Tag: non-pecuniary damages

BC Personal Injury Claims Round-Up

On Friday the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement dealing with awards for pain and suffering in 3 separate motor vehicle accident cases.
In my continued efforts to create an easy to access data-base of ICBC related claims for pain and suffering here are the highlights of these cases:
In the first case (Driscoll v. Desharnais) the Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, back and shoulder in a 2003 BC motor vehicle collision.  In justifying an award for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) of $55,000 the court summarized the injuries and their effect on the Plaintiff’s life as follows:

[101]        The trial occurred about five years following the accident.  Mr. Driscoll continues to suffer pain, significant sleep disturbance, and restrictions on his activities.  He is stoic and is inclined to push through pain until it becomes intolerable.  He has a reduced capacity to work, and despite his preference for working alone, he cannot operate his business without hiring other workers.  He is no longer able to participate in some of the activities he enjoyed, such as motorcycle riding, full-contact ball hockey, golf, and rough-housing with his children.  

[102]        The evidence demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that these problems were caused by the accident.  Although Mr. Driscoll had received physiotherapy prior to the accident, the treatments were all at least 18 months prior to the accident, and were for short periods.  All the problems had resolved prior to the accident.  The injury he suffered on the toboggan appeared to be a brief flare-up of his back symptoms, rather than a new injury.

A highlight of this decision for me was the court’s discussion of credibility.  One of the tricks of the trade for ICBC defence lawyers in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Claims is to challenge the credibility of the Plaintiff.   That appeared to be a tactic employed in this case and the Defendant asked the court to consider the following well-known principle often cited in ICBC Soft Tissue Injury Cases:

[6]                The case of Price v. Kostryba (1982)70 B.C.L.R. 397 (S.C.), is often cited as a reminder of the approach the court must take to assessing injuries which depend on subjective reports of pain.  I quote portions of pages 397-399 of those reasons for judgment:

The assessment of damages in a moderate or moderately severe whiplash injury is always difficult because plaintiffs, as in this case, are usually genuine, decent people who honestly try to be as objective and as factual as they can. Unfortunately, every injured person has a different understanding of his own complaints and injuries, and it falls to judges to translate injuries to damages.

Perhaps no injury has been the subject of so much judicial consideration as the whiplash. Human experience tells us that these injuries normally resolve themselves within six months to a year or so. Yet every physician knows some patients whose complaint continues for years, and some apparently never recover. For this reason, it is necessary for a court to exercise caution and to examine all the evidence carefully so as to arrive at a fair and reasonable compensation. Previously decided cases are some help (but not much, because obviously every case is different). …

In Butler v. Blaylock, decided 7th October 1981, Vancouver No. B781505 (unreported), I referred to counsel’s argument that a defendant is often at the mercy of a plaintiff in actions for damages for personal injuries because complaints of pain cannot easily be disproved. I then said:

I am not stating any new principle when I say that the court should be exceedingly careful when there is little or no objective evidence of continuing injury and when complaints of pain persist for long periods extending beyond the normal or usual recovery.

An injured person is entitled to be fully and properly compensated for any injury or disability caused by a wrongdoer. But no one can expect his fellow citizen or citizens to compensate him in the absence of convincing evidence — which could be just his own evidence if the surrounding circumstances are consistent – that his complaints of pain are true reflections of a continuing injury.

Fortunately for the Plaintiff a positive finding was made as to his reliability and damages were assessed accordingly.

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The second case released on Friday (Eccleston v. Dresen) involved a 2002 collision which took place in Salmon Arm, BC.  The injuries included chronic soft tissue injuries of moderate severity and a chronic pain syndrome.  Both liability and quantum of damages (value of the ICBC Injury Claim) were at issue.   The Plaintiff was found 60% at fault for the collision.

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $108,000 Mr. Justice Barrow made the following findings:

[127]        I am satisfied that the plaintiff suffered a moderate soft tissue injury to her neck and upper back.  Further, I am satisfied that she developed and continues to suffer chronic pain as a result.  I am also satisfied that she is depressed and that the proximate cause of her depression is the pain she experiences.

[128]        I am not satisfied that her complaints of pain are motivated by any secondary gain; rather, I am satisfied that she has met the onus of establishing that, as Taylor J.A. in Maslen v. Rubenstein (1993), 83 B.C.L.R. (2d) 131, 33 B.C.A.C. 182, at para. 8 put it:

…her psychological problems have their cause in the defendant’s unlawful act, rather than in any desire on the plaintiff’s part for things such as care, sympathy, relaxation or compensation, and also that the plaintiff could not be expected to overcome them by his or her own inherent resources, or ‘will-power’.

[129]        Further, I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s condition is likely permanent; although it is more likely than not that it will moderate if she follows the advice of Dr. O’Breasail.  He is of the view that with intensive psychotherapy for at least a year, followed by two further years of less intensive therapy coupled with a review of her medications and particularly anti-depressant medication, there is some hope that she will either experience less pain or be better able to cope with the pain she does experience, or both.

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The final motor vehicle accident case addressing pain and suffering released on Friday (Murphy v. Jagerhofer) involved a Plaintiff who was injured in a 2004 rear end collision in Chilliwack, BC.   The injuries included a moderate to severe whiplash injury with associated chronic pain, disturbed sleep and headaches.  In justifying a non-pecuniary damages award of $100,000 Mr. Justice Warren made the following factual findings after a summary trial pursuant to Rule 18-A:

[112]        The issue of causation in this case is determined by applying the factors in Athey.  Here the defendants argue that there were pre-existing conditions that would have affected the plaintiff in any event.  I disagree.  I find on the evidence of both Dr. Porter and Dr. Bishop that the plaintiff was asymptomatic of the complaints he now has which have arisen from the injuries he suffered in this accident.  Using the rather macabre terms found in other cases, this plaintiff had a “thin skull” rather than a “crumbling skull” and on my reading of those medical opinions I prefer, I find there was no “measurable risk that the pre-existing condition would have detrimentally affected the plaintiff in the future. . . .” Athey, per Major, J. at para. 35. 

[113]        Accordingly, I find that the presenting complaints of the plaintiff were caused by the negligence of the defendant driver and I turn to address the issue of appropriate compensation.  In this, I am strongly influenced by the opinions of Drs. Porter and Longridge and the opinion of Mr. Koch.  The plaintiff suffered a moderate to severe whiplash type injury which had a significant physical and emotional effect upon him some of which have persisted to the day of trial and will continue into the future.  The back and neck pain caused him considerable pain and caused sleeplessness, headaches and general body pain for which he was prescribed pain medication.  Many of these symptoms continued well into 2005 despite his participation in a Work Hardening Programme in the fall of 2004.  I accept that he has tried every mode in an effort to alleviate his symptoms.  In his opinion, Dr. Bishop dismissed passive therapies, but I conclude it was understandable that the plaintiff would follow other professional advice and give these therapies every chance to help.  I say that with the exception of the later cortisone injections, which are painful and of very limited result, and also the later chiropractic attention.

[114]        Added to his back and neck pain, the plaintiff has experienced some hearing loss, tinnitus and episodes of dizziness.  These are frustrating and to some extent debilitating.  He also has jaw, or temporal mandibular joint arthralgia and myofascial pain.  He was given an oral appliance which he is to wear on a daily basis yet he continues to experience jaw stiffness and fatigue. 

[115]        It is understandable that these conditions have affected him emotionally.  The opinion of Mr. Koch corroborates the plaintiff’s evidence.  I accept the opinion of Mr. Koch that the plaintiff “downplays” the difficulties in his life and that the plaintiff has a phobia of motor vehicle travel, post-traumatic stress disorder and related repressive symptoms. 

I hope these case highlights continue to be a useful resource for my readers in helping learn about the value of non-pecuniary damages in ICBC Injury Claims.  As always, I welcome any feedback from all my visitors.

Pain and Suffering and Your ICBC Injury Claim

If you have an ICBC Injury Claim for Non-Pecuniary Damages as a result of a BC Car Crash (a tort claim) the best way to determine the potential value of your non-pecuniary damages (damages for things such as loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering) is to look at how courts have treated similar ICBC injury claims. 
When looking to previous court cases for guidance some of the things you will want to look at are similarities with the type of injury, the severity of injury, the age of the Plaintiff, whether the injury involves a dominant or servient limb, the types of treatments involved and the prognosis.  Another useful factor is recency.  If you can’t find recent cases with similar injuries and are relying on older cases you should adjust the damages for inflation to get a sense of what they would be worth today.
No two injuries are identical and the best one can usually hope to do is find ICBC Injury Cases with a similar injuries to help establish a potential range of damages.  In recognizing the the uniqueness of each ICBC Injury Claim Mr. Justice Halfyard said the following in the case of Tuner v. Coblenz:
It is well accepted that previously-decided cases have limited value which usually consists in establishing a general range of damages within which the award in a particular case may fall.  No two plaintiffs will ever be the same in age, previous state of strength and health, occupation and other activities.  The injuries sustained by one plaintiff will never be the same as those received by another, in kind or severity.  The reaction of any two persons to the pain of a similar injury, or to particular treatments, will be different.  The length of time that has passed between the date of the injury and the date of trial will vary from case to case, and can be a significant distinguishing feature.
As an ICBC Injury Claims Lawyer I have enjoyed publishing this blog to help people have access to a database of ICBC Injury Claims.  Time permitting I intend to keep this service up.   To this end, here is the latest ICBC Injury Claims update.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Rattenbury v. Samra) awarding a Plaintiff $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages as a result of an ICBC Injury Claim.
In today’s case the 23 year old plaintiff was injured when he was involved in an intersection crash in Surrey, BC.  The crash occurred when the Defendant attempted a left hand turn in front of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Fault was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum for trial (value of the claim).
In this case the Plaintiff suffered a concussion and had headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain.  These injuries resolved fairly quickly.  The most serious injury was an alleged low back injury.  The Plaintiff’s physician gave evidence that the collision caused a disc injury to the L5/S1 level of the Plaintiff’s spine.
The court rejected this opinion and found that this disc injury could have easily preceded the car crash given the Plaintiff’s very active lifestyle.  The court did find, however, that even if the disc injury was unrelated to the car crash this disc injury became symptomatic with pain because of the collision.  The court made the following finding:

[86]            I find myself unable to accept Dr. Fritz’s opinion that the disc injury occurred in the motor vehicle accident.  Certainly the disc injury does exist but Dr. Fritz agrees that it is impossible to prove when it occurred and it could just as easily have occurred from the plaintiff’s other activities than from the motor vehicle accident.  Dr. Fritz did not treat the plaintiff before his accident and it is therefore understandable that he would conclude that the disc injury occurred in the accident when the plaintiff demonstrated a restricted straight leg raising after the accident.  However, I do not think that is enough to prove the disc injury occurred in the accident itself.

[87]            In my view it is enough to prove, however, that even if the disc injury preceded the accident, it became symptomatic with back pain because of the accident.  The evidence is that the plaintiff had no back problems before the accident and was a completely healthy and physically active young man.  As a result of the accident he could not play soccer for six months and was unable to do any of the heavy lifting in his job at Black & Lee.

[88]            The plaintiff’s evidence of originally not being able to do any heavy lifting at work but being able to do it at the time of his examination in January 2008, and then not being able to do it again by the time of trial, is certainly strange.  However Dr. Fritz was never questioned about this evidence and it is logical to me that the plaintiff may have been able to resume the heavy lifting for a time after the accident, with back pain, but over time became too wearing on him and he had to stop.

[89]            I am satisfied that it has been proven that the plaintiff has chronic back pain resulting from the disc injury, even if that injury preceded the accident.  I must accept Dr. Fritz’s opinion that it is chronic because I have no other medical opinion.

[90]            I do conclude, however, this chronic back pain is only mild in nature, in the nature of a nagging back pain that does not disable the plaintiff from pursuing his soccer at the highest level or his golf or any other sports that he used to enjoy, and does not prevent him from working full time at the business in a more supervisory role.

The following damages were awarded after a 2 day trial:
Non-Pecuniary Damages: $30,000
Past Wage Loss: $1,088
Special Damages: $271.56

Pain and Suffering and Your ICBC Claim

One of the most common questions asked of me through this blog is “how much is my Pain and Suffering worth in my ICBC personal injury tort claim?”.  The answer to this, of course, depends on various factors and who better to discuss these than a BC Supreme Court judge?
On that point, reasons for judgement were released today discussing the law of ‘pain and suffering’ in tort claims.  Pain and Suffering is awarded under the legal head of damage called “Non-Pecuniary Loss”.  Non Pecuniary Loss includes damages for “pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities”.
In today’s case $70,000 was awarded in non-pecuniary damages as a result injuries sustained in a 2005 BC car crash.  In doing so Madam Justice Russell summarized the law of non-pecuniary damages ar paragraphs 104-105 of the judgment as follows:

Non-pecuniary damages

[104]        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, B.C.J. No. 1535 at para. 134; see also Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229; Kuskis v. Tin, 2008 BCSC 862, B.C.J. No. 1248.  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 at para. 136. 

[105]        There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim.  The majority judgment in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines a number of factors to consider, at para. 46:

The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages includes:

(a)      age of the plaintiff;

(b)      nature of the injury;

(c)      severity and duration of pain;

(d)      disability;

(e)      emotional suffering; and

(f)      loss or impairment of life;

I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:

(g)      impairment of family, marital and social relationships;

(h)      impairment of physical and mental abilities;

(i)       loss of lifestyle; and

(j)       the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton, [2005] B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54 (B.C. C.A.)).

Cases such as this one are key in helping one understand the principles behind awards for pain and suffering in ICBC tort claims.  Once the general principles of this head of damage are understood, the extent of injuries and prognosis known, and cases with similar injuries are canvassed the easier it will be to value the potential range of damages for pain and suffering in an ICBC personal injury (tort) claim.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and Low Velocity Impacts

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff $21,500 for pain and suffering plus ‘special damages’ (accident related out of pocket expenses) as a result of a 2005 motor vehicle collision.
While the judgement does not mention ICBC directly (BC personal injury tort judgements rarely mention who the insurer for the defendant is) this case appears to me to be one which was defended on the basis of ICBC’s Low Velocity Impact (LVI) program.  The reason why I reach this conclusion is because the defence lawyer argued that “this was such a minor motor vehicle accident that no damages should be awarded”.  This is a standard argument behind ICBC’s LVI program.
The accident did not occur at a significant rate of speed and resulted in little vehicle damage.  The Plaintiff’s vehicle cost approximately $1,500 to repair.
The Plaintiff’s injuries are discussed at paragraphs 5-16 of the reasons for judgement which I reproduce below:

[6]                She described her symptoms as significant pain in her wrist, pain in her neck, shoulders, lower back, and a small amount of pain in her jaw. 

[7]                The doctor told her to “take it easy”.  She went home and put an ice pack on her wrist and shoulders. 

[8]                The pain in her wrist resolved within a month of the accident.  The pain in her neck lasted for approximately a year and a half.  Massage therapy helped with the pain in her neck; she developed better range of motion.

[9]                She also began to experience headaches which resolved within a year and a half of the accident.

[10]            The muscles in her jaw tightened and she experienced pain.  She described the jaw pain starting after the accident as minor, though it continued to get worse.  She still has some symptoms of jaw pain but it has improved with the use of a night guard.

[11]            Three weeks after the accident she developed chest pains.  She first noted the chest pains when she was jogging.  She did not have this pain prior to the accident.  When she developed the pain she stopped jogging.  She has gradually built up her jogging and she can now jog for 6 km before the chest pain sets in.

[12]            Her back pain first developed approximately an hour after she left work and it got worse the next day, but it resolved itself within a month of the accident.

[13]            She did not play tennis for almost a year and a half because the right side of her body was sore.

[14]            She attended the drop-in clinic on three occasions and saw her family doctor, Dr. Sewell, on three occasions.  She had difficulty making appointments with Dr. Sewell because he did not work on Saturdays.  Initially, however, she did not think her symptoms would last very long and therefore did not see him sooner.

[15]            She has had massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment, attended her dentist for a night guard, and attended Pilates, and has incurred special damages in the amount of $3,982.

[16]            The massage therapy was commenced shortly after the accident and a friend of hers did some initial massage therapy on her until she saw Ms. Chung who provided massage treatments for her from approximately December 2005 to April 2007, a total of 22 treatments.  She had approximately 10 physiotherapy treatments between June and November 2006.  She also had chiropractic treatments on 6 occasions in February and March 2006.

The court, in awarding damages, made the following findings:
[26]            Here, however, I am satisfied that the plaintiff is a credible witness.  She did not exaggerate any of her claims and the massage therapy provided by her friend Ms. Chung was done on a professional basis and she paid somewhat less than the going rate.  Nevertheless, the massage therapy was beneficial and she should be reimbursed for those disbursements….
[28]            I have no difficulty accepting those principles, but as stated above I found the plaintiff to be a credible witness.  There is a lack of objective evidence and that has made me exceedingly careful in weighing the evidence, but at the end of the day I am satisfied that the plaintiff has suffered the injuries over the periods of time referred to in this judgment.  I am of the view that this is a mild to moderate soft-tissue type injury and I am satisfied that the range of damages is between $20,000 to $25,000, as set out in Reyes v. Pascual, 2008 BCSC 1324, Pardanyi v. Wilson, 2004 BCSC 1804, and Walker v. Webb, 2001 BCSC 216.  I am satisfied that she is entitled to non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $21,500 and special damages in the amount of $3,982.  The plaintiff is also entitled to her costs.

$20,000 Pain and Suffering for Substantially Recovered Mild/Moderate Soft Tissue Injury

Reasons for judgement were released today awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of injuries sustained in a 2005 rear end crash which occurred in Vancouver, BC.
The Plaintiff was received various soft tissue injuries which largely recovered.  In awarding $20,000 for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering the court made the following key findings of fact:

[23]            The plaintiff, who is now 32 years old, suffered a mild to moderate soft tissue injury in the motor vehicle accident.  He was doing well within three months and was substantially recovered after six.  He has some residual symptoms but they do not restrict the nature of his activities.  However, the degree to which he can participate in them is different now.

[24]            The more importance physical activity has in one’s life, the more one feels the loss of that capability.  (the Plaintiff’s) life largely revolved around sports that required peak physical fitness, and the training required to maintain that level of fitness.  Those aspects of his life were seriously disrupted for three to four months, with gradual improvement over the next two or three.  His relationships with his friends suffered accordingly over that period.  It was clear from his evidence and the evidence of Ms. Fok, his training pal, Mr. Candano-Dalde, and (the Plaintiff’s) mother, that (the Plaintiff) felt with some justification that there was nothing he could not do athletically prior to the accident.  While he has recovered and is now very active again, it appears that he has lost the edge he once had.

[25]            The award for non-pecuniary damages should adequately compensate (the Plaintiff) for all of these factors, past and future.  I set those damages at $20,000.

This case is one of the shorter trial judgements I’ve read from the BC Supreme Court dealing with quantum of damages in quite some time.  This case is worth reading for anyone advancing an ICBC tort claim dealing with mild/moderate soft tissue injuries to see the types of factors considered when awarding money for pain and suffering.

Soft Tissue Injury Nets $35,000 for Pain and Suffering in Rule 68 Claim

I’m on the road working on ICBC claims in Kelowna today so today’s BC personal injury update will be a little lighter on detail than usual.
Yesterday the BC Supreme Court released reasons for judgement awarding just over $82,000 in damages as a result of injuries and loss sustained in a 2005 BC Car Accident in Victoria, BC.
The Plaintiff was a 24 year old graphic designer at the time of the accident.
The court made the following finding with respect to injury:

[83]            From the foregoing evidence and my findings, I find that the plaintiff has established that he suffered a soft tissue injury to his cervical and lumbar spine in the accident.  Dr. Chan’s report does not attempt to classify the severity of the injury, but he did note the injury to be resolving at about two months post-accident, with a conservative treatment regime.  The plaintiff missed a week of work immediately after the accident, then returned to work half days for three to four months, and then went back to full-time hours of seven to eight hours a day.  He considers the last significant improvement in his condition to be about six months post-accident.

