Gov’t Plans to Strip Rights for Insurance Company Profits; ICBC Targeting Psychological Injury

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

The BC Government held a press conference where widespread changes targeting the rights of British Columbians to save ICBC money were announced.

In short the Government is creating an artificial cap on what they call ‘minor’ injuries.  As previously discussed even ICBC admits that the termminor injury catches injuries that are ‘complex and costly’.  The pain and suffering cap will be set at $5,500 and is set to kick in in April 2019.

The Government did not provide a full definition of what they call ‘minor’ but ICBC is already noting that in addition to soft tissue injuries that can disable you for up to a year the cap will also target psychological injuries with the insurer publishing a press release saying mental health issues such as ‘anxiety‘ will be caught by the cap.

The Government stated that “a medical professional” will decide if your injury is “minor“.  It is unclear exactly who this medical professional will be.  If you wish to dispute this designation the government is limiting your rights here as well.  The press release notes that certain ICBC claims will be forced to be adjudicated, not by the courts, but by the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.  Disputes over “the classification of an injury” will be funneled this way.

As of now this Tribunal does not allow people to be represented by lawyers with s. 20 of the law creating the tribunal stating that the default position for hearings is that “the parties are to represent themselves“.

Lastly, if you wish to not have your rights stripped by caps the Government is asking that the victim of bad drivers, not the bad drivers themselves, pay more stating that “Drivers will have an option to purchase additional coverage for a higher limit in pain and suffering compensation. The limit will be set at $75,000 and will cost approximately $1,300 a year, on top of the cost of their basic and other optional insurance. Charging for this optional coverage means the customers who stand to benefit from increased coverage will pay for it, rather than every B.C. driver.

You read that right – if you don’t want your rights stripped you need to pay $1,300 more per year, not the distracted and impaired drivers on our roads!

As Yogi Berra said, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!  If the above strikes you as unfair please  contact your MLA and tell the government plainly and clearly ‘no to caps’.

 

Security Guard Run Over By Fleeing Thief Found Not Contributorily Negligent

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing fault for a crash involving an unidentified motorist.

In the recent case (MacKenzie v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was working as a security guard when he noticed a shoplifter.  He pursued the shoplifter to his vehicle.  When confronted the shoplifter ran the plaintiff over and injured him.  The collision was described as follows:

[17]        The plaintiff described what happened.  When the individual was further along the sidewalk, the plaintiff observed him getting into the driver side of a parked vehicle.  The plaintiff approached the vehicle’s passenger side and opened the door, saying “store security”.  He asked for the merchandise back.  The individual responded, “fuck you”, and then put the key in the ignition, started the ignition, and immediately started reversing the vehicle into the parking lot.  

[18]        At that time, the door of the vehicle hit the plaintiff in the chest, causing him to lose his balance.  His feet slid under the passenger-side door.  The plaintiff hung onto the passenger-side door as the individual reversed his vehicle out of the parking spot.  He asked the individual to stop the vehicle but the individual did not do so and then the plaintiff let go.  When he let go, the passenger-side door hit him.  As a consequence, he lost his footing, fell and struck the back of his head on the concrete, at which point he believed his legs went under the vehicle.  The individual continued driving in reverse gear all the way up a ramp where he then spun around and drove away at quick speed, quicker than the speed one would normally go when reversing a vehicle, the plaintiff testified.

[19]        The plaintiff attempted to get up.  However, a bystander said “I am not sure if you realize what just happened to you.  You should probably stay down”.  So he did.  First aid arrived shortly after and then the paramedics.

The shoplifter remained unidentified and the Plaintiff applied for statutory compensation from ICBC for the hit and run collision.

ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was partly at fault for the incident.  The Court disagreed and in finding the Plaintiff acted reasonably in pursuing the thief Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[88]        I find that, in this case, the vehicle had not been started when the plaintiff approached it.  I find that the car key was not in the ignition when the plaintiff opened the vehicle’s passenger-side door and, as such, the plaintiff could not reasonably anticipate carelessness or even the events as they transpired, which involved flagrant and deliberately reckless conduct…

[93]        Consequently, where the defendant’s negligence rises to a level of flagrant and deliberate recklessness, the plaintiff cannot be found to be contributorily negligent, as reprehensible behaviour from a defendant is not reasonably foreseeable. 

