In this post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) personal injury case the Claimant was driving along Como Lake Road in Coquitlam when a van hit into the side of his vehicle. The other driver admitted liability, but disputed that the car accident induced PTSD in the claimant (Kim v. Khaw,2014 BCSC 2221). In many ICBC injury claims the insurance company will offer a very low amount to compensate for PTSD and other emotional injuries. In this case $45,000-$60,000 was suggested by the Defendant and $130,000 was awarded for the reasons that follow.
The Psychiatrist’s opinion was that the Claimant fully met the DMS-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD and the car accident caused the PTSD. Dr. Lu reported that the Claimant’s “persistent anxiety, fear and feelings of helplessness” and “[h]is inappropriate guilty and suicidal ideation” were clinical markers of moderately severe psychiatric illness, in this case, moderately severe PTSD. According to the Judge, The severity of his PTSD was demonstrated by his “persistent psychological and physiological reactivity and anxiety in response to the accident and its psychological impacts” and the fact that “recollection of the accident continues to lead to psychological and physiological reactivities characterized by anxiety, fear and mental anguish”
Judge Sharma explains the purpose of an award for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life in this way:
The purpose of non-pecuniary damages is to “ameliorate the condition of the [plaintiff] considering his or her particular situation”; because “no two situations are identical”, the court must consider and address the specific circumstances of the plaintiff’s case: Schubert v. Knorr, 2008 BCSC 939, as cited in Morena v. Dhillon, 2014 BCSC 141 at para. 127. That consideration takes into account a number of factors which I paraphrase here from the summary in Stapley v. Hejslet, 2006 BCCA 34 at para. 46, leave to appeal ref’d  S.C.C.A. No. 100 (which relies on and adds to Boyd v. Harris, 2004 BCCA 146 at para. 42): the plaintiff’s age; the nature of the injuries, including the severity and duration of any pain; the degree of the impairment of physical and mental ability and/or disability; emotional suffering; loss or impairment of life or lifestyle; impairment of family, marital and social relationships; and the plaintiff’s stoicism (in the sense that it should not be held against the plaintiff)-Paragraph 119.
In awarding $130,000 for pain and suffering the Court explained that the Claimant suffered both physical and psychological injuries; his psychological injuries disabled him from being able to pursue employment for a year after the car accident and had a profoundly negative impact on his family life; he continued to suffer emotionally; and he was unable to participate in recreational activities with his family to the same extent as before the Accident, which diminishes his enjoyment of life. His physical injuries were not severe; his pain dissipated over time and was not debilitating at the time of trial; there was no permanent physical injury found; and he is able to earn money through business.
In many ICBC claims and other personal injury cases there needs to be a more realistic evaluation of pain and suffering when the injury involves psychiatric injury, as set out in this case.