[84]            To date, just over three years as of the date of trial,  the plaintiff remains unable to work the additional hours per day to bring him to his pre-accident level of 50 to 60 hours per week, and continues to experience “flare ups” with pain in his lower back when engaging prolonged periods of standing or sitting.  Certain physical activities and sports that he previously enjoyed, he now engages in at a reduced level or has declined to continue with, for example snowboarding and mowing his parents’ lawn.  In my view, the evidence establishes a minimal ongoing impairment arising from the soft tissue injuries he sustained in the accident. 

Damages were awarded as follows:

(a)        Non-pecuniary damages:                                           $35,000.00

(b)        Damages for lost income:                                          $15,647.18

(c)        Damages for loss of future earning capacity:            $30,000.00

(d)        Special damages:                                                       $  1,845.36

Total:                                                                                       $82,492.54

This is one of the few ICBC injury claims that I’m aware of that proceeded through trial under the relatively new Rule 68.  Rule 68 should be carefully reviewed for anyone prosecuting an ICBC injury claim that may be worth less than $100,000 as this rule presents some benefits and restrictions in the way in which an ICBC claim can be advanced.

BC Supreme Court Awards $50,000 Non-Pecuniary Damages for Dislocated Elbow

In reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $180,995.90 plus Court Costs in compensation to a young man who was injured as a passenger in a 2004 motor vehicle collision in Ucluelet, BC.
The Plaintiff was a back seat passenger. His vehicle left the road and hit a tree.
The court made its findings of fact addressing injuries at Paragraph 26 of the judgement where the court held that:
[26] In the result, then, I conclude that Mr. Thorp sustained a minor injury to his wrist which had cleared up within two weeks. I also conclude that he sustained a posterolateral dislocation of the right elbow. Although Mr. Thorp did well in his recovery in the initial period, he continues to have some restriction on range of motion and ongoing discomfort, particularly in performing physical activities. Although the pain may be due to the calcification in the elbow which might go away over time, he can expect to have that for a considerable period of time. I accept the opinion of Mr. Vanderboer that Mr. Thorp does have pain-related limitations in the strength of his right arm, and his endurance and tolerance for activity. I thus accept Mr. Vanderboer’s opinion that he is not physically capable of manual labour-type occupations, and the opinion of Dr. Gutmanis that if he chose to pursue more physical work, he would have greater likelihood of the development of post traumatic arthritis. I also accept Mr. Thorp’s evidence that, as a result of the ongoing pain, he has restricted many of his previous physical activities.
The court did a great job reviewing applicable case law addressing loss of future earning capacity at paragraphs 53-68 of the reasons for judgement.  This was necessary because the Plaintiff was a young man with a potentially permanent elbow injury.  The effects of this closed the door to certain employmnet opportunities thus giving rise to a claim for future wage loss.  After applying the facts to the law Mr. Justice Wilson awarded a total of $50,000 for Loss of Future Earning Capacity.
Damages of $50,000 were awarded for Pain and Suffering and a further $80,000 was awarded for past wage loss.
This is one of the few recent BC court cases addressing fair compensation for non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering) for a dislocated elbow.  The difficulty the lawyers had finding similar elbow injury cases to help guide the court is acknowledged at paragraph 29 of the judgement.  If you are engaged in settlement negotiations with ICBC for pain and suffering for an elbow injury this case is worth a quick read.
Do you have questions you would like answerd by an ICBC Claims Lawyer regarding an elbow injury? Click here to contact Erik Magraken for a free consultation to discuss your claim.