[94]        Another aspect of the case before me negating contributory negligence is the fact that the plaintiff was not in violation of his company’s policy, and I cite Lewis v. Todd, [1980] 2 S.C.R. 694 in support.  In Lewis, it was dark out, and an officer wearing a dark uniform was struck by a car and killed while on duty.  The trial judge found no contributory negligence.  On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the officer to be 25% negligent.  However, on further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, that decision was reversed.  At page 700, the Court stated:

The Court of Appeal found that Constable Lewis should not have continued unassisted with his investigation on the road. To do so was negligent. The evidence was, however, that Constable Lewis did not depart from police practice. The trial judge did not misapprehend the evidence, or ignore evidence which would have suggested that police standards required more than one officer at an accident. There was no evidence, then, to support the conclusion that Constable Lewis needed assistance and that he was negligent in not asking for it. …

[95]        Given that there were circumstances which should have alerted other drivers to the presence of police officers on the highway, the court in Lewis held that there was no negligence on the part of the officer, including on the basis that he failed to keep a proper lookout.  

[96]        Here, in like circumstances, the defendant was well aware of the presence of the plaintiff, who asked him to stop, yet chose to ignore him and instead respond with a terse, profane answer and reverse the vehicle.  I find that the plaintiff could not have reasonably foreseen what occurred, that the defendant was flagrant and deliberately reckless, and that the plaintiff is in no way contributorily negligent for the accident which occurred.

$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Chronic Back and Hip Soft Tissue Injuries

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing damages for chronic soft tissue injuries caused by a collision.

In this recent case (De Groot v. Heller) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2012 collision that the Defendant accepted fault for. The crash caused soft tissue injuries to her hip and low back along with an aggravation of a pre-existing arthritic condition.  The symptoms lingered to the time of trial and were expected to negatively impact her moving forward.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:

[125]     In my view, the evidence establishes that it is likely that the Accident aggravated Ms. De Groot’s underlying arthritic condition in her left hip. There is no evidence connecting her prior back complaints with back complaints brought on by the Accident. The lay witnesses called to testify on her behalf each confirmed that she was active in regularly walking her dogs and that she engaged in such activities as hiking, canoeing and horseback riding on the trips she made to the interior. It is also clear on the evidence that, post-Accident, her ability to engage in those activities is limited…

[130]     At the time of the trial, almost five years had passed since the Accident. Ms. De Groot continues to suffer from pain in her lower back and hip, which prevents her from enjoying the activities she enjoyed prior to the Accident, and while she has not missed time from work, she has difficulty sitting for long periods. She has difficulty lifting and carrying her child, and performing heavier household tasks. She and her husband have experienced difficulty with intimacy due to her injuries from the Accident. Ms. De Groot’s prognosis for improvement is uncertain.

[131]     After considering the principles set out in Stapley and the cases referred to by counsel, I award Ms. De Groot $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

BC Court of Appeal – Losing Control on Shoulder of Road is Prima Facie Negligence

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal overturning a trial judgement as being ‘clearly wrong’ and finding that when a motorist loses control on the shoulder of a road a prima facie case of negligence is made out.

In today’s case (Gaebel v. Lipka) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  The Defendant drifted on to the shoulder of the road then “lost control, the vehicle fishtailed, crossed the road to the opposite side, travelled up onto an embankment, launched into the air and rolled over three times before landing.”.

The claim was dismissed at trial with a finding the Defendant was not negligent.  The Court of Appeal overturned this finding and provided the following reasons:

[29]         In my view driving onto the shoulder and losing control of the vehicle gives rise to a prima facie inference of negligence. On this evidence, the only reasonable inference that can be drawn was that Mr. Lipka drove on the shoulder either because of a lack of attention or because he approached the curve too fast, or both.

[30]         Once a prima facie case of negligence is proven, the onus shifts to the defendant to rebut the inference through the defence of explanation. A defence of explanation is an explanation of how the accident may have happened without the defendant’s negligence: Singleton v. Morris, 2010 BCCA 48 at para. 38.

[31]         In this case, Mr. Lipka has advanced no explanation as to how the accident may have occurred absent negligence on his part. The lack of an explanation distinguishes this case from cases such as Singleton and Nason, in which the trial judges found the prima facie case of negligence had been rebutted.

[32]         In the result, I find the respondents are wholly liable for Mr. Gaebel’s damages.

