More on Low Velocity Impacts and a Legal History Lesson

Yet another “Low Velocity Impact” Injury Claim went to trial and yet again the Court found that a compensable injury existed despite the minimal vehicle damage.
In today’s case (Bourdin v. Ridenour) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 Car Crash in Kamloops, BC.  This was a crash that apparently fell into ICBC’s LVI Program as the minimal amount of vehicle damage was stressed at trial by the defence lawyer (the Plaintiff’s vehicle damage cost only $316 to repair). Despite this Madam Justice Hyslop found that the Plaintiff was injured in the crash.  In valuing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $22,500 the Court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[87] Ms. Bourdin had constant pain for approximately five months after the accident.  However, she acknowledged some improvement during that period.  She was plagued with headaches, the severity of which she had never experienced before.  Dr. Vlahos’ clinical records note that Ms. Bourdin, on February 8, 2008, complained of having a “…new onset of headaches.  Head feels like it is in a vise”.  This description is a similar description of the headaches Ms. Bourdin suffered as a result of the motor vehicle accident.

[88] I do accept that Ms. Bourdin suffered from headaches and that they occurred as a result of the accident.  She has been nauseous and vomited with such headaches, the last of which was two weeks before this trial.  According to Ms. Bourdin, headaches of this nature occurred after the accident.  However, Ms. Bourdin did not describe headaches of this nature to either Dr. O’Farrell or Dr. Travlos.

[89] Ms. Bourdin’s neck, shoulder and mid-back were injured as a result of the accident.  She continues to suffer pain from these injuries today, but they are occasional.  At trial, Ms. Bourdin stated that her neck and shoulder pain are now triggered when she is reaching for something, and sometimes everyday events caused neck and shoulder pain without explanation.  She acknowledged improvement in the spring of 2006 and that this has been ongoing from 2006 to the date of trial.  Her chiropractors, her massage therapists and her comments to Dr. O’Farrell and Dr. Travlos confirm this.  She told Dr. O’Farrell that at the time he examined her, her pain was intermittent.

In discussing the LVI Defence to Injury Claims Madam Justice Hyslop quoted a 2006 case (Jackman v. All Season Labour Supplies Ltd.) in which Mr. Justice Smith of the BC Supreme Court pointed out that the LVI defence is not a principle of law but rather “a creature of policy created by ICBC“.  Specifically Mr. Justice Smith held

[12]      On the issue of vehicle damage, I note the comments of Madam Justice Ballance in Robbie v. King 2003 BCSC 1553, at paragraph 35:

The proposition that a low velocity accident is more or less likely to have a propensity of injury is a creature of policy created by ICBC. Although lack of impact severity is by no means determinative of the issue as to whether a person could have sustained an injury, it is nonetheless a relevant consideration particularly with respect to soft tissue injury. Ultimately, the extent of Ms. Robbie’s injuries are to be decided on the evidence as a whole.

[13]      Although lack of vehicle damage may be a relevant consideration, it has to be balanced against the evidence of the plaintiff and the medical evidence, including the complete lack of any medical evidence to support the assertion that the injuries are inconsistent with vehicle damage.

Now for the legal history lesson:

While it is well accepted by BC Courts that ICBC’s LVI Policy is not a legal defense to a tort claim, rather, vehicle damage is just “a relevant consideration” ICBC Defence Lawyers often quote a 1982 case from the BC Supreme Court (Price v. Kostryba) in which Mr. Justice McEachern quoted another BC Supreme Court decision (Butlar v. Blaylock) in which the Court held that:

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 contuining injury.

However, this often cited quote comes from a case that was overturned on appeal.  In 1983 the BC Court of Appeal overturned the trial decision of Blaylock and held as follows:

12 With the greatest respect, I am of the opinion that there is no evidence upon which one could reasonably conclude that the appellant did not continue to suffer pain as of the date of the trial. After careful consideration of the expert testimony and the evidence of the appellant and his wife, I have reached the conclusion that the only finding open to the learned trial judge was that as of the date of trial the appellant continued to suffer moderate pain and in the words of Dr. Lehmann, his symptoms “will gradually subside with further time. Having been present for approximately two and a half years, it is doubtful that they will disappear completely.” (underlining mine).

13 There are three basic reasons which, in my view, support the conclusion that the plaintiff continued to suffer pain as of the date of trial. Firstly, the plaintiff testified that he continued to suffer pain. His wife corroborated this evidence. The learned trial judge accepted this evidence but held that there was no objective evidence of continuing injury. It is not the law that if a plaintiff cannot show objective evidence of continuing injury that he cannot recover. If the pain suffered by the plaintiff is real and continuing and resulted from the injuries suffered in the accident, the Plaintiff is entitled to recover damages. There is no suggestion in this case that the pain suffered by the plaintiff did not result from the accident. I would add that a plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for pain, even though the pain results in part from the plaintiff’s emotional or psychological makeup and does not result directly from objective symptoms.
14 Secondly, all of the medical reports support the view that the plaintiff continued to suffer pain and that it was not likely that his symptoms would disappear completely.

15 Thirdly, and of great importance, is the report of Dr. Lehmann, which was not before the learned trial judge for his consideration. In that report, Dr. Lehmann stated that there were degenerative changes in the cervical spine which pre-existed the accident. He said “they were probably asymptomatic before the accident but I think are probably contributing to his prolonged discomfort.” (underlining mine). In my view, as this evidence is uncontradicted, these objective findings cannot be disregarded and should be given great weight.

I hope this ‘history lesson’ helps anyone confronted with ICBC’s LVI Program denying a tort claim because of little vehicle damage.

Bourdin v. Ridenour, Butlar v. Blaylock, icbc injury claims, Low Velocity Impact Policy, lvi claims, Mr. Justice Hyslop, Mr. Justice McEachern, Mr. Justice Smith, Price v. Kostryba

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