Adding to this site’s archived case summaries of soft tissue injury damage awards, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for moderate soft tissue injuries.
In today’s case (Wong v. Toor) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 rear end collision. He suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to his neck which was ongoing at the time of trial and posed some lingering difficulties which were expected to continue. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 Madam Justice Young provided the following reasons:
 I will analyse the factors before arriving at my conclusion:
(a) The plaintiff was 69 years of age at the time of the accident and 71 at the time of trial.
(b) He sustained a moderate soft tissue injury to the neck.
(c) The pain has ranged between the mild to moderate range and I find that the residual effect of the accident is in the mild/intermittent range but is likely to be permanent.
(d) There are intermittent periods of disability where the plaintiff only gets relief from lying down and resting. He might get more effective relief if he were to take analgesics or pursue more acupuncture.
(e) I find that Mr. Wong has residual discomfort with driving. It is not completely debilitating. He is able to drive but he still feels some ill ease at stop lights.
(f) There has been some loss of enjoyment of life. Mr. Wong enjoyed excellent health before the accident and now he suffers intermittently from neck pain that never goes away. He has curtailed certain leisure activities that he used to enjoy and I find that the pain and fear of driving contributed to his decision to retire.
 Given those findings, Mr. Wong is entitled to $45,000 for general damages.
I’ve written about this topic too many times to give a lengthy introduction other than to say it is clear that the “Low Velocity Impact” Defence is not a legal principle. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, yet again demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Cariglino v. Okuda) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. She was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended. Fault was admitted. She suffered various soft tissue injuries. The vehicle sustained $724 in damage and the Defendant advanced the classic LVI defence arguing that this little damage “indicates the relatively minor nature of the collision and the likelihood that the complaints of injury and loss made by the plaintiff are either not related to this collision or are embellished.”.
Mr. Justice McKinnon rejected this argument and in doing so provided the following comments:
No medical opinions were proffered by the defence, rather defence submitted that the plaintiff’s evidence is “unreliable” as she downplays the role of significant family stressors in her life, fixating on the collision as the sole cause of all of her problems, both before and after the collision. Curiously, defence accepts that the plaintiff is credible but not reliable. That seems to me to be a distinction without a difference.
I found the plaintiff to be generally credible and, for the most part, a reliable historian. Certainly she had stresses in her life that created difficulties but she was able to manage these much more easily before the collision. A defendant takes a plaintiff as he finds her. Here the defendant has caused injury to the plaintiff who was in a somewhat fragile state, given her many family issues.
The defendant contends that the very minor nature of the collision would render “improbable” the nature and extent of the injuries the plaintiff contends she suffers. I was not provided with opinion evidence to support that contention and thus am unable to accept the bald proposition that minor damage equals minor injury.
The Court accepted that the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries which largely improved in the first year following the crash and with further therapy should fully recover. Non-Pecuniary damages were assessed at $35,000.
Adding to this site’s ICBC claims pain and suffering database, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a moderate soft tissue injury.
In today’s case (Olianka v. Spagnol) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2008 collision. Fault was admitted. The evidence was not particularly contested and the trial proceeded summarily. The Court found the Plaintiff suffered moderate soft tissue injuries that were temporarily disabling with symptoms that were expected to linger into the future. In assessing non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $30,000 Mr. Justice Blair provided the following reasons:
Mr. Olianka suffered what Dr. Neumann describes as a moderate soft tissue injury to the neck, a moderate soft tissue injury to the mid-back and a mild soft tissue injury to his lower back. I accept Mr. Olianka’s evidence with respect to his collision-related injuries and that these injuries precluded him from working for a four-month period. I also accept that Mr. Olianka continues to experience intermittent pain in his neck and upper back which is expected to last for some unknown period. Dr. Neumann opined that by January 14, 2011, Mr. Olianka had made a significant recovery from his injuries and concluded that his residual pain should gradually subside in intensity and frequency. He did not expect Mr. Olianka to suffer any permanent consequences from his collision-related injuries.
