BC Courts have heard many ICBC claims involving PTSD and Chronic Pain Syndrome. In reasons for judgement released this week Mr. Justice Cullen heard and dismissed a PTSD claim and Chronic Pain Syndrome claim as a result of a motor vehicle collision.
In 2004 the Plaintiff, who was a passenger in her boyfriend’s vehicle, was involved in a collision where her vehicle rear-ended the vehicle in front of her. The accident occurred on Nanaimo Street in Vancouver, BC. She advanced a tort claim against her boyfriend who was deemed to be the at-fault driver (a tort claim is the legal term used to describe a civil action, such as an ICBC claim for damages against an at fault driver).
ICBC, on the boyfriend’s behalf, admitted fault but disputed the alleged injuries. The Plaintiff claimed to suffer from soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, a myofacial pain syndrome and/or a pain disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As in alsmost all ICBC claims involving alleged chronic pain, the court heard from a number of expert witnesses including the Plaintiff’s family doctor, a physiotherapist, a physiatrist (rehabilitaiton specialist) a psychologist and an orthopaedic surgeon. The orthopaedic surgeon was a defence witness who conducted an ‘independent medical exam’ of the Plaintiff pursuant to the BC Rules of Court.
In the Plaintiff’s case evidence was led that she suffered from a ‘myofacial pain syndrome’ which was described as ‘a central nervous system disorder with peripheral manifestations of muscle tightness and soreness to palpation over areas called trigger points…areas in the muscles that are rich in nerve endings’.
A psychologist testified that the Plaintiff suffered from a Post Traumatic Pain Disorder (PTSD) and also that she suffered from ‘many symptoms of a pain disorder’.
The orthopaedic surgeon, who is often used by ICBC, testified that the Plaintiff suffered from soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulders, along with some cuts and bruises. He dismissed the connection of the Plaintiff’s low back complaints to the accident by stating “There is a basic premise in medicine that if a site has been traumatized, that site becomes symptomatic immediately, right after the MVA or certainly within the first few days after the MVA”. He then testified that his physical examination of the Plaintiff was ‘completely normal’ and he regarded any soft tissue injuries sustained by the Plaintiff as resolved.
In the end the court rejected the Plaintiff’s claim for PTSD and Chronic Pain Disorder and found that the Plaintiff suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injuries to her neck, upper back and shoulder. The court also found that the Plaintiff’s low back symptoms which developed 3 months post accident were causally connected to the accident either through compensatory back pain of through myofacial pain syndrome. The court also found that the Plaintiff suffered from anxiety as a result of the accident and awarded $35,000 for pain and suffering, $560 for past out of pocket expenses and a further $700 to permit the Plaintiff to attend further counselling sessions with her pscyhologist to treat her anxiety.
This judgement is worth a quick read if you are advancing an ICBC claim involving chronic pain or PTSD to see some of the factors courts look at when weighing competing medical evidence. The judgement seems to be a compromise between the competing evidence accepting that the Plaintiff’s injuries, while not PTSD or Chronic Pain Syndrome, were not resolved by the time of trial. When considering settling an ICBC claim it is good to become familiar with how courts treat similar injuries and what the various outcomes at trial can be.
Do you have questions about an ICBC claim involving PTSD or Chronic Pain that you want to discuss with an ICBC Claims Lawyer? If so, click here to contact ICBC Claims Lawyer Erik Magraken for a free consultation.
In a case with a slightly unusual fact pattern where reasons for judgement were released today, a Plaintiff was awarded nearly $90,000 in damages as a result of a July, 2005 motor vehicle collision in Nanaimo, BC.
In a trial that lasted just over two days pursuant to Rule 66, Mr. Justice Wilson concluded that the Plaintiff sustained a soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulder as a result of the motor vehicle collision. Mr. Justice Wilson concluded that it took the Plainiff several months to “fully functionally recover” from her injuries (meaning she was able to functionally return to work as a painter) but that activity caused ongoing pain at the site of injury. The court accepted the evidence of an orthopaedic surgoen who assessed the Plaintiff and found “a significant amount of trapezius spasm” in late 2007 and attributed this to the motor vehicle collision. The court summarized the effects of the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
 I thus conclude that Ms. Levy was disabled from her employment duties for approximately three and one-half months; has had ongoing, but decreasing, pain in her neck and left shoulder since that time, now almost three years post-accident; and is likely to have some ongoing pain or discomfort with activities.
What made this judgement interesting is that the Defendant denied that an accident occurred at all.
The Plaintiff testified that her mini-van was rear-ended by the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant denied this. He testified that he felt no impact. It is not unusual for ICBC defence lawyers to lead evidence that an impact was ‘low velocity’ but evidence of no crash is certainly quite unusual. The defence lawyer also called an ICBC vehicle estimator who reviewed the Defendant’s vehicle and testified that it revealed ‘no new damage’, however, he did admit on cross-examination that a vehicle with a steel checker-plate front bumper welded to the frame can cause damage to another vehicle without it showing on the steel bumper.
After hearing all the evidence the court concluded that a collision did occur and that the Defendants were liable for this rear-end motor vehicle accident.
In the end Mr. Justice Wilson awarded damages as follows:
a. non-pecuniary damages: $40,000;
b. past loss of income and employment insurance benefits: $9,187.60;
c. loss of future earning capacity: $10,000;
d. special damages: $586.43;
e. pre-judgment interest.
In reasons for judgement released today, Madam Justice Morrison awarded a total of $550,828 in compensation for an August, 2004 motor vehicle collision.
The Plaintiff was a 45 year old senior commercial lines insurance underwriter. She was injured in a rear-end collision. As in most ICBC rear-end collisions, the defence lawyer admitted fault on behalf of the defendant leaving only quantum of damages (value of the claim) at issue.
A neurosurgeon who testified on behalf of the Plaintiff was found to give ‘compelling’ evidence. In summarizing the Plaintiff’s injuries the neurosurgon stated as follows
“My diagnosis is soft tissue injuries to the lumbar spine, referable to the motor vehicle accident in question, traumatic left L3-4 disc herniation causing left L4 nerve root pain and contributing to low back pain. In my opinion, it is also possible that the motor vehicle accident may have negatively impacted on the eventual outcome from the right L5-S1 disc herniation. The preoperative CT scan did show a focal disc herniation at the right L5-S1 level. This was confirmed on the post motor vehicle accident MRI scan. It is conceivable that the force that was sustained during the motor vehicle accident could have further damaged the compressed right S1 nerve root. In other words, were it not for the accident, her outcome from the right L5-S1 discectomy may have been better“
Commenting on the vocational impact of the injuries the Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon stated that:
“It is my opinion that (the Plaintiff) will be left with permanent back pain. This will result in some limitation of her vocational potential, especially as it relates to jobs that require a lot of sitting, repetitive twisting or turning of the lumbar spine, or lifting.“
The trial judge reached a favourable conclusion regarding the Plaintiff’s claim stating that:
“On causation, I am satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the motor vehicle accident of August 8, 2004, more likely than not, was the cause, or contributed to the injuries of the plaintiff. No other conclusion makes sense. The chronic pain would not have occurred except for that accident. I conclude, on a balance of probabilities, that the right-sided pain would not have recurred, but for that accident, and that the left-sided pain was due to the accident, without question“
After accepting virtually all of the Plaintiff’s evidence Madam Justice Morrison awarded damages as follows:
Non Pecuniary Damages (pain and suffering): $100,000
Special Damages: $7,828
Past Income Loss: $73,000
Loss of income earning capacity: $200,000
Cost of Future Care: $170,000
In lenghty reasons for judgement released today, Mr. Justice Metzger found that injuries sustained in 3 seperate motor vehicle collisions had little impact on the Plaintiff’s functioning having regard to her MS related difficulties.
The only issue at trial was the value of the Plaintiff;s damages, fault for the accidents was admitted by the various defendants. The Plaintiff was diagnosed with MS about 5 months after the first of these 3 car accidents.
The Plaintiff sought a total of $223,550 in damages as a result of the collisions. The Plaintiff did not allege that the collisions played a role in the causation or aggravation of MS, rather that the impact of the accident related injuries on her functioning having regard to her MS was significant.
After over 3 weeks of evidence the trial judge concluded that the collisions caused soft tissue injuries (also referred to as connective tissue injuries) and that these were not particulalry significant.
Addressing the first collision the court concluded as follows:
The evidence is that the plaintiff’s injuries from accident #1 healed in their natural course and their effects were eventually overwhelmed or subsumed by the plaintiff’s unrelated progressive MS symptoms and disability. I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering decreased over a five-month period, ending in August 2003.
