In Henderson v. Gettle 2021 BCSC 84, the injured claimant suffered severe injuries in a 2015 boating accident.  At the time, he was visiting his family in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia.  On the evening of the accident, the injured claimant, his father and stepmother set out in his father’s 17-foot powerboat to meet other family members for dinner and to watch the fireworks on the water.  When the fireworks ended, all of the boats began to leave the inlet through a narrow opening.  The weather was calm.  It was dark and visibility was poor.  Most boaters were moving slowly.  Suddenly, the injured claimant heard a roar of an engine from behind his boat.  When he turned around to see what was happening, he saw another boat approaching at high speed.  Witnesses described the other boat as revving its engine and “gunning it”.  Numerous boaters in the area yelled at the boat to slow down.

The injured claimant did not have any time to react before the rear of his boat was struck at high speed.  He recalled waking up on the floor of his boat on top of his father’s body.  His step-mother positioned partially across the engine well with her head hanging over the back of the boat. In an effort to save her, he crawled over his father to try to pull her back into the boat.  A rescue boat arrived and transported the injured claimant, his father and his stepmother to shore.  He was then transported to Vancouver General Hospital.

The defendant driver of the boat was charged and convicted criminally for criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous operation of a motor vessel (R. v. Gettle 2018 BCSC 1221).

The injured claimant suffered numerous severe injuries including:

  • transverse fractures to the low back
  • endplate fracture to the mid back
  • rib fractures
  • soft tissue injuries to the chest and abdominal bruising
  • anxiety disorder
  • major depressive disorder
  • cognitive disorder

At the time of trial, the injured claimant continued to experience constant pain in his mid/low back along his spine which radiates outwards into other parts of his body. Activities such as driving, standing or anything in prolonged postures aggravates his pain, forcing him to change position or cease activity altogether. In addition to the fractures sustained in the accident, he has been diagnosed with myofascial pain in his back as a result of the accident.  He also suffered from cognitive and neurological symptoms such as an inability to concentrate, short memory loss and difficulty with multi-tasking.

The experts opined that the injured claimant’s injuries were permanent with very little, if any, improvement expected into the future.

At the time of the boating accident, the injured claimant was a decorated RCMP member who received multiple awards for his exemplary service.  He was totally disabled from work for approximately 8 months returning on a graduated basis.  At the time of the trial, he was working part-time due to his injuries and his position was heavily accommodated.  In fact, it was accepted by the trial judge that the significant accommodations to his employment would not last indefinitely.  The claim for wage loss took into consideration that he would have retired a year after the boating accident after 30 years of service  following by work as a non-RCMP consultant until retirement at age 70.

The trial judge awarded approximately $2,000,000.00 in damages to the injured claimant whose life was severely and permanently impacted in all respects as a result of his injuries:

  • Special damages:                                 $     58,558
  • Non-pecuniary damages:                      $   240,000
  • Past income loss:                                  $     98,889
  • Future income loss:                               $1,225,100
  • Cost of future care:                                $   160,581
  • RCMP subrogated interest:                   $     81,202
  • Health Care Costs Recovery Act:          $     24,004
  • Pension loss:                                         $   202,000
  • TOTAL:                                                  $2,090,334

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