Costs of Future Care set aside

Although the claimant’s injuries were exacerbated as a result of  chiropractic treatment this did not break  the chain of causation. “The chain of causation will be broken where an intervening event, rather than the defendants’ conduct, is considered the proximate or legal cause of the subsequent injury.  This principle, known as novus actus interveniens, recognizes that defendants should not be held liable for objectively unforeseen consequences of their actions”. As the judge points out:

[101]  The question of whether an intervening event breaks the chain of causation is a question of fact and it may depend on whether the plaintiff acted unreasonably: Hussack.  As stated by Madam Justice Bennett in Hussack at para. 82:

In essence, the decisions say that if an injured party acts unreasonably and causes him or herself further injury, the tortfeasor is not responsible for injuries suffered as a result of the second injury.

It was not unreasonable for the claimant to attend chiropractic treatment. The family doctor recommended that she attend because of the injuries she suffered in the accident.  The chiropractic treatment was another event that contributed, for some time, to an exacerbation of her pre-existing symptoms but that further exacerbation cannot be viewed as an unforeseen consequence of the defendants’ negligence.  To the contrary, any injury the claimant suffered as a result of the chiropractic treatment was itself caused in part by the accident and was indivisible from the injuries she suffered in the accident.  Accordingly, the defendants remained liable, regardless of the contribution of another cause: Athey at paras. 24-25.

This ICBC injury claimant sought a money award from a four-vehicle car accident when she was stopped at a red light behind other stationary vehicles. Liability was not in issue but the Court found that the claimant had tried to mislead the court and awarded her significantly reduced damages. Although the judge did not reduce the award due to a subsequent chiropractic injury, she found significant problems with the claim generally ( Dorsey v. Bhindi,2016 BCSC 499).

The claimant’s testimony at trial understated the severity of the injuries she suffered in a slip at work and the work stress she was experiencing and exaggerated the impact of the accident on her physical condition and her ability to work. The Judge was left with a general concern that her testimony was motivated more by her “interest in the outcome of this case than the desire to be candid”.  Accordingly, the Court gave no weight to the claimant’s testimony unless it was corroborated by independent evidence.

As to the value of the personal injury case, prior awards of damages in other injury cases provide a guideline but each case turns on its own facts. the Judge found that the accident caused a temporary and relatively minor exacerbation of the claimant’s pre-existing neck and back symptoms that gradually improved over about 18 months.  The exacerbation was not so significant as to materially interfere with her ability to work.  There was very little evidence of any material impairment of her physical abilities or significant loss of lifestyle.  The judge awarded damages at $25,000 for pain and suffering.

Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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