Why you need to seek treatment for your injuries in personal injury cases.

Seeking both proper and ongoing treatment for injuries in personal injury cases is extremely important for a multitude of reasons. Not only will proper treatment help you recover from your injuries, but it will significantly improve the strength of your case.

In this recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case, the judge commented multiple times on the plaintiff’s lack of ongoing medical treatment:
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/06/2018BCSC0635.htm

At paragraph 21:

[21] It was pointed out to the plaintiff on cross-examination that, since the end of 2013, the only treatment she has received for what she described during her evidence-in chief as “significant” and “constant” pain was six massage therapy sessions between January 8, 2015 and September 3, 2015. The plaintiff insisted that she was “using other forms of treatment” for her other symptoms such as the exercise regime she had learned from some kinesiology sessions she attended in 2013.

[22] It was also pointed out to the plaintiff during her cross-examination that her doctor had recommended she seek counselling for her driving anxiety. She agreed that it was unreasonable for her not to have done so.

The plaintiff had also attended only 4 treatments with their family doctor for treatment related to their motor vehicle collision injuries. The plaintiff had seen their family doctor more regularly, but had not mentioned her injuries from the collision during these visits. In his discussion, the judge further stated:

[89] On cross-examination, the plaintiff became less than steadfast about her pain symptoms and had difficulty explaining why most of the clinical records made no mention of many of them. The best she could do was to say “I don’t remember” or “I was focused on other things”. Moreover, it became clear from the evidence of both Ms. Kilmer and Ms. Lahti, which I accept, that the plaintiff had exaggerated her ongoing pain symptoms and inability to work at Gulfstream.

[90] As this Court has previously noted, the absence of reference to a symptom in a doctor’s notes of a particular visit cannot be the sole basis for any inference about the existence or non-existence of that symptom. However, where, as here, a plaintiff’s description of her symptoms is clearly inconsistent with her failure to seek medical attention and is consistent with improvement in her condition, the court is entitled to draw an adverse inference as to her credibility: Edmondson v. Payer, 2011 BCSC 118, at paras. 36–37.

As stated, while the absence of medical treatment cannot be the “sole” basis for an inference about the existence or non-existence of a symptom, the court can consider these absences when drawing inferences about credibility. In English, a judge can use the presence or absence of medical treatment as a factor when deciding whether or not they believe you.

How much can future cost of care awards involving concussions be worth?

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/05/2018BCSC0531.htm

The plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury (also referred to as a concussion in this case) after being injured in a motor vehicle collision with a bus. At issue was whether the plaintiff had suffered a loss of consciousness. There were conflicting statements in the clinical notes and other statements made by the plaintiff from around the time of the collision – including those given to ICBC. The judge ultimately decided that the plaintiff had indeed suffered a loss of consciousness and that a loss of consciousness was not necessary to prove that a mild traumatic brain injury had occurred. Medical experts had stated ” that a traumatically induced psychological disruption of brain function (a traumatic brain injury) can be manifested by “at least one” of any period of loss of consciousness, of loss of memory for events immediately before or after the Collision, and of alteration in mental state at the time of the Collision.

The plaintiff was awarded $766,203.00 to compensate him for costs associated with future care related to his ongoing neurodegenerative deterioration and early dementia. The plaintiff in this case had no prior neurological or dementia issues, yet was continuing to see decreased cognitive ability following the collision. The courts ruled that this deterioration was likely to proceed, and the plaintiff’s cost of care costs would grow as this deterioration continued.

This case illustrates the importance of hiring effective counsel, and how personal injury awards rely on findings of fact by a judge. Small changes in these findings of facts can result in massive swings in an award. For example, if the judge had found the plaintiff’s cognitive injuries were likely to have stabilized, the award of damages to the plaintiff would have likely have been much smaller.

Making Waves: How much are concussion cases involving entrepreneurs worth?

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/02/2018BCSC0229cor1.htm

In this recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case, a successful owner of a brand devoted to the production of surf boards and clothing was injured in a motor vehicle accident. The injured party was riding a motorcycle when they were struck by an oncoming car making a left turn. This was a significant crash that involved the oncoming vehicle deploying both of its front airbags. The plaintiff was thrown violently to the ground and remembers waking up in the intensive care unit of the hospital. He was left with long lasting injuries including a concussion and a knee injury.

Prior to this accident, the plaintiff had, per the judge’s own words, “achieved more by the age of 32 than many people achieve in an entire lifetime”. His line of clothing and surf boards had, despite some ups and downs, grown greatly.

The courts were left with the difficult task of assessing the plaintiff’s income losses, both past and future. As in many cases involving business owners, the plaintiff’s income fluctuated dramatically, and his future income was even more uncertain, as recent financial restructuring resulted in dramatically increased possibilities of both failure and success.

The plaintiff, following his accident, was left partially impaired. He was able to continue working in his business, but did so with less confidence and vigor. He had to delegate tasks to others. The judge, however, concluded that the plaintiff still managed to demonstrate above average business skill and great creativity. In other words, the plaintiff was found to have a “partial impairment”. The judge ultimately decided that the best way to access the plaintiff’s losses was under the “replacement approach”, as the plaintiff had already hired employees to perform some of his tasks. The plaintiff was given an award for the likely costs of replacement labour for tasks he would have performed himself but for the accident.

The plaintiff was ultimately awarded a total award of approximately $1,000,000.00. This case demonstrates that even though the assessment of wage losses can be difficult, the courts will continue to do their best to assess those losses.

Who is at fault for a rear end collision?

Generally, the driver of the rear vehicle is at fault. Motorists have a duty to look ahead and keep a proper look out. Additionally, Section 162 of the Motor Vehicle Act has been interpreted to mean that drivers have a duty to leave significant space in front of them to allow them to stop safely without hitting the vehicle in front:

Following too closely

162(1) A driver of a vehicle must not cause or permit the vehicle to follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the amount and nature of traffic on and the condition of the highway.

(2) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle or a combination of vehicles, when driving on a roadway outside a business or residence district, must not follow within 60 m of another commercial motor vehicle or a combination of vehicles, but this must not be construed to prevent one commercial motor vehicle or a combination of vehicles overtaking and passing another.

(3) The driver of a motor vehicle in a caravan or motorcade, other than a funeral procession, outside a business or residence district, must leave sufficient space between his or her vehicle and another vehicle or combination of vehicles to enable a vehicle to enter and occupy that space without danger.

The courts have also stated that there is a presumption that the rear driver is at fault, unless they can prove they are not. Defenses do, however, exist. Examples of situations where the lead driver may be found partially or totally at fault include, where:

  1. The lead driver has stopped in a place they were not permitted to.
  2. The lead driver has stopped suddenly and without sufficient reason.
  3. The lead driver has stopped in a place where their vehicle is not easily visible.
  4. The lead driver has made an unsafe lane change and “cut off” the rear driver.
  5. The lead vehicle does not make proper use of their turn signals or brake lights or has malfunctioning turn signals or brake light.

As per the above, there is a heavy onus on the rear vehicle to demonstrate why they are not at fault for a motor vehicle accident. Only in exceptional circumstances will a lead vehicle be found 100% at fault for a rear-end collision and, thus, be unable to recover damages for a personal injury case.

 

 

Plaintiff given award for Early Retirement.

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/19/2017BCSC1958.htm

In a recent Supreme Court of British Columbia decision, a plaintiff, who was a 53 year old aesthetics instructor, was given an award of $27,000 to compensate her for the possibility of early retirement.

What’s interesting about this award is that the plaintiff, who was only 53 years old, did not plan to retire until age 65, and these damages were entirely speculative. The judge was satisfied that there was a “real and substantial” possibility of loss and treated the possibility of early retirement due to injury as a lost capital asset. The judge then awarded the plaintiff a half a year of wages.

The plaintiff in this case had suffered a chronic soft tissue injury arising from 2 separate motor vehicle collisions. Just over 4 years after their first accident, the plaintiff continued to suffer from ongoing back and neck pain that was disrupting her ability to sleep and leading to fatigue. The plaintiff had to switch roles at work. She no longer was able to be as active in instruction and instead focused on administrative work. The judge concluded that there was room for improvement in the plaintiff’s condition but no objective basis to conclude that the plaintiff would make a full recovery.

This case illustrates many of the challenges that arise when dealing with claims for future losses.

Evasive Actions: personal injury claims without actual collisions.

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/12/2017BCSC1217.htm

This recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case dealt with a motorcyclist who was force to take evasive action while entering an intersection. The motorcyclist had the right of way, and another vehicle entered the intersection after stopping at a stop sign to the right of the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist was able to avoid striking the other vehicle, but ultimately lost control of their motorcycle and suffered a significant injury while striking the ground. The courts found that the motorcyclist’s actions had been prudent in the circumstances and that they were still entitled to make a claim against the other driver, despite the fact that no collision had occurred between the two motor vehicles.

In coming to this conclusion, the judge applied a couple important legal principles:

  1. When avoiding a hazard ahead, a driver is not expected to make the perfect decision, only a decision that is reasonable in the circumstances. The existence of a better course of action does not result in a finding of negligence.
  2. It is up to the driver who has created the initial hazard to demonstrate that the other driver could have reasonably avoided the hazard.

In this case had the defendant been able to show that the plaintiff’s rate of speed had contributed to or caused their fall then the judge may have made a different finding on liability. However, neither side presented evidence to show that the motorcyclist had been speeding. This case once again demonstrates the importance of hiring legal counsel, and why doing so prior to speaking with ICBC can be important.

Construction worker given $430,000 award for soft-tissue injuries sustained in car accident.

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/05/2017BCSC0577.htm

The injured party was a construction worker and father of 4 children. His work primarily focused on residential renovations and building and servicing green houses at big box stores. The plaintiff was fifty years old at the time of trial and had been injured in what the courts described as a “violent” rear end type motor vehicle accident. Although the plaintiff continued to work after the accident, he was limited in what roles he could perform and how long he could work for, largely due to ongoing neck and chronic neck pain after the accident.

In this case the lawyers for the defence tried to make the argument that since the plaintiff had been to acupuncture treatments for neck and shoulder issues prior to the accident, he must have been suffering from soft-tissue injuries before the accident that were not caused by the accident. Fortunately, the judge found the plaintiff to be credible and dismissed the defence’s argument, stating:

“Receiving an acupuncture treatment (or a massage) for the relief of soreness or temporary muscle pain arising from long hours of driving or physically demanding activities is qualitatively different from attending an acupuncturist as a result of an injury on the recommendation of one’s general practitioner.”

This was a very astute observation by the judge and was based on medical expert evidence from an expert in occupational medicine who stated “people go for massages all the time when they are working at physical jobs or go to their gardens and they do a bunch of digging”, but it “does not mean they have an ongoing back pain disability”.