Tag: vehicle damage

ICBC Injury Claims and Relevance of Minimal Vehicle Damage

Further to my numerous previous posts on Low Velocity Impacts (LVI Claims) reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with the relevance of photographs depicting minimal vehicle damage in Injury Litigation.
In today’s case (Deventer v. Woods) the Plaintiff was involved in 3 rear-end collisions.  Fault was admitted for all three crashes.   The Plaintiff claimed she was injured as a result of these crashes.  The matter was set down for a Jury Trial (ICBC normally sets LVI cases for Jury Trial) and proposed to put photos which ‘show very little damage to an of the cars involved’ to the Jury.
The Plaintiff objected arguing that the photos were not relevant.  Madam Justice Fenlon disagreed with the Plaintiff and allowed the photos to be put to the Jury.  In coming to this conclusion Madam Justice Fenlon referred to and summarized 2 previous authorities dealing with this issue at paragraphs 8-13 and went on to hold as follows:

[14] In any event, I am of the view that photographs showing the extent of the damage to the vehicles in this case are relevant and therefore admissible. They are relevant because it is a matter of common sense and common understanding that the greater the force with which two vehicles collide, the more likely it is that occupants of those vehicles will be injured. The relationship between increased force and damage and increased probability of injury does not mean that parties involved in lower impact collisions that do not cause very much damage to the vehicles involved cannot suffer significant injuries. Many cases have recognized that serious injuries can result from collisions involving little or no damage, as Mr. Justice Thackray observed in Gordon.

[15] In Brar v. Johal, 2002 BCSC 150, Mr. Justice Cohen, at para. 11, held that the onus would be on the defendant to lead engineering or medical evidence to support the submission that a plaintiff’s injuries are inconsistent with the force generated by the impact between two vehicles.

[16] The relevance of photographs showing the extent of damage to the plaintiff’s and defendants’ vehicles can be tested by considering photographs of highly damaged vehicles. It would be hard to imagine plaintiff’s counsel in such a case arguing that photographs of the damage were not relevant to the issue of whether the plaintiff suffered injuries in the accident.

[17] I have considered whether the probative value of the photographs in this case is outweighed by their prejudicial effect on the jury’s assessment. For the reasons set out inMakara by Mr. Justice Barrow, I am of the view that such prejudice can be adequately addressed by way of appropriate instructions to the jury. Such directions would not simply be to ignore the photographs, as plaintiff’s counsel argued, but rather, a direction to put the pictures into the context of the evidence as a whole. The pictures are one piece of evidence about the impact and the vehicles, as is the plaintiff’s evidence.  There would also likely be a direction that the fact that no or little damage has occurred to vehicles does not mean that a plaintiff cannot be injured.

[18] In conclusion on this issue, the photographs are admissible, subject to objections about their authenticity or accuracy.

Another intresting aspect of this judgement is the Court’ discussion of the Plaintiff’s financial status.  The Defendants wished to highlight certain elements of the Plaintiff’s finances in support of an argument that  “such information is relevant in assessing the quantum of damages for future wage loss because that information provides the context within which the jury must determine whether the plaintiff would have worked full-time in the future if the injuries sustained in the accident had not occurred.”

Madam Justice Fenlon agreed that such evidence is admissible in addressing a claim for future wage loss holding that:

[35] The plaintiff argues that the cases cited by the defendants in which a plaintiff’s financial circumstances were considered in relation to future wage loss were not jury cases. However, if the plaintiff’s financial circumstances are relevant to the assessment of future wage loss in a judge alone case, they are also relevant in a jury trial. The only additional question on a jury trial is whether the prejudicial effect of such evidence outweighs its probative value. The concern raised by plaintiff’s counsel, and it is a real concern, is that the jury may assume that because the plaintiff is relatively well-off she does not need to be compensated for future wage loss and they may reduce their awards for general and special damages as well. That would indeed be improper, but as I stated in relation to this issue on the admissibility of the photographs, I am of the view that the jury can be properly instructed to avoid this error and can be trusted to properly assess damages.

[36] In the circumstances of this case, I find that the probative value relating to the life insurance proceeds and the absence or existence of a mortgage outweighs the prejudicial effect of such evidence. However, I also find that the value of the new family home has such little probative value in relation to the propensity of the plaintiff to be working full-time or part-time that it is outweighed by the prejudicial effect of such evidence. I would therefore disallow that evidence.

[37] In conclusion on this issue, evidence relating to life insurance proceeds received, the payout of the mortgage on the family home at the time as a result of another life insurance policy, the existence of a current mortgage, and other evidence of that nature is admissible. Evidence regarding the value of the home the plaintiff is currently living in is not.

ICBC Did Not Pay Enough For My Car! Don't Look To Court For Help…

While this blog is primarily concerned about ICBC injury claims against at-fault drivers (tort claims) written reasons for judgment were released today that are of interest to anyone caught up in a dispute with ICBC with respect to their own insurance coverage and the value of damage to their car.
Master Young of the BC Supreme Court clarified the fact that courts do not have jurisdiction to deal with an ICBC dispute regarding the value of vehicle loss.
In this case the Plaintiff’s vehicle was damaged in an accident. The vehicle was a write off. The Plaintiff had collision coverage with ICBC and asked for fair value. ICBC paid $18,000. The Plaintiff said the vehicle was worth $40,000 because it had a new engine and 2 extra large gas tanks installed prior to the accident and this had to be considered when determining fair value.
ICBC argued that the BC courts have no jurisdiction to deal with such a dispute. ICBC relied on section 142 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act and said this section requires such disputes to be dealt with by mandatory arbitration. For the sake of being accurate, I should point out that this section has since been repealed but been replaced with an almost identical section in the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
The court held that, under s. 142, ‘the courts have no jurisdiction to deal with coverage disputes, given that there is mandatory arbitration set up by s. 142‘ In reaching this conclusion the Master cited a previous decision from a BC Supreme Court Judge where it was held that “the statute imposes a mandatory forum for the resolution of these disputes, and this Court is excluded from the process‘. Master Young also noted that the BC Supreme Court judge ‘goes on to caution that the claimant, if he wishes to pursue arbitration, must move quickly because he is statue barred two years after the date of loss‘.
The court concluded that this Plaintiff should have gone to mandatory arbitration. Given that the arbitration remedy was not exercised in 2 years the Plaintiff was out of luck, not being able to have the matter decided by a court or by arbitration.
This case serves of an example of the consequences people with ICBC claims can face if they do not comply with the limitations governing their claim. If you are in an ICBC dispute and don’t have a lawyer be sure to know your limitation periods! This is sometimes easier said than done as even Master Young acknowledged that in this case the legislation was ‘confusing‘.
The court obviously sympathized with the Plaintiff and said that she wished she could extend the deadline and if she could she made it pretty clear that she felt that ICBC’s materials showed ‘nothing..to indicate that (ICBC) gave any consideration to the fact that the vehicle had a new engine‘.

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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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