Tag: neck injury

$35,000 Pain and Suffering for 'Plateaued' Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court awarding a Plaintiff just over $45,000 in total damages as a result of a 2004 BC car crash.
The crash was significant.   The Plainitiff was travelling at 60 kilometers per hour when his vehicle was struck head on by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle was destroyed as a result of the impact.
The court found that the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries as a result of this crash and that these injuries plateaued by the end of 2006 to about 90% of the Plaintiff’s pre accident level.   The court’s key findings are made at paragraphs 28-31 which I set out below:

[28]            On the whole, I found the plaintiff to be a good, credible witness. I am satisfied that he fully intended to develop a high-quality educational centre for those wishing to learn English as a second language and that he was attempting to do so when he was injured in the motor vehicle accident of March 27, 2004.

[29]            I find as well, however, that the plaintiff’s records relating to his learning centre were poor, and that his business model was unlikely to lead to significantly greater income than it generated in its best year, 2005. Clearly the plaintiff will make far more money in real estate than he could ever have made with his learning centre, and he has recognized this by restricting his claim related to the learning centre to the period from March 2004 until June 2006.

[30]            I find that the plaintiff was involved in a significant collision while travelling at approximately 60 km/h, when his vehicle rapidly decelerated after being struck head on by the defendants’ vehicle which was travelling in the opposite direction. The plaintiff’s vehicle was destroyed. As a result of the collision, I find that the plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders and clavicle, which interfered with his usual exercise routine, his normal daily activities, and his ability to perform the duties required of him at his learning centre.

[31]            I find that before these injuries resolved, the plaintiff’s circumstances were further interrupted by a nerve injury affecting his arm, but that that injury was unrelated to his motor vehicle accident. I find that the injuries attributable to the motor vehicle accident continued to adversely affect (the Plaintiff) in his daily activities in an ever-decreasing manner until the end of 2006, when they plateaued at approximately 90% of his pre-accident condition. I find that the injuries related to the motor vehicle accident are now, as Dr. Hirsch described, “fairly minor” and that they only interfere in (the Plaintiff’s) usual activities on a sporadic basis, perhaps every month or so.

The following damages were awarded:

a)         non-pecuniary damages of $35,000.00;

b)         past income loss of $8,250.00;

c)         special damages of $2,786.15; and

d)         court order interest on the past income loss and special damages awards.

 

$24,515 Damages Awarded for Moderate Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today awarded damages as a result of injuries sustained in a 2005 Kamloops, BC car crash.
The Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended as she slowed to make a right hand turn.
Normally in such rear-end cases liability (fault) is admitted but in this case liabilty was disputed.  The Defendant claimed that the accident was caused by the actions of the plaintiff when she ‘accelerated in front of him, cut him off and themn braked quite dramatically at the corner (of the intersection).’
The court rejected this defence and found that “this is not a case where the evidence supports a conclusion that the plaintiff’s vehicle cut in front of the defendant in such a way as to alleviate his responsibility‘.  The defendant was found 100% to blame.
In terms extent of injury, the court made the relevant findings at paragraphg 50 of the judgement, which I set out below:
[50]            I conclude that (the Plaintiff) sustained a moderate soft tissue whiplash injury in December 2005 which caused pain and discomfort to her neck and back and resulted in her experiencing headaches.  These symptoms were initially acute, causing her to miss approximately three weeks of work and necessitating that she take pain medication and treatment, most notably physiotherapy.  The pain and discomfort at times extended to her hip area.  It gradually subsided with the passage of time.  It was significantly resolved within three to four months of the accident, but she continued to experience some discomfort and limitation of her activities, albeit on a gradually improving basis, over time, up to the point of trial.  At trial, all of the complaint of headache had resolved but there was some lingering discomfort and stiffness in her neck and back.  That discomfort is essentially resolved at this time, and there is every reason to conclude that she has not sustained any permanent damage.  With proper exercise and self-care, there will be a complete resolution
The court awarded $22,000 for these moderate soft tissue injuries, $2,163.21 for lost wages and $351 for special damages.
This is a short crisp judgement dealing with issues that often arise in ICBC claims.  This case is worth reviewing for anyone involved in an ICBC injury claim to see some of the factors court’s consider when valuing soft tissue injuries and addressing the issue of fault in a rear-end crash.
 

$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.

$50,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries with Chronic Pain

Note: The case discussed in the below entry was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal with respect to the Diminished Earning Capacity Award on March 18, 2010.  You can read my post on the BCCA’s decision by clicking here.
Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff for injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 car accident.
The Plaintiff was driving her daughter to pre-school when her vehicle was rear-ended. The impact was ‘sudden and relatively severe‘ and caused enough damage to render the Plaintiff’s vehicle a write-off.
The court heard from a variety of medical ‘expert witnesses’ and placed the most weight on the Plaintiff’s GP. The court found that the Plaintiff ‘now has chronic pain with her soft tissue injuries and that pain and discomfort, in varying levels depending on activity level, will continue indefenately.’ The court also found that the Plaintiff suffers from ‘anxiety associated witht he accident’ and that ‘(she) is at risk of premature arthritis in her cervical spine and left shoulder‘.
In awarding $50,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the court noted that:

[14] The injuries have affected the plaintiff’s family relationships. She is not able to participate in normal physical family and recreational activities to the same extent as before the accident. She cannot perform housework or garden to the same extent. She presents as a perfectionist and is clearly bothered by these restrictions on activities that she enjoys and takes pride in.

[15] (The Plaintiff) is also anxious and, perhaps, somewhat depressed; her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected, and she is naturally concerned and upset that her children now turn more naturally to their father for physical support and comfort. In addition to the ongoing pain and discomfort that restricts general activities, these factors also affect enjoyment of life. I take them into account in determining a fit award for non-pecuniary loss.

The most interesting part of this judgement for me was the court’s discussion of loss of earning capacity. Here the court found that the Plaintiff does have permanent injuries but that these will have ‘slight, if any, actual impact on her future earnings‘.
What interested me was the courts comments trying to reconcile to seemingly opposed lines of authority from the BC Court of Appeal addressing loss of future earnings. When one asks for an award for ‘loss of future income’ or ‘loss of earning capacity’ one has to prove this loss. There are various ways of doing this at trial.
Here the Plaintiff advanced a claim of loss of earning capacity using the ‘capital asset approach‘ as set out by our Court of Appeal in Pallos v. ICBC. The Defence lawyer argued that a subsequent case (Steward v. Berezan) overruled the law as set out in Pallos.
After listening to this debate the court noted that:
44] With respect, it is not clear, as I understand Steward, how one gets to the capital asset approach without first proving a substantial possibility of future income loss in relation to the plaintiff’s position at the time of trial. I cannot reconcile that approach with the factors first listed in Brown, later summarized in Palmer, and finally approved in Pallos in the passages set out earlier in my reasons.

[45] It would be helpful if the Court of Appeal has an opportunity to address these issues fully. I observe that the Court of Appeal since held in one decision that Steward turned on its facts and did not create any new principle of law. The court also affirmed Parypa in the same decision. See Djukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, at paras. 14 and 15.

Here the court held that “there is no reference in Steward to Pallos. Steward, in my view, does not over rule Pallos‘.
Mr. Justice Macaulay went on to reconcile the apparent conflict between these cases by concluding that Steward should be limited to its own ‘narrow factual circumstances‘ and awarding the Plaintiff damages based on the less stingent ‘capital asset approach‘.

$20,000 Awarded for Lingering Whiplash Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff as a result of a 2005 BC car crash.
It was a rear-end accident. The Plaintiff was a passenger. In such cases fault is rarely at issue and here the ICBC defence lawyers admitted fault on behalf of the Defendant. The trial dealt only with the issue of quantum of damages (how much the injuries are worth).
The accident caused the Plaintiff to miss 2 weeks from work. When she returned her physical duties at work were somewhat limited. She took 14 physiotherapy sessions and saw her family physician several times after the accident.
The court’s relevant finding as to the extent of injury can be found at paragraph 64 of the judgement where the court held that:
[64] The evidence indicates to me that the plaintiff had an initial soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back and she substantially recovered approximately five months after the injuries, although the injuries to her upper back and shoulder area have lingered on to the point where Dr. Yong says they may last another one or two years.
$20,000 was awarded for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering. No other damages were awarded although a claim for ‘loss of earning capacity’ was advanced.
As is often the case in ICBC claims that proceed to trial, here the defence lawyer argued that the Plaintiff’s award should be reduced for ‘failure to mitigate’. What this means is that if a person unreasonably fails to follow medical advice and following such advice would have made a difference the amount of compensation awarded can be reduced.
Mr. Justice Truscott refused to reduce the Plaintiff’s damages even though the evidence established that she ‘did not do all of her home exercises and id not take physiotherapy when she had asked for it‘.
Why was this evidence not good enough to reduce the Plaintiff’s damages? Because there was no medical evidence that had the Plaintiff followed this course of treatment that her injuries would have recovered any better than they had.  This case is a good example of the fact that the defence has the burden of proof when arguing ‘failure to mitigate‘ in an ICBC claim and that expert medical evidence should be tendered to discharge this burden when addressing the effects of a rehabilitation program.

$70,000 Pain and Suffering for Neck Injury and Debilitating Headaches

In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Bernard of the BC Supreme Court awarded a Plaintiff just over $200,000 in compensation for losses as a result of a 2005 BC car accident.
The accident involved a left-hand turning defendant who failed to see the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The result was a significant, near head on collision. Fault was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum of damages to be decided at trial.
The court’s key findings of fact were made at paragraphs 34-35 of the judgement where it was held that the Plaintiff suffered from debilitating headaches as a result of the BC car crash, that the headaches continue to plague him and that the source of these headaches is the neck injury the Plaintiff suffered in the crash. The court also found that these injuries where likely to plague the Plaintiff for 3-5 years following the trial.
The Plaintiff was a young man starting out in a career in the entertainment industry. The court accepted that the injuries took away his ability to take full advantage of various opportunities that were open to him in his career and this ‘loss of oportunity’ will continue into the future as a result of the on-going injuries.
In the end the court assessed damages as follows:

Non-pecuniary $70,000

Special $5,642

Loss of Opportunity $125,000

Future Care $14,520

This case is interesting for the court’s comments on the use of the various doctor’s clinical records at trial. As any ICBC claims lawyer knows, Plaintiff’s in personal injury claims are often exposed to hard cross-examinations based on previously recorded statements contained in medical records.
When you go to the doctor he/she usually notes your complaints. These ‘clinical notes’ are often put to use by ICBC lawyers to cross examine a Plaintiff’s testimony discussing the extent of injuries and symptoms. Here, the court found that the Plaintiff held up to cross examination very well and made some very practical comments about the reliability of clinical records, namely:

[35] I accept (the Plaintiff’s) evidence in regard to the onset of the headaches, and their intensity, frequency, and endurance. Efforts to discredit him with alleged inconsistencies in doctors’ clinical notes were, in my view, not successful. It must be borne in mind that the primary objective of physicians’ clinical notes is to refresh their own memories as to what transpired during a clinical examination, for the purposes of medical treatment. These notes are not made for investigative and litigation purposes. If this were the purpose then it would, in my opinion, be important for physicians to ensure that they have accurately recorded full and detailed accounts of what a patient said during a clinical visit and then have the patient verify the accuracy of the notes.

[36] Physicians are not investigators. They are neither trained to accurately record what a person says nor to draw out a fulsome account for litigation purposes. The use of clinicians’ notes, made hastily during a clinical visit and never reviewed for accuracy by the patient, may operate unfairly to the patient as plaintiff or witness. It should also be borne in mind that when a patient sees his or her physician with a complaint of significant pain, the circumstances are far less from ideal for obtaining full and accurate information.

[37] I do not suggest by any of the foregoing that it is impermissible to use clinical notes to challenge a plaintiff’s credibility, but the frailties inherent in such recordings should be recognized. In the instant case, I find that the clinician’s notes do not have sufficient accuracy and reliability to undermine the plaintiff’s evidence where the notes allegedly differ from the plaintiff’s testimony at trial.

Disc Herniation, Nerve Damage and ICBC Claims

Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff injured in three separate BC car accidents, the first in August, 2002, the second in December, 2002 and the third in June 2003. At trial the issues were the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and whether these were caused by the car accidents or other life events.
A frequent tactic of ICBC defence lawyers is to call evidence to cast doubt on the connection between motor vehicle accidents and trauma and find other explanations for injuries. In this case the defence lawyer pointed to a car accident that the plaintiff was at fault for and a work incident where the plaintiff aggravated his back as potential causes for the Plaintiff’s problems.
In ICBC claims a Plaintiff has the burden of proving the extent of his injuries and their connection to the car accident. If defence evidence can effectively point to another explanation an ICBC claim can be dismissed.
In this case the injuries were fairly serious. An MRI revealed a ‘tear in the annulus at L5/Ss and a disc bulge at L4/5 wit impingement of the L5 nerve root‘.
The court found that in cases where there are multiple potential causes of injury ‘it is most helpful to have the opinion of (the Plaintiff’s family doctor) who treated the plaintiff throughout and has a long history and detailed knowledge of the Plaintiff as a patient.’ The court found the GP’s findings of objective injury persuasive including ‘muscle spasm, reduced range of motion, and visible hypertonicity of the musculature following each of the three motor vehicle accidents’.
The court assessed damages for all three accidents globally. The court concluded that “the Plaintiff has, since December 7, 2002, experienced functional limitations due to his low, mid back, and neck pain with referral pain from the low back to his leg. The Plaintiff is unlikely to achieve a substantial improvement in future, but exercises and care will assist in controlling pain and flare-ups‘. As a result of this finding the court awarded $70,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).
Addressing past wage the court found that there was some failure of mitigation on the Plaintiff’s part. The Plaintiff’s claim for past wage loss exceeded 5 years. The court found that he could have returned to work in some capacity during this time. In all $50,000 was awarded for this loss.
The court also awarded $75,000 in damages for ‘loss of future earning capacity’ finding that

