In Reely v. Zhu 2020 BCSC 1520, the injured claimant suffering numerous injuries in a motor vehicle accident when her vehicle was struck by the defendant who ran a red light.
The injured claimant was 29 years-old at the time of the motor vehicle accident and she was 34 years-old at the time of trial. She was employed as a care aid at a group home. Prior to the motor vehicle accident, she was in good health with no physical problems. She was fully capable of performing her job duties as a care aid including a number of physically demanding tasks. Her future plan was to qualify as a licensed practical nurse and eventually as a registered nurse.
In the months that followed the motor vehicle accident, she had persistent, debilitating soft tissue injuries to her lower back, left shoulder, and neck that persisted to the time of trial. The medical experts were of the opinion that her injuries were permanent and expected to continue indefinitely into the future. Her injuries also had a significant impact on her ability to sleep and contributed to chronic sleeplessness. While she recovered her ability to get to sleep since the motor vehicle accident with the help of medication, she continued to battle sleeplessness. On average, she sleeps a total of 4-5 hours a night, as compared to 7-8 hours before the motor vehicle accident.
To treat her chronic pain, the injured claimant had received hundreds of hours of physiotherapy, massage therapy and exercise therapy. She also undertook a program of spine education with a qualified therapist. The results were positive in that this treatment helped to improve her pain levels. Despite this, it was agreed that her pain would continue indefinitely. Her injuries collectively impacted her ability to return to work as a care aide or any work presenting similar physical demands in the future including nursing which she had wished to pursue previously. Her injuries also impacted her life outside of work. They limited her ability to play with her young daughter and no longer engaged in physically vigorous recreational activities that she enjoyed previously.
For pain and suffering (also known as non-pecuniary damages), the trial judge awarded $100,000.00. The following factors were noted by the trial judge to be significant in the assessment of this award:
a) The presence of chronic pain that is now a feature of the injured claimant’s life, and is unlikely to abate much further;
b) Her relatively young age; she is likely to continue to experience the effects of the accident for a long time to come;
c) The loss of work the injured claimant enjoyed as a care aide and her hopes for a career in nursing;
d) She is injured, but not completely disabled as she can still work in less physically demanding professions;
e) Disruption to her enjoyment of her time with her daughter and her relationship with her daughter;
f) Likely loss of the prospect of having further children;
g) Loss of recreational opportunities formerly open to the injured claimant and a relatively relaxed lifestyle as a young parent; and
h) The absence of sustained psychological injuries.
To review other cases and pain and suffering awards made to injured claimants, see our previous blog posts on ICBC Settlement Amounts.