As we have reviewed in prior blog posts, there are different types of damages that can be claimed if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident. This, of course, depends on the type of injuries you suffer and the impact those injuries have on your life. In other words, it is very fact specific.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident that was not your fault, then the most common type of damage award is for pain and suffering. This type of compensation is referred to as non-pecuniary damages. It takes into consideration the type of injury you suffered, the length of recovery (if you fully recover), the permanency of your injuries (if you are not expected to fully recover) and the impact your injuries have had collectively on your enjoyment of life. A list of factors considered include:
- Nature of the injury or injuries
- Severity and duration of the pain
- Disability from employment or from participating in social and recreational activities
- Emotional suffering
- Loss or impairment of life
- Impairment of family, marital and social relationships
- Impairment of physical and mental abilities
- Loss of lifestyle
To determine what an ICBC claim is worth, judges, ICBC and lawyers look to trial awards made in cases involving the similar injuries and circumstances for guidance to identify a range.
In Pham v. Lee 2021 BCSC 1254, the 28 year-old female claimant was injured in 2 motor vehicle accidents. According to the medical experts, she suffered the following injuries:
- Soft tissue injuries to the neck, shoulder and mid back – the medical expert categorized the injured claimant’s pain as mild to moderate pain. The evidence at trial indicated that this pain had been a persistent, if not constant, irritation since each of the accidents that is continuously re-aggravated by the nature of her work as a registered nurse
- Gastro-intestinal pain brought on by regular reliance on ibuprofen
- Soft tissue injury to the low back which had largely resolved by trial
- Disturbed sleep
- Driving anxiety
The injured claimant was very diligent with her rehabilitation. Based on the evidence, the trial judge concluded that she achieved significant recovery by August 2019 when she reduced her workload as a registered nurse. Since then, her injuries have continued and were continuously aggravated by her job duties even with a reduced schedule. The medical expert was of the opinion that there was optimism for more improvement in the future. However, the medical expert opined that her injuries would continue to impact her at work especially if she were required to work full-time.
The following cases involving registered nurses with similar soft tissue injuries were presented to the judge to consider:
a) Moon v. Yaranon, 2021 BCSC 818, where a 30 year old nurse working full-time at St. Pauls was awarded $100,000 for non-pecuniary damages. As a consequence of the collision, she attempted different nursing roles, but ultimately had to give up active nursing and became a nursing teacher. Ms. Moon’s injuries had also lessened her performance and enjoyment of athletic activities which were a central part of her life.
b) Mattson v. Spady, 2019 BCSC 1144, where a 30 year old kinesiologist was awarded $150,000 in non-pecuniary damages. Ms. Mattson was forced to change careers as the consequence of the injuries she sustained in the collision. Ms. Mattson’s prognosis was guarded and her injuries restricted her day-to-day activities.
c) Briggs v. Guliker, 2019 BCSC 1441, where a 55 year old nurse was awarded $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages. She experienced a significant impact on both her ability to perform her regular work and home duties. The impact of the injuries on her social and family life was also found to be significant.
d) Chapman v. Zilm, 2020 BCSC 695, in which a 33 year-old plaintiff was in a minor car accident, and experienced a continuing complaint at trial of mild to moderate neck pain. The plaintiff had not fully recovered in the three years post-accident and it was likely that symptoms would persist indefinitely. The plaintiff was able to continue with pre-accident recreational activities though with some decrease in intensity. The plaintiff was awarded $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
e) In Carleton v. Warner, 2021 BCSC 253, the plaintiff was a 35-year-old passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended. The plaintiff was active in sports and travel prior to the accident. The plaintiff was able to travel to Europe following the accident. In terms of employment, the plaintiff worked as a kitchen designer, transitioned to another profession and then resumed working as a kitchen designer on a part-time basis. The plaintiff suffered from myofascial pain in her shoulder, upper back that was chronic but mild, and required only occasional Advil to deal with her pain. The plaintiff was less active and socialized less due to her pain. The plaintiff was youthful with ongoing physical discomfort that diminished her recreational activities and enjoyment of travel. The plaintiff was awarded $55,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
f) In Findlay v. Sun, 2020 BCSC 1330, the plaintiff was 31 years old. The plaintiff was working, but also taking courses at college with the long-term goal of becoming a registered nurse. The plaintiff was very active prior to the accident, and she travelled extensively. The plaintiff suffered bruising to both of her knees, chest and right wrist, as well as soft-tissue injuries to her neck and upper back as result of accident. The plaintiff continued to suffer from neck and back pain as result of accident. While the plaintiff made considerable recovery from injuries that she sustained in accident, she had not and would not fully return to her pre-accident condition. The plaintiff would continue to experience flare-ups of her neck and back pain after exerting herself, and she would avoid certain activities that pre-disposed her to such flare-ups. The plaintiff was awarded non-pecuniary damages of $55,000.
g) In Poulin v. Armstrong, 2019 BCSC 926, the plaintiff was a 14-year-old passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a collision. She was 20 years old at the time of the trial. The plaintiff suffered from chronic upper back, neck pain and headaches. The plaintiff was physically active and high achiever academically. The plaintiff was completing university in kinesiology and planned to pursue a Master’s degree in physiotherapy. The plaintiff continued with her recreational activities but her involvement with dance and competitive swimming was negatively impacted. The plaintiff’s injuries caused substantial functional incapacity to any sustained activity beyond moderate range of physical intensity. The plaintiff was awarded $65,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
h) In Johal v. Bhullar, 2021 BCSC 427, the plaintiff was 28 years old at trial. She was involved in two motor vehicle accidents. She had a longstanding goal to become a police officer with the Vancouver Police Department. She was physically active and fit prior to the collisions. The court found that the plaintiff suffered mild soft tissue injury to her neck, shoulder, and lower back areas, which had resolved. The plaintiff was awarded $25,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
Navