In one the first ICBC claims to head to trial under Rule 68 that I’m aware of reasons for judgment were released today awarding a Plaintiff over $180,000 in compensation including $75,000 for pain and suffering as a result of 2 motor vehicle accidents.
For those of you not aware of Rule 68, it initially started out as a ‘pilot project’ and has now been adopted Province wide. It applies to many lawsuits including personal injury actions and ICBC claims where the amount sought is under $100,000. It is supposed to be mandatory for such claims but many BC personal injury lawyers avoid the rule due to perceived short-comings.
I am keeping an eye on how the courts treat this rule with respect to ICBC claims and will blog on any judgemetns involving this rule and ICBC that come to my attention in the upcoming months.
The facts of the case briefly are as follows: The Plaintiff was in 2 accidents. She was 24 years old on the date of the first accident. It was a rear-end crash which resulted in significant vehicle damage. Her car was rendered a total-loss.
The Second crash happened in 2006. This time she was a passenger and again her vehicle was involved in a rear-end collision. Her injuries from the first accident were aggravated in this crash.
The Court found that the Plaintiff ‘did indeed suffer a severe flexion-extension injury (whiplash), with acute symptoms lasting approximately one week, but continuing moderate symptoms which have persisted to today’s date, a full 4.5 years post accident. Her symptoms include not only pain and restriction of movement, but an overlap of psychological symptoms (pain disorder) including anxiety, irritability, frustration, anger, and difficulty modulating her behaviour in the face of day-to-day challenges. I accept Dr. Lamius’ evidence that there is some interplay of her physical and psychological symptoms. As he noted the pain activity triggers ongoing anxiety symptoms, while at the same time, the pain activity is worsened by the increased arousal pattern secondary to her anxiety. The pain and anxiety work together to create a vicious cycle.”
The court awarded compensation for both accidents as follows:
1. Non Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering) $75,000
2. Loss of homemaking capacity: $11,744
3. Past loss of income: $$6,658.44
4. Future loss of earning capacity: $40,000
5. Cost of Future Care: $50,000
6. Special Damages: $6,211.08
What was interesting about this case is the fact that the court did not hesitate to consider a total award above $100,000. Rule 68 has a ‘soft cap’ meaning it is to be used for claims worth less than $100,000. In this case the Plaintiff sought total damages well in excess of this.
The reason why rule 68 has a ‘soft cap’ is because Rule 68(4) says that ‘nothing in this rule (rule 68) prevents a court from awarding damages to a plaintiff in an expedited action for an amount in excess of $100,000.‘
One thing ICBC is interested in, and ICBC claims lawyers should be interested in this as well, are the ‘precedents’ that will come out of the upcoming rule 68 ICBC claims judgements. In this case the defence lawyer argued that ‘since the Plaintiff elected to use Rule 68…the court ought to infer that this claim, including all heads of damage, does not exceed $100,000, thus resulting in a much reduced award for non-pecuniary damages.”
The court rejected this logic stating that “I am unaware of any authority which suggests the Court may draw such an inference.” The court went on to cite rule 68(4) and then stated that “no defence motion was ever brought to remove the action from the rule 68 procedure. I am unable to draw the inference suggested.”
This case seems to be a positive development for anyone advancing an ICBC injury claim under Rule 68 whose total value may exceed $100,000. I hope the courts continue to adopt a flexible approach in awarding damages above the ‘cap’ in ICBC claims where the evidence justifies such a result.