[50] There is no doubt that the plaintiff’s income earning capacity is affected by his chronic pain and physical limitations and disabilities. The plaintiff is by education and experience limited to low income, minimum wage types of employment, although that is reflective of his actual earnings history prior to his injury and disability.

[51] The pool of low income jobs available to the plaintiff is however much diminished as he can no longer work at jobs with a physical component which he can no longer meet. The plaintiff is 49 years old and increasing age will combine to impede access to the work for which he remains qualified.

[52] The plaintiff’s health may be stressed more than the average person requiring that he take more time off work. He may in future be more suited to only part time or work of a sporadic nature.

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.

ICBC, Chronic Pain, and Fair Settlement

With the exception of experienced BC injury lawyers, most people advancing ICBC claims need to do extensive research to determine fair value for pain and suffering in an ICBC injury claim. One of the best ways to go about this is to look at BC court cases for similar injuries and see just how much, or how little, our courts award for pain and suffering for various injuries.
If you are advancing an ICBC chronic pain case, reasons for judgement were released today that are worth reviewing.
The Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle accident on January 9, 2006. He stopped his vehicle for a cyclist who was crossing in a marked crosswalk. Shortly afterwards the Plaintiff was rear-ended by a Jeep Cherokee. The impact was significant causing ‘substantial damage’ to the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff reported several injuries as a result of this rear-end crash including left shoulder pain, dizziness, headaches, neck and back pain, and numbness to his left arm.
The Plaintiff’s family doctor referred him to an orthopaedic specialist who stated that the Plaintiff “has had some soft tissue injuries to the cervical and lumbar spine….he does not require any special investigation as he has no neurological defecits. I would encourage him to return to work
Shortly after this time the Plaintiff switched family physicians. His new treating doctor diagnsosed major depression and soft tissue injury to the neck, shoulder and back. Specifically she diagnosed
a left anterior supraspinatus tear and multiple soft tissue injuries of the neck and back, possible muscle spasm, strains, contusions, cervical facet syndrome and discogenic pain…..(and) two other medical conditions, major depression and peptic ulcers, since the MVA in January 2006. I believe these two conditions were precipitated by the chronic pain and stress caused by the accident.
She went on to state that:
(the Plaintiff) has not been able to return to work, his function remains partially impaired and his level of activity is significantly reduced. His chronic pain and his depression symptoms have significantly restricted his ability to perform a range of daily living activities on ongoing basis such as personal self care, meal preparation, basic housework, daily shopping and use of transportation.
The court also heard from an ‘independent medical examiner’ who stated that “permanent disability is not anticpiated as a result of the accident.’ and that ‘the only objective finding (of injury) was that of restricted movement of the cervical spine. All complaints otherwise were of a subjective nature.’
This doctor made some interesting comments about chronic pain, namely that:
Many authors who have studied chronic pain syndromes have demonstrated that patients have been shown to have beliefs and expectations of chronic pain which are critical cognitive facilitators or impediments to the recovery process. The attribution of blame may be an unrecognized factor co-related to pain behaviour, mood disturbance, and poor response to treatment. It is unlikely that (the Plaintiff) is going to change his perceptions of pain until the issues are resolved for him.
The court made it’s key findings at paragraphs 24 and 25 where Justice Rice stated:

[24] I accept that as a result of the motor vehicle accident Mr. Niloufari suffered moderate strains to his neck and back which have caused him substantial pain and suffering over the two years and several months since the accident. I find these injuries have disabled him from any activities, including his work. As it stands now, more than two years have passed since the date of the accident with little hint of improvement in his pain and suffering or capacity to work.

[25] I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffers chronic pain with both physical and psychological components. I am not entirely satisfied that he has done his best to mitigate his loss by exercising and seeking psychiatric and/or psychological advice and treatment. I am not satisfied based on the medical evidence, that Mr. Niloufari should expect to be permanently disabled or disabled at all after a few years from now with diligent attention to his rehabilitation. I would expect him to gradually recover, as Dr. Hill suggested, over the next three or four years, with the expectation he could return to work in a limited capacity within one year.