The plaintiff did not adduce evidence of a compounding or synergistic effect between her MS and her accident related soft tissue injuries.
On a review of the usual contradictory cases presented by opposing parties, I am satisfied the plaintiff is entitled to $8,500 in non-pecuniary damages for accident #1
Addressing the second collision the court found that
I find that the maximum duration the soft tissue injuries could be reasonably attributed to the motor vehicle accident of January 25, 2005 is from that date until May 3, 2006, when the MS relapse overwhelmed all other concerns. After that point, even if there were residual symptoms, their significance was “miniscule” or unrelated and not attributable to the negligence of the defendant.
From April 1, 2005 to May 3, 2006, the plaintiff’s function was quite high as she was able to maintain a satisfactory level of performance at Royal Roads University. As the plaintiff’s friend Tiffany Young testified, the plaintiff was able to meet with her for coffee, to play scrabble and go on walks, even though she had ongoing low back or other soft tissue injury symptoms. Other friends confirmed Ms. Jacobs’ attendance at dinners, movies and concerts.
It is not clear how many of the plaintiff’s MS symptoms were confused with the soft tissue injury symptoms. The lay witnesses were not in a position to distinguish between the pre-existing symptoms and those that came after accident #2. None of the lay witnesses suggested that the plaintiff did not have an energetic and high degree of function at least until the May 3, 2006 MS relapse. Each described what could reasonably be expected to accompany mild, nagging soft tissue injuries. The plaintiff coped despite these nagging and disruptive symptoms.
Having considered the collection of competing authorities with respect to appropriate non-pecuniary damages, I am satisfied the plaintiff is entitled to $23,500 as a result of the January 25, 2005 collision.
Lastly, the court found that there was “no objective evidence of injury” as a result of the third collision. THe court awarded $1,500 for pain and suffering as a result of that collision.
The Plaintiff’s total award was $36,116. Addressing the central issue in the case the court found that
There is no evidence of a compounding or synergistic effect between the accidents and the MS beyond the temporary and minor reference made by Dr. Devonshire while the plaintiff was undergoing a period of chemotherapy. The plaintiff remained employed and active at all material times until the disabling MS relapse.
Damages are therefore segregated on the basis of three separate accidents with no overlapping injuries and no interplay between the MS and the motor vehicle accidents.
Do you have questions about this case or a similar ICBC case that you would like to discuss with an ICBC claims lawyer? If so feel free to contact the author.
After a trial that lasted over 20 days, A Plaintiff who was struck in a cross-walk in Whistler, BC was awarded $718,331 for his losses and injuries.
The accident was significant. The circumstances are canvassed at paragraph 2 of the judgement where it was held that “The Plaintiff was struck on his left side. He flew over the hood of the Defendant’s vehicle. His face smashed into the windshield. He then was thrown off the car landing on the pavement. ”
The Plaintiff suffered serious injuries including facial lacerations, a fractured nose, soft tissue injuries to the left knee, neck and back, a mild traumatic brain injury (also known as a concussion), dental and TMJ injuries, permanent facial scarring, depression, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic pain disorder and most significantly cognitive defecits due to his injuries.
As is often the case in ICBC claims involving chronic pain and head injury, the court had to deal with a mountain of medical expert witness testimony both for the Plaintiff and for the Defence.
In addition to obtaining opposing medical evidence, ICBC hired investigators to video the Plaintiff surreptitiously. As stated in my last blog, video surveillance is a common ICBC lawyer defence tactic. While ICBC lawyers defending claims don’t hire private investigators in every case, a safe general rule is that the more serious a Plaintiff’s injuries, the more likely the chance that ICBC defence lawyers have hired a private investigator.
Mr. Justice Williamson made an interesting comment regarding surveillance at paragraph 114 of his judgement where he held that “(the occupational therapist hired by ICBC) testified that there was a sense that (the Plaintiff) did not trust her and that (the Plaintiff) considered her as somehow or other a spy for ICBC. I note that the Plaintiff’ concern that ICBC was spying on him was accurate. The corporation hired investigators to video the plaintiff surreptitiously.”
After weighing all the evidence, the trial judge found that the Plaintiff “suffers from chronic pain syndrome, depression and continuing cognitive defecits.”
$135,000 was awarded for pain and suffering. The other damages awarded were as follows:
$450,000 for Loss of Earning Capacity (commonly referred to as future wage loss)
$101,436 for Past Wage Loss
$31,895 for Cost of Future Care