Motorcyclist Not At Fault for Crashing in “Agony of the Moment”

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

The legal principle of “agony of collision” sometimes also called “agony of the moment” gives wide latitude to a Plaintiff who is confronted with a sudden and unexpected hazard on the roadway due to someone else’s negligence.  This principle was in action in reasons for judgement published today by the BC      Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.

In today’s case (Biggar v. Enns) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle and was riding in a staggered fashion behind the Defendant who was also operating a motorcycle.  The Defendant rounded a curve and was out of sight of the plaintiff.  During this time the Defendant took his eyes off the road and drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic.   He crossed back over the centre line and re-entered his intended lane of travel roughly perpendicular to the proper direction of travel.

At this moment the plaintiff rounded the corner, saw the Defendant in his lane and braked hard losing control of his bike and crashing.

The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was partly at fault as a more prudent motorist could have avoided the hazard he posed.  The Court disagreed and in doing so relied on the agony of collision principle finding the Defendant fully at fault.  Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[50]         In my view, the phrase “agony of the moment” aptly describes the plaintiff’s situation. The plaintiff’s first reaction was to avoid colliding with the defendant, or an oncoming vehicle.  Therefore, it was a reasonable course of action for him to brake hard which caused his bike to fall and slide. The defendant agreed that in order to avoid hitting him, the plaintiff had to brake hard, and that made the plaintiff’s bike fall.

[51]         In my view the evidence is clear that the plaintiff was riding in a prudent and careful manner. There is no evidence that his speed was inappropriate for the conditions of the road or any other circumstance.

[52]          As noted earlier, I do not accept the defendant’s argument that once he lost sight of the defendant in front of him, the plaintiff should have slowed down more than he did. Also, I have already concluded the plaintiff was driving at an appropriate rate of speed, and that he had already slowed down.

[53]         Drivers are entitled to assume that other people will be driving in a prudent and safe manner. In Bern v. Jung, 2010 BCSC 730 the plaintiff lost control of a bicycle because of a sudden and unexpected presence of the defendant’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction. The Court noted, at paras. 13-14, that the plaintiff was forced to act quickly and apply his brakes quickly and that he should not be found contributorily negligent for doing so.

[54]         In this case the plaintiff was entitled to assume that his friend had negotiated the curve safely; coming upon the defendant situated in front of him and perpendicular to his line of traffic was unexpected and sudden. The plaintiff cannot be blamed for doing what I find to be the only reasonable thing he could do to avoid a more serious accident: applying his brakes hard. I conclude it was the defendant’s string of actions (looking to the canyon, and trying to get back in position instead of waiting on the shoulder) that caused the accident.

[55]         For all those reasons, I find the defendant 100% liable for the accident.

$100,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Adding to this site’s archived damage assessments for thoracic outlet syndrome, reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for such an injury.

In today’s case (Sharma v. MacDonald) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2013 collision that the Defendant accepted fault for.  The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries the most serious of which was thoracic outlet syndrome.  The symptoms lingered to trial and were expected to cause some ongoing limitations.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $100,000 Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[198]     …I find that the defendants are responsible for the plaintiff’s neck, back, and arm issues.  In my view, the plaintiff has established on a balance of probabilities that she suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome, as concluded by Dr. Hawkeswood, and that this injury was caused by the defendants’ negligence.

[199]     With respect to anxiety, I accept that the plaintiff suffers from anxiety in relation to driving…

[203]     Regarding non-pecuniary damages, I find that the plaintiff enjoyed a full life before the Accident and had no issues with respect to her neck and back.  Nor did she have a tingling feeling in her arm or numbness of her right arm.

[204]     I find that, as she testified, the plaintiff did not have to rest after having performed her regular activities. I also find that she did not experience headaches or low mood symptoms prior to the Accident.

[205]     I do find, however, that the plaintiff has been steadily improving.  I note that she enjoys playing basketball.  I note that she now works without significant limitations.  I note that she has gone back to a number of her pre-Accident activities.  She is not as socially isolated now that she has returned home from Edmonton.

[206]     I accept that the plaintiff still suffers from numbness and tingling feelings in her right arm, and from some neck and back pain.  However, the pain she has now is not like the pain immediately following the Accident.  The plaintiff is able to work to the extent she testified to.  While I appreciate that she must rest afterward, she is not disabled from working.

[217]     In all of the circumstances, I award the plaintiff $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

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