The court awarded damages for pain and suffering, lost pass of income, loss of future earning capacity, special damages and cost of future care.
The non-pecuniary damage award (pain and suffering) was $63,000.
This case is worth reading for anyone advancing and ICBC injury claim seeking damages for ‘loss of earning capacity’ for Justice Rice’s summary of the law on this topic at paragraphs 75-84 of the judgment.

More on Intersection Crashes, ICBC, and Fault

In another example of our courts dealing with the issue of fault and intersection crashes, reasons for judgment were released last week faulting a ‘through driver’ 100% for a crash involving a left hand turner in Langley, BC.
I have previously blogged about this and will blog more on this topic in the future. The issue of fault is probably the most litigated when it comes to intersection crashes involving left hand turning vehicles.
In this case the Plaintiff was attempting to turn left. The Defendant, approaching in the opposite direction, was attempting to go through the intersection. The light was amber or red. This is a common recipe for disaster and indeed they crashed with each other. As is often the case in ICBC claims involving intersection crashes the 2 sides had different versions of evidence, particularly as to whether the light was red or amber at the time.
The court found that the light was red at the time of the crash. While both vehicles where, therefore, in the intersection on a red light, only the ‘through driver’ was found at fault because the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection.
The court quoted a case that is well known to ICBC claims lawyers which is helpful to left hand turning motorists in such a situation. The cases is Kokkinis v. Hall from the BC Court of Appeal where the court held that:

9 This discussion, however, detracts from the more important question of law, which is whether Mrs. Kokkinis was on one hand entitled reasonably to assume that Mr. Hall would stop before entering the intersection or on the other hand, whether she can be faulted for failing to see his van “until it was on top of her”, i.e. constituted an immediate hazard. In this regard, Mr. Johnson cites Feng v. Graham [1988] 5 W.W.R. 137 (B.C.C.A.), (not a left turn case), for the principle that the plaintiff’s entitlement to assume that other traffic will obey the law, is “subject to the proviso” (in counsel’s phrase) that where it is apparent or should be apparent that an oncoming driver is not going to yield the right-of-way, then at that point the other driver must act reasonably and cannot simply proceed into the collision, as it were. At the least, Mr. Johnson says, it was open to the trial judge to find that in the circumstances, Ms. Kokkinis failed to exercise reasonable care for her own safety and the safety of others, and that she must therefore bear some responsibility for the accident.

10 I must say this argument has given me pause; but ultimately I resolve it by asking whether in law Mrs. Kokkinis should be faulted for diverting her attention momentarily from oncoming traffic to check cross traffic at the point in time in question, i.e., as she prepared to start her turn – to see if any of those cars had jumped the light or were going to pose a threat to her turn. Was this an unreasonable or careless thing to do? I think not, given both the realities of the situation (which of course occurred over only a few seconds) and past decisions of this Court that have imposed on left-turning drivers the duty to be aware not only of oncoming traffic, but also of cross traffic, pedestrians, and whatever else may be present in the intersection. To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. An amber light is not, as the current witticism suggests, a signal to accelerate or to pass traffic that is slowing to a stop. Indeed, as Mr. Justice Esson noted in Uyeyama, in a busy city like Vancouver and at a busy intersection like 25th and Granville, an amber is likely the only time one can complete a left turn. Drivers approaching intersections must expect that this will be occurring. Putting a burden on a left turning driver to wait until he or she sees that all approaching drivers have stopped would, in my view, bring traffic to a standstill. We should not endorse such a result.

11 Accordingly, notwithstanding the principle (which I do not doubt) that questions of apportionment are generally questions of fact with which we should interfere only in exceptional cases, I would conclude that the issues I have referred to are ones of law and that the learned trial judge erred in law in placing too high a standard on the plaintiff and in failing to consider the assumptions she was entitled to make. I would not apportion any of the fault to her and would apportion 100 percent to Mr. Hall.

The court held that this was a similar case to Kokkinis and found the through driver at fault.
In terms of injuries the Plainitff suffered from general body trauma, bruising and soreness, soft tissue injuries to the neck, chest wrist and knee. The most significant injury was to the back and the court found that “3 years post-accident the Plaintiff continues to have significant pain from his back. Any prolonged activity, such as sitting in a lecture hall or travelling in a sitting position over 45 minutes causes soreness and pain. The Plaintiff is not recommended to pursue recreationbal activities of a physical nature such as football, which he had formerly done.”
The court awarded damages totalling $74,978.13 including $45,000 for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering).

Contact

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
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