Nevertheless, the optimism expressed by Dr. Neumann and reflected in Mr. Olianka’s increased activity level does not overshadow Mr. Olianka’s difficulties for the 27-month period between the collision and Dr. Neumann’s report dated January 14, 2011. In that period, Mr. Olianka, due to his injuries, was unable to work for four months and subsequently those injuries compromised his ability to fully perform his work as he had done prior to the collision. In addition, he was unable to enjoy the leisure activities in which he had participated prior to the collision. This 27-month recovery period must be considered when ascertaining the non-pecuniary damages award to which Mr. Olianka is entitled. I accept that he continues, to some lesser degree, to suffer intermittent pain from his collision-related injuries as described by both Mr. Olianka and Dr. Neumann…
Based on the authorities and the unique evidence found in this case, I find that the appropriate award for Mr. Olianka’s non-pecuniary damages is $30,000, taking into account all contingencies, given the extent of the soft tissue injuries to his neck and back, the disability period of 27 months post-collision, as well as the lingering and ongoing aspect of his injuries, the limitations that the injuries imposed, not just on his ability to work, but also on his ability to partake in those physical activities which occupied his life prior to the collision and which he has only recently been able to resume albeit to a limited extent.
As I’ve discussed on many occasions, there is little credible medical evidence to suggest that a low impact collision cannot result in injury. The LVI defense fails at trial far more than it succeeds. That said, there is no denying that a claim for damages can be met with more skepticism if the triggering event is a low impact collision as opposed to a severe crash. For this reason ICBC and other insurers like to highlight the minimal forces involved when Low Velocity Impact claims proceed to trial. This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last week’s claim (Ryan v. Klakowich) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. Fault for the crash was admitted. The collision involved minimal forces with the defendant testifying that the impact was “like bumping a shopping cart against a counter“. Despite this, and despite some reliability concerns the trial judge raised with the Plaintiff’s evidence, the Court accepted the Plaintiff sustained real injury. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $25,000 Madam Justice Ross provided the following reasons:
Ms. Ryan’s complaints arise from a collision of very low impact, producing minimal damage to her vehicle and none to the defendant’s. Her injuries are said to be soft tissue injuries for which there are no objective indicators. In such circumstances Ms. Ryan’s credibility is of particular importance since the physicians are to large extent dependent upon her subjective reports in reaching their opinions.
I find Ms. Ryan to be a poor historian. It is my impression that she minimized the extent and duration of the injuries she suffered in previous accidents, both in her testimony and in her reports to physicians in preparation for this litigation. She also minimized the significance of the other medical conditions with which she was dealing. It is her testimony that the burden of taking care of her mother did not interfere with her work or with her social life because her other siblings would fill in. However, this was inconsistent with what she told Dr. Anderson. He reported that she was in considerable distress concerning the care of her mother on several occasions, reporting that the disproportionate burden fell upon her and that her siblings were not providing sufficient assistance…
The medical evidence is of limited assistance since the opinions are to a great extent dependent upon Ms. Ryan’s subjective reports. In addition, Dr. Anderson had not treated Ms. Ryan before the 2008 Accident and so had no personal knowledge of Ms. Ryan’s condition prior to the 2008 Accident. Ms. Ryan did not provide Dr. Jung with a full history. Finally, the additional investigations that Dr. Jung and Dr. Bishop recommended have not been undertaken. In the result, there is no medical opinion that bears on the causation of the neurological symptoms Ms. Ryan now complains of in her right arm.
I accept that Ms. Ryan suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulder girdle in the 2008 Accident. As a consequence, she experienced pain and stiffness in her neck, upper back and shoulder and headaches. I accept that these symptoms have lingered. While it is the case that many, perhaps most people, would not have suffered such injuries in such an accident, I accept that the combination of her previous injuries, scoliosis and osteoporosis would render her more fragile and susceptible of injury…
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry addressing damages as a result of chronic soft tissue injury.
In today’s case (MacKenzie v. Rogalasky) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 motor vehicle collision. The Defendant turned into the path of the Plaintiff’s vehicle resulting in a t-bone type collision. Fault for the crash was admitted by the Defendant with the trial focusing on the value of the Plaintiff’s claim.
The Plaintiff sustained various injuries in the crash. These included “moderate” soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders and back. The Plaintiff, unfortunately, went on to suffer from long term chronic pain as a result of these injuries. He had to leave his employment as the Head Chef at a popular Lower Mainland restaurant and eventually opt for less physically demanding employment.
