As a personal injury lawyer in British Columbia I am often asked, “How much is my ICBC car accident injury worth?” by clients and potential clients. Many car accident injury claims involve damages to the muscles and ligaments (soft tissue) in the neck which is commonly referred to as Whiplash. For the purpose of injury compensation and payment of treatment costs, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, ICBC, has adopted a classification system for what they call Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). This disorder is broken down into:
- Grade 0: no neck pain, stiffness, or any physical signs are noticed;
- Grade 1: neck complaints of pain, stiffness or tenderness only but no physical signs are noted by the examining physician;
- Grade 2: neck complaints and the examining physician finds decreased range of motion and point tenderness in the neck;
- Grade 3: neck complaints plus neurological signs such as decreased deep tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits;and
- Grade 4: neck complaints and fracture or dislocation, or injury to the spinal cord.
ICBC and other insurance companies tend to have a “meat chart” for injuries depending on the serverity, frequency and duration of the injury. These assessment charts are not reflective of what compensation a claimant can get in court but will often reflect what injury claimants might agree to accept without the benefit of a lawyer. There is no injury chart in British Columbia that injury claimants can look at to determine what their cases are worth and lawyers are required to research the law to find comparable cases to present to the court.
In the personal injury infant case, Hahn v. Barnes, 2012 BCSC 724, the injury claimant was awarded $40,000.00 for pain and suffering. The claimant was young and had a long standing neck and back injury. However, the claimant’s injuries were not severe or disabling and the court had no evidence that the injuries caused the claimant any emotional suffering. This case did examine the factors that the court considers when deciding how much a claimant should get for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
The judge in the Hahn case referred to the decision of Collyer v. Boon, 2008 BCSC 1745, wherein Madam Justice L. Russell, at para. 105, stated the following:
There are a number of factors that courts must take into account when assessing this type of claim [for pain and suffering]. The majority judgment in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34, 263 D.L.R. (4th) 19, outlines a number of factors to consider, at para. 46:
The inexhaustive list of common factors cited in Boyd [Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146] that influence an award of non-pecuniary damages[ compensation for pain and suffering] includes:
(a) age of the plaintiff;
(b) nature of the injury;
(c) severity and duration of pain;
(e) emotional suffering; and
(f) loss or impairment of life;
I would add the following factors, although they may arguably be subsumed in the above list:
(g) impairment of family, marital and social relationships;
(h) impairment of physical and mental abilities;
(i) loss of lifestyle; and
(j) the plaintiff’s stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the plaintiff: Giang v. Clayton,  B.C.J. No. 163, 2005 BCCA 54).
Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.