ‘non-pecuniary damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities. The compensation awarded should be fair and reasonable to both parties…for purposes of assessing non-pecuniary damages, fairness is measured against awards made in comparable cases. Such cases, though helpful, serve only as a rough guide‘.
Thanks to these reasons for judgment, British Colmbian’s now have one more rough guide to help assess the fair pain and suffering value for lingering soft tissue injuries, aggravation of pre-existing injuries and migraine headaches when considering ICBC claim settlement.
This case is also worth a quick read for anyone advancing a claim for loss of earning capacity (future wage loss) as the court does a good job summarizing some of the leading legal precedents in this area at paragraphs 151-155 of the judgment.
The court concluded that, as a result of the Vancouver car accident, the Plaintiff ‘is less able to complete the same high volume of computer based work she could before before the accident and it it sometimes obvious that she is exhasted. In these circumstances, it is apparent that her earning capacity, viewed as a capital asset, has been impaired.’ The court went on to award $75,000 for this loss.

Car Accidents, Post Trauma Headaches and ICBC Claims

Short clear reasons for judgment were released by Mr. Justice Savage of the BC Supreme Court yesterday awarding a Plaintiff compensation for car accident related headaches.
This is one of the crispest judgements I have read in quite some time.  I recommend reading the full judgment for anyone advancing an ICBC pain and suffering claim for headaches as the issues are succinct in this case and it does not get bogged down in legalese.
The Plaintiff was injured when she was 4 years old.    She was in a proper infant car seat in her family van when it was broadsided by the defendant who failed to stop at a stop sign.  The accident was in 2002 and the claim finally went to trial in 2008.  For those of you not well versed in ICBC injury claims I should point out that there is nothing unusual about this timeline.  In infant injury claims in BC, most limitation periods are delayed until the infant’s 19th birthday.  One of the reasons for this is because doctors often can’t give a prognosis for an infant’s injuries until they reach adulthood.
In this case most of the Plaintiff’s injuries were not disputed.  She suffered from a broken tooth, some injury to her legs which healed in a few months, soft tissue injuries to her neck and back which took about one year to heal.
What was at issue was headaches.  The Plaintiff claimed that she had on-going headaches over 5 years after the accident and that these were caused by the accident.  The defendant said there are other potential causes for the headaches such as migraines or other trauma.  It is worth pointing out that such a ‘causation’ argument is typical in most ICBC injury claims that go to trial.  Usually the court hears competing theories about the extent of injury and the cause of injury.  (click here to see an example of just how far apart 2 sides can be in an ICBC injury case involving headaches)
The court accpeted that the ongoing headaches were indeed caused by the accident and summarized the accident related injuries as follows: “very mild injuries post-accident that have completely resolved with ongoing significant but somewhat sporadic headaches continuing requiring the occasional use of Tylenol.”
Mr. Justice Savage noted that the headaches have persisted for some six years althogh there has been some improvement.  He went on to value the non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for these headaches at $35,000.

$45,000 Awarded to Plaintiff for Post Accident Headaches

After a 13 day trial in Vancouver, BC,  reasons for judgement were released yesterday awarding a Plaintiff $45,000 plus special damages (out of pocket expenses for treatment of injuries) as a result of a 2001 BC car accident.  This was a ‘headache claim’ and the primary issues were whether the Plaintiff’s headaches were caused by the BC car accident and if so, how much money the injury claim was worth.
At trial the BC personal injury lawyers on opposing sides were miles apart in their view of the value of the case in their submissions to the court.  The Plaintiff’s lawyer alleged permanent impairment of her capacity to earn income and sought damages in excess of $900,000.  The personal injury lawyers defending the claim responded that the Plaintiff only suffered from mild soft tissue injuries and that damages between $10,000 – $20,000 were appropriate. 
It is quite common for lawyers on opposing sides of ICBC claims to take very different positions at trial  and this case is a good example of how far apart 2 sides to an ICBC claim can be.  In this case the Plaintiff presented a case of chronic headaches which interfered with tasks of daily living including work.  The defence lawyers presented a case alleging mild soft tissue injury with headaches resolving a short time after the accident.  At the end of the trial the court largely sided with the defence lawyer’s position. 
The Plaintiff was 19 at the time of the accident.  As she was driving the defendant turned left directly in front of her lane of travel.  She had the right of way.  She had time to step on the brake and the clutch of her vehicle, shift into neutral and brace herself for the impact.   The accident was described as a t-bone collision by the Plaintiff although the court noted that the front left portion of the Plaintiff’s car struck the driver’s side door of the other vehicle in this BC car accident claim.
As is often the case in ICBC claims alleging an ‘impaired earning capacity‘ due to a BC motor vehicle accident, the court heard from a variety of doctors as ‘expert witnesses’.
Dr. Robinson, a neurologist who specializes in headache disorders, testified on behalf of the Plaintiff.  He stated that her headaches ‘have features consistent with a diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic headache of a migrainous type.’
Dr. Chu, a physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) testified that the accident “is the direct cause of (the plaintiff’s) mechanical left upper neck pain.  This in turn is the cause of her secondary cervicogenic headaches”
Dr. Vincent, a cutting edge specialist in Anaesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine, also testified and gave evidence which ended up largely supporting the Defendant’s position.  Dr. Vincent injected anaesthetic medications into the Plaintiff’s neck on two occasions.  Unfortunately neither of the injections relieved the Plaintiff’s headache.  After a rigorous cross-examination Dr. Vincent testified that the Plaintiff’s results were inconsistent with a ‘causal relationship between an injury…to the neck and the headaches the Plaintiff experiences.”
The defence lawyer relied on the opinion of Dr. Jones, a neurologist, who testified that the Plaintiff’s headaches are ‘true migraines that have arisen spontaneously and are unrelated to any injury to her neck or cervical spine’.
The court preferred the evidence of Dr. Jones.  The court found that the BC accident ‘did cause an exacerbation of (pre-existing) headaches’ and that ‘those headaches largely resolved and (the Plaintiff) had returned to her pre-accident state of health within approximately 10 months following the accident.
The court found that there were problems with the Plaintiff’s evidence and that her present recall of symptoms in the months after the accident was ‘unreliable’.  The ultimate finding was that all of the Plaintiff’s headaches sinced 2002 were ‘primarily migraine headaches that she would have developed (even without the accident)’.
The court awarded $45,000 for pain and suffering and the Plaintiff’s special damages up to March 16, 2002.
This case is a great example of the different positions opposing lawyers can take in court in an ICBC claim and results such as this one should be reviewed when in settlement negotiations with ICBC for a ‘headache’ claim as a result of a car accident.
Do you have questions about this case or an ICBC headache claim?  Are you looking for a free consultation with a ICBC claims lawyer?  If so click here to arrange a free consulation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

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ERIK
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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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