The limitations from his chronic soft tissue injuries were expected to be permanent. The Plaintiff’s total damages were assessed at just under $400,000 including an award of non-pecuniary damages of $100,000. In arriving at this figure Madam Justice Ker made the following findings:
 I accept the evidence adduced by the plaintiff that Mr. MacKenzie sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and back as a result of the accident. The symptoms of chronic pain have continued to bother Mr. MacKenzie, and nearly seven years post-accident, he still experiences pain in his neck, shoulder and back, although primarily in the lower back area. While the injuries can be described as moderate soft tissue injuries, I accept the diagnosis and opinion of Dr. Hunt that Mr. MacKenzie has developed chronic myofascial pain syndrome and experiences chronic pain to this day. Thus, the injuries and pain symptoms continue to affect most every facet of Mr. MacKenzie’s work and non-work life. The pain is most significant when Mr. MacKenzie works and overloads his physical tolerance capacity. He has had to leave his chosen profession as a chef due to the increasing pain and difficulty he was experiencing and the failure to see any significant improvement in his condition.
 I have concluded that as a result of the accident, Mr. MacKenzie has suffered pain and loss of enjoyment of life, and he will continue to do so for an indefinite period of time.
 Mr. MacKenzie struck me as a very stoic and determined individual. Despite the ongoing pain he tried to continue to work as a chef, a position he was passionate about and aspired to continue in for as long as possible, perhaps even establishing his own restaurant. He also tried to remain physically active but found it difficult to do so given the attendant pain associated with the activities he previously enjoyed, including motorcycling, snowboarding and, until recently, golfing. His return to playing golf is a recent development, but due to the nature of his injuries and ongoing chronic pain symptoms Mr. MacKenzie has had to alter his style of play and is still not able to play to the same intensity and level he did prior to the accident. He has suffered, and will continue to suffer, some diminishment in his lifestyle.
 The evidence from the plaintiff’s friends and family, coupled with his own evidence, establishes Mr. MacKenzie enjoyed excellent health and was involved in the physically active and demanding position of Head Chef working in a busy restaurant for up to 16 hour shifts prior to the accident. Mr. MacKenzie also engaged in demanding outdoor sports activities such as snowboarding, mountain biking and rollerblading and engaged in extended periods of riding his motorcycle.
 Taking into account all of these circumstances, the referenced authorities and the nature of Mr. MacKenzie’s injuries, the relatively enduring nature of the injuries as manifested through ongoing symptoms of chronic pain that has developed into chronic myofascial pain syndrome which prohibits him from returning to the profession he has been passionate about since he was a young boy, the pain he has suffered and may continue to experience in the future, as well as the fact he suffered a diminishment in his lifestyle, I conclude a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $100,000.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of injuries and losses from a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Rothenbusch v. Van Boeyen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2 vehicle intersection collision in Mission, BC in 2007. The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn when his vehicle collided with the on-coming defendant. The Court found the Plaintiff 30% at fault for failing to yield to the Defendant’s right of way and the Defendant 70% at fault for speeding, failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take proper evasive maneuvers when he had the opportunity to do so.
The Plaintiff claimed compensation for various injuries although the Court found the Plaintiff failed to prove that some of his more serious injuries were caused by the crash. Ultimately Madam Justice Ker found the collision caused various soft tissue injuries which did not fully recovery. The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $30,000. In arriving at this amount Madam Justice Ker provided the following reasons:  Mr. Rothenbusch was almost 81 years of age at the time of the accident. Although retired from hog farming, Mr. Rothenbusch remained active in the community, curling two or three times a week and engaging in volunteer pastoral work at a senior’s lodge and visiting people in the hospital. He also helped a friend at a berry farm by planting and pruning throughout the year and in picking berries during the summer season. In addition to being a hog farmer, Mr. Rothenbusch worked in construction and as a plumber and continued to do his own home repairs and helped others in this area….
242] In the end, the totality of the evidence supports the conclusion Mr. Rothenbusch sustained moderate soft tissue injuries to his neck, lumbar spine, left scapula and left ribs as well as cuts to his face as a result of the accident. The evidence further supports the conclusion that the major disabilities from the injuries were largely resolved by the end of December 2007. However, Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent neck and shoulder pain as a result of the injuries from the accident, and he is still restricted in his range of motion for his neck and shoulder. These continuing symptoms have, in part, impacted on his ability to return to all his pre-accident activities….
 Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent pain in his neck and continues to have difficulties with his shoulder. He is not able to engage in some of the home repair, plumbing activities or berry picking activities he enjoyed prior to the accident.
 Although Mr. Rothenbusch may not be as active as a younger plaintiff, it is important to bear in mind that as one advances in life, activities and pleasures sometimes become more limited. In that respect, impairment of the limited activities and pleasures which an individual can engage in becomes more serious: Williams at para. 17.
 Having regard to all the circumstances and taking what guidance I can from the authorities provided by counsel, I assess Mr. Rothenbusch’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000.
In addition to the above, the decision is worth reviewing for the Court’s thorough discussion of “in-trust” claims (claims where plaintiff’s seek compensation on behalf of others who have provided them assistance with their accident related disabilities) which are set out in paragraphs 260-290 of the judgement.
Reasons for judgment were released earlier this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff approximately $85,000 in total damages from a 2004 BC Car Crash.
This case (BMM v. MLV) contains lengthy reasons that largely deal with the Plaintiff’s pre and post accident psychological difficulties. Ultimately the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim that her pre-existing depression was affected by the accident. Madam Justice Ballance concluded that “the evidence does not show that the Plaintiff’s pain and discomfort from her physical injuries caused by the Accident, exacerbated, compounded or intensified her Depression.” Paragraphs 159-190 contain the Court’s reasoning behind this conclusion and are worth reviewing for anyone interested in seeing how BC Courts can deal with a claim that pre-existing psychological injuries are aggravated by a collision.
The Court did find, however, that the Plaintiff suffered “moderate to severe” soft tissue injuries and assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $55,000. In reaching this figure Madam Justice Ballance summarized her findings and engaged in the following analysis:  The plaintiff experienced moderate to severe soft tissue injuries to her neck and back as a result of the Accident. Although her shoulders were also implicated and she had initial sleep disturbance and was plagued with low-grade headaches that occasionally developed into migraine-like discomfort, the primary area of injury was her low back and her related left hip discomfort. I accept that during their acute phase, these injuries caused persistent and sometimes severe discomfort and pain to the plaintiff, and disabled her from attending work. Following her leave from work in 2005 and her intensive physiotherapy program, her symptoms improved significantly. She continued to be susceptible to flare-ups of her symptoms throughout the summer of 2005. Her discomfort prompted the plaintiff to attend a program at the CBI which she found considerably beneficial in improving her soft tissue injuries.  I find that by the end of 2005, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms had largely settled, but had not resolved entirely. She was not restored to her pre-Accident condition at that time. I am satisfied that after that stage, the plaintiff experienced intermittent low back symptoms and associated pain throughout 2006 and continuing forward. Those episodes were infrequent but sufficiently bothersome to prompt her to obtain treatment from Dr. Weiss in late 2007 and endure two excruciating injections. I think that the plaintiff will probably experience intermittent bouts of low back discomfort caused by the Accident into the foreseeable future. The evidence indicates that those episodes will continue to be infrequent and rather mild in nature.  I accept that the physical symptoms caused by the Accident brought about unwelcome and disruptive changes to the plaintiff’s enjoyment and quality of her life, especially during the first twelve months after the Accident. She was no longer the fun-loving and enthusiastic person familiar to her son, sister and co-workers. In time, she was able to gradually reintroduce and enjoy certain pursuits such as walking and some gardening, and bike-riding using her electric bike. I have found it challenging to attempt to parse out the changes in the plaintiff’s personality and life which can be said to be attributable to her physical injuries from the Accident, from those associated with her ongoing and severe bouts of Depression, which adversely affected her life but are unconnected to the Accident. I conclude that the enjoyment of certain of her activities was negatively affected at times by her low mood. Even the plaintiff agreed that her gardening could be affected by her mood. While I accept that in the first year or so following the Accident, the plaintiff’s physical symptoms made it uncomfortable for her to attend the usual family functions and pursue her normal community and political interests, I find that her sustained withdrawal from those endeavours and detachment from her sister and other extended family, are due to the plaintiff’s psychological state unrelated to the Accident…. 204]Having reviewed the authorities provided by the parties, and considered the totality of the evidence pertaining to the plaintiff’s specific circumstances, I conclude that a fair and reasonable award for non-pecuniary damages is $55,000. A deduction of 5% is to be taken to reflect the measurable risk that her low back symptoms would have manifested without the Accident.
Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $100,000 in compensation for injuries sustained in a 2005 Vernon car accident including $50,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
The accident occurred when the Defendant pulled out of an alleyway and struck the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The crash was significant causing the Plaintiff’s 1999 Honda Civic extensive damage.
Mr. Justice Barrow summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows: I am satisfied that the plaintiff sustained a moderate soft tissue injury to her back in the motor vehicle accident. Both Dr. Coghlan and Dr. Smart diagnosed her injury as such. Further, she sustained a fracture to her sternum. That fracture likely disrupted the soft tissues in the area of her sternum as her body compensated for the boney injury. Those injuries resulted in her being entirely unable to perform the physical labours associated with the operation of the family farm for approximately six months and continued to substantially impair that ability until the farm was sold in the summer of 2006. I am satisfied that they continue to limit her function today in the sense that she is unable to lift her grandchildren and she experiences difficulty in doing other activities that she formerly enjoyed, including keeping her house, tending to her garden and sleeping. As to the future, these limitations will likely continue although they will be moderate. I am also satisfied that she would benefit from a program of physical strengthening. While I understand her reluctance to attend a gym, that would be of benefit to her. It is not the defendant’s responsibility if she chooses not to follow her physician’s advice in that regard.
In finding that $50,000 was fair for Pain and Suffering Justice Barrow noted that “(the Plaintiff) was unable to return to farming, an occupation which was a source of enjoyment and fulfillment to her. She has suffered a loss of independence in that she is unable to keep her house to the standard that she formerly had and is forced to rely on her children to do that for her”
Blogging from Kelowna again (and a lot less rainy here than Victoria when I left this am)… Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff just over $43,000 in damages as a result of a 2005 BC motor vehicle accident.
For the purpose of researching non-pecuniary damages, the key findings of fact were made starting at paragraph 132 of the judgement which I reproduce below. Of particular interest is the judge’s 25% reduction of non-pecuniary damages for the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’ set out at paragraph 134:
I conclude that the plaintiff suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury the symptoms of which were exacerbated by his very heavy work duties, his financial worries, and the poor health of his wife and daughter. The combination resulted in a lack of motivation to adequately do the exercises and instead, a reliance on medications, which his wife supplied. On the evidence before me, I find that the injuries to his neck and upper back had more or less resolved within ten to twelve months after the accident with occasional flare-ups. It is probable that even with appropriate exercising, these symptoms would have persisted that long because he was obliged to return to work too early.
There has been a substantial impact on his enjoyment of life and I am satisfied that he is not able to participate in family activities as much as he could before, including doing the Grouse Grind and fishing with his daughter. His ability to perform previously done housework has also been affected, although I am not satisfied on the evidence of the extent of gardening/lawn mowing help required. The daughter’s boyfriend could have been called as a witness and the failure to do so or explain his absence rightly allows the defence to suggest that I should draw an adverse inference, and I do so. Nevertheless, I accept that the plaintiff is not as able to bend or stoop to paint or do repairs to the house and his car. Further, in part because of his pain, his marital relations with his wife have been affected.
Taking all that into consideration I find that the appropriate compensation for his non-pecuniary loss is $40,000, but this amount must be reduced because of what I find has been a significant failure on his part to mitigate his injuries. He has failed to abide by the doctors’ and physiotherapist’s advice to engage in an appropriate exercise program. Although he said that he could not afford the program, he admitted that he had not even taken any steps to enquire as to the cost. Further, the plaintiff has not diligently performed the exercises that can be done at home and stops at the first sign of pain. He relied and relies too heavily on painkillers when, in the opinion of the medical experts, he should be properly exercising. The defendants are not obliged to compensate a plaintiff who fails to take proper steps to reduce the extent of the loss. Accordingly, I would reduce the non-pecuniary damages as well as some other heads of damages by 25% to reflect this failure and set them at $30,000.
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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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