BC Supreme Court Awards $58,000 for Soft Tissue Injuries and Depression

In a judgement released today by Madam Justice Humphries, a total of $58,000 was awarded to a 37 year old plaintiff as a result of a 2004 motor vehicle accident in Vancouver, BC.
The Plaintiff suffered soft tissue injuries in her neck, shoulder and low back. The accident also caused depression which was, according to the court, at least as debilitating as the physical injuries. The court found that the physical and psychological injuries were inter-connected.
The Plaintiff did suffer from pre-existing injuries in all of the above areas as a result of a 1996 motor vehicle accident. Evidence was presented that she was largely recovered from her pre-existing soft tissue injuries and depression by the time of the 2004 accident.
The court summarized her injuries as follows:
From all the medical reports and from her own evidence, (the Plaintiff) appears to have recovered from the physical effects of this accident by late 2005 or early 2006 in the sense that she had ceased experiencing daily and ongoing pain. However, she continues to have and can expect to have bouts of pain depending on her activities. This is somewhat similar to the same state she was in prior to the accident, when she could work long hours, attending physiotherapy once in awhile if she was experiencing discomfort caused by her job. However, I accept that the effects of over-exertion and work-related activities since the second accident are more limiting than they were just prior to it
In the end the court awarded $45,000 for pain and suffering (non-pecuniary damages), $3,000 for past wage loss and $10,000 for loss of earning capacity.
If you have an ICBC claim and have suffered from pre-existing injuries that were re-injured or aggravated by a subsequent car accident this case is worth reading to see some of the factors courts consider in these circumstances.
Also of interest is the courts reasoning in awarding some money for past wage loss despite the “flimsy” evidence that was advanced in support of an income loss claim. The Plaintiff was a self-employed photographer and there was no hard evidence of lost income. The court, at paragraph 40, held as follows:
It is only common sense that a self-employed person whose work depends on dealing with the public, persuading people to hire her, and being able to carry heavy cameras and position herself quickly in order to take pictures must be able to rely on physical agility and a pleasant personality in order to work to her full capacity. I accept that (the Plaintiff) was putting in many hours building her contacts and working on various facets of her business just prior to the accident, and due to her temporary physical limitations and some periods of depression, she was able to work less after the accident for a period of time. However, the amount of the loss is not amenable to a calculation, and many of the hours she put in were not necessarily hours for which she would be able to bill a client. As well, her earnings in the years prior to the accident were very low; in fact, she made more in 2004 than she did in 2002 and 2003. I assess an amount of $3,000 for past wage loss based on the plaintiff’s evidence of the restrictions she faced in carrying on with her existing business and the delay in her plans to expand her baby/pet photography.
If you are having difficulty agreeing to settlement of an ICBC claim because of pre-existing injuries or because of a disputed claim for past-loss of income from a self-employed business this case is worth a read to see how our courts sometimes deal with these issues.
Do you have any questions about this case? If so feel free to contact the author.

$50,000 Awarded for Pain and Suffering in Neck Injury Case

On February 21, 2008, the Honourable Mr. Justice Wong awarded $50,000 for pain and suffering for a neck injury.
The Plaintiff was involved in a forceful collision on June 2, 2004. She sustained various injuries including headaches, back pain and neck pain. By the time of trial some of the injuries improved, however the Plaintiff continued to suffer from back pain and neck pain. Evidence was presented that she likely had damage to the facet joints in the upper cervical spine and that the prognosis for resolution of her pain was poor.
In addition to compensation for pain and suffering, the Plaintiff was awarded damages for past income loss, loss of general earning capacity, special damages, and cost of future care.

Alberta Soft Tissue Injury Cap Declared Unconstitutional

On February 8, 2008, Associate Chief Justice Neil Wittmann concluded that the Alberta Minor Injury Regulation (a regulation which imposed a $4,000 cap on auto-accident victims who sustained soft tissue injuries) is unconstitutional.
Justice Wittmann concluded that the cap on damages for soft tissue injuries”sacrifices the dignity of Minor Injury victims at the altar of reducing insurance premiums.”
In striking down the legislation Justice Wittmann held that the Minor Injury Regulation is discriminatory against victims who sustained soft tissue injuries and that this violated Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This is a great decision as it restores the rights of victims of Alberta auto accidents who sustained soft tissue injuries to seek fair compensation for their losses from the courts. The decison has been hailed a success by the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association who have urged the government to accept the decision.
The government, however, has announced that they will indeed appeal the decision. Justice Wittmann’s reasoning appears sound and hopefully will withstand appeal. However, nothing in the judgement prevents Alberta’s legislature from introducting new legislation which would limit the compensation available for pain and suffering for auto accident victims.
Only time will tell whether Alberta’s legislature will institute revised legislation capping damages for ‘minor injuries’ in a way that is not inconsistent with Justice Wittman’s interpretation of Section 15 of the Charter or if the government will allow Alberta auto accident victims with soft tissue injuries to have unfettered access to the courts for fair compensation. In the meantime, however, many plaintiff’s may now have access to the courts to receive fair compensation for their soft tissue injuries.

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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.

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