Tag: personal injury lawyer

$45,000 Awarded to Plaintiff for Post Accident Headaches

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

Cyclist 75% At Fault for Intersection Crash for "Riding With No Reflection"

 
NOTE: This case was overtunred on appeal on February 19, 2009, see my blog post of February 19 to read about this.
Reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court determining fault for a 2004 motor vehicle collision which occurred in Vancouver, BC involving a BMW and a bicyclist.
The collision happened at the intersetion of Main Street and East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, BC.  The Plaintiff cyclist was attempting to go through the intersection when the Defendant motorist turned left and collided with him.  The light was green and the cyclist did enter the intersection “in accordance with traffic signals” when the Defendant turned into him (in other words, on a green light).  The impact was significant as the Plaintiff “hit the passenger window of the car with enough force to smash the glass and he suffered personal injuries“. 
Who was at fault for this intersection crash was the issue to be decided at trial.  The trial proceeded by way of ‘summary trial’ pursuant to Rule 18-A of the BC Supreme Court Rules.  For those not familiar with ‘summary trials’ they are commonly referred to as ‘paper-trials’ because no witnesses testify in court, rather the lawyers present their cases through sworn affidavit evidence.  There has been much criticism of this rule over the years and BC personal injury lawyers seldom use this rule to advance ICBC claims to trial.
This case is interesting for Madam Justice Griffin’s analysis in determining fault.  The 5 main factors she considered in reaching her conclusion were
1.  The speed of the car
2.  The speed of the bicycle
3.  The light conditions
4.  The location of the bicyle whent he car began its left turn
5.  The response time of the bicycle rider
The key findings of fact made at trial were that “the Plaintiff was not speeding and was properly riding his bicycle in the correct lane, the curb lane, in accordance with the traffic signals.  It is undisputed that (the bicyclist) was in breach of the Motor Vehicle Act by failing to have a headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle….Given that (the bicyclist) had no headlamp or reflectors on his bicycle, (he) was also negligent in wearing dark clothing insread of bright and reflective clothing…(he) had no opportunity to avoid the collision.  Even though the BMW was clearly poised to mnake a left turn and had its left turn signal activated, there was no reason for (him) to expect that the BMW would turn in front of him.  He would have seen that it had given way to other traffic.”
Madam Justice Griffin concluded that “the bicyclist presented an immediate hazard when the BMW began to turn the vehicle to the left…..(the driver of the BMW) should have considered (the bicylcist) to be an immediate hazard and should not have proceeded with the turn until (the bicyclist) was safely through the intersection.  As such (the driver of the BMW) was negligent.”
When both parties are at fault for a collision BC courts must determine the degrees of fault as between them.  This is required by the BC Negligence Act.  Madam Justice Griffin ruled that the Plaintiff was 75% at fault for the accident and the motorist was 25% at fault.  What this means is that the Plaintiff would only be entitled to recover 25% of the value of his injuries from ICBC in his tort claim.
In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Griffen ruled that

[62]            The streets of Vancouver are shared by drivers and cyclists.  Those who use the streets must anticipate each other and the limitations inherent in each other’s response time and visibility. 

[63]            The plaintiff took a very big risk by riding his bicycle in the dark without any form of illumination or reflection.  He ought to have appreciated the difficulty that drivers of motor vehicles have in seeing fast-moving dark objects.  While he may have counted on the street lights to illuminate him, he was extremely careless and showed little concern for safety.

[64]            In deciding to make a left turn across the intersection, Mr. Schwartz should have appreciated the need to be vigilant for the potential of a cyclist approaching in the curb lane. 

[65]            In conclusion, I apportion fault for the accident 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendant.

This case is a difficult precedent for any BC cyclist injured in a BC car crash who either fails to wear reflective clothing or fails to have a headlamp or reflectors on their bicylce.  It may be troubling to know that a cyclist can be found largely at fault for a collision even though he is “not speeding” “riding in the correct lane and in accordance with traffic signals”  who has “no opportunity to avoid the collision” and have “no reason to expect (a car )to turn in front of him“.
What is striking about this case is the degree of fault attibuted to the cyclist despite all the above findings.  This case serves as a stark reminder that if a cyclist fails to wear refelctive clothing or a headlamp, it may not only increase the risk of collision, but can drastically reduce the settlement value of an ICBC claim following a collision.
If you are an injured cyclist or pedestrian in a BC car crash and at the time did not have ‘any form of illumination’ you should be prepared to address the results of this case in your claim settlement negotiations with ICBC.
Do you have questions about this case, or about a BC crash involving a cyclist or pedestiran, or the issue of fault in an ICBC claim?  Are you looking for a free consultation with an ICBC claims lawyer?  If so, click here to arrange your free consultation with ICBC claims lawyer Erik Magraken.

"When Should I Go Back To Work?"

A frequent question I encounter as a British Columbia personal injury lawyer is “when should I go back to work?” or “If I go back to work now will I hurt my ICBC claim?”.
The short answer is that going back to work rarely hurts an ICBC claim. Working is a good thing. Plaintiffs in personal injury claims have a duty to mitigate their damages. This means that they are required to take reasonable steps to minimize their losses as a result of an accident.
Keeping in mind the duty to minimize losses, the question of returning to work is best directed at a physician. The answer it seems, comes down to “Hurt vs. Harm“. Returning to work can be unreasonable if doing so aggravates accident related injuries. That is, if the physical or psychological demands of a job actually aggravate accident related injuries then returning to work is typically not recommended. If, on the other hand, working with your injuries causes pain but your physician tells you to work through the pain as best you can tolerate then returning to work (or at least trying to) seems like a sensible option.
A personal injury claim should never motivate a person to miss time from work. Unreasonably missing time from work can actually hurt a claim. Returning to work while still injured, if medically approved, not only demonstrates a good work ethic but can also fulfill a legal duty to “mitigate damages” and that certainly does not hurt a claim.
Do you have questions about a wage-loss claim? You can click here to contact the author for advice.

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!”
Erik’s Philosophy

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