$75,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment For Chronic Mechanical Neck Pain

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

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing damages for a chronic neck injury caused by a motor vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Renaerts v. Renaerts) the 24 year old Plaintiff was injured as a passenger in a 2009 collision.  She sustained a variety of injuries that made a quick recovery but also sustained a neck injury which remained symptomatic to the time of trial and had a generally guarded prognosis.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 Mr. Justice Brown provided the following reasons:

[215]     Given accepted evidence as a whole, I agree with Mr. Shew that rehabilitation should focus on healthy activity, core strengthening, and a guided exercise program. I do not see this form of therapy requires only one assessment, off you go, and good luck to you. A kinesiologist and properly trained fitness instructor would encourage the plaintiff to expand her functioning and strength within safe medical limits and increase her confidence. Further, the plaintiff would benefit from instruction from her family physician, at no cost, on how to make the most effective choice and use of pain medication. The plaintiff had consumed six to eight pills a day…

[218]     In summary, while the plaintiff’s symptoms and limitations are likely to be permanent, and the general tenor of the opinions on prognosis is at best guarded, there are also reasonable grounds to expect that through strengthening exercises, increased activity, and appropriate use of the treatment modalities and the program just outlined, the plaintiff’s symptoms and level of functioning could see some improvement on a more sustained basis…

[241]     Chronic mechanical back pain is her only really significant injury, as the others cleared up within a couple of months or so of the accident. The record shows that she made some improvement with chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy, but I agree with those medical opinions that have opined the emphasis should be on strengthening, fitness and suitable activities. I do not see chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy and the assistance of a kinesiologist and fitness instructor as the means of a cure, rather, as the means of helping her progress, and through strengthening, building self-confidence, be better able to cope with her limitations and reduce them, to some degree. This is not a case where the plaintiff has had to give up on her recreational activities. She is capable of independent living, albeit, she will require some limited assistance with housekeeping, such as annual cleaning. I have made some allowance for loss of homemaking capacity; but in my view, considering the nature of her homemaking limitations, $5000 is a reasonable representation of her loss in that area.

[242]     The plaintiff has sought to get on with her life to the best of her ability, with the encouragement of her friends, who amply attest to her limitations and the pain and limitations she has experienced. It is important to note that the plaintiff sustained these injuries at a time when she was somewhat vulnerable, not living at home, supporting herself and having to manage what was a fairly complex life and difficult set of responsibilities.

[243]     I award the plaintiff $75,000 for non-pecuniary damages, inclusive of loss of homemaking capacity.

Court Finds ICBC Under No Legal Duty To Inform An Insured Of Hit And Run Claim Obligations

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

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dismissing a claim for damages following a hit and run collision.

In today’s case (Li v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2010 rear end collision.  After speaking with the at fault motorist the parties agreed to pull over and exchange information. The Defendant fled the scene.  The Plaintiff claimed damages directly from ICBC pursuant to s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

At trial her claim was dismissed with the Court finding she did not take all reasonable steps after the collision to identify the at-fault motorist.  The Plaintiff argued ICBC could not rely on this defense as they had failed to advise her of her investigative obligations after promptly reporting the claim to ICBC.  Mr. Justice Armstrong rejected this argument finding ICBC has no duty to tell their own insured customers of their obbligatos in order to successfully claim damages caused by unidentified motorists.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[119]     The plaintiff contends that ICBC’s failure to notify the plaintiff of her obligations to take steps to identify the owner/driver as a precondition to obtaining judgment should be interpreted as waiving their right to rely on that defence. The claimant relied on Dunn where Chiasson J.A. described the two elements of a waiver claim:

[45]      As the trial judge recognized, the elements of waiver are “that the party waiving had (1) a full knowledge of rights; and (2) an unequivocal and conscious intention to abandon them”:Saskatchewan River Bungalows at 499.

[120]     The plaintiff argues that while ICBC does not have a legal or statutory obligation, it has an equitable obligation to inform its insureds of their obligations and consequences following an accident caused by an unidentified motorist’s negligence or to obviate the possibility of the claimant assuming that ICBC has accepted the claim without the need to take further steps.

[121]     Victims of unidentified motorists who do not take steps required under s. 24(5) lose access to the $200,000 fund designed to compensate the innocent victim. The plaintiff contends that claimants face serious losses when claims are defeated because they failed to take “efforts sufficient to satisfy section 24(5) (that) could have been easily and inexpensively satisfied”.

[122]     Typically claimants fail to take steps to identify the negligent driver in the expectation that ICBC is administering and adjusting their claim and will not act to their prejudice. This includes an expectation that ICBC will bring s. 24(5) to their attention. In this case there was no evidence of what expectations the plaintiff held concerning ICBC’s role.

[123]     The plaintiff argues that ICBC is overwhelmingly in the best position to inform their insureds on the process, and when they fail to do so they knowingly allow the injured claimant to fall into the trap that is s. 24(5).

[124]     Nevertheless, the evidence in this case does not satisfy me that in its administrative processing of this hit-and-run claim ICBC consciously abandoned its rights when staff discussed the plaintiff’s claim with her. I conclude that ICBC’s decision or practice of withholding information concerning s. 24(5) of the Act while at the same time addressing Ms. Li’s claim could not operate as a waiver of their right to rely on the provisions of s. 24(5) to obtain judgment.

[125]     Nothing in the evidence satisfied me that ICBC had considered the plaintiff’s claim and “unequivocally and consciously” elected to abandon its protection under s. 24(5). Further, if a hit and run claim proceeds to trial, ss. (5) is not a section of the Act that could be waived by ICBC; the section prevents the court granting judgment unless satisfied that the claimant has met the obligation under ss. (5). Although I do not decide the point, it seems to me nothing would prevent the parties from making admissions of facts necessary to prove compliance with the subsection; judgment could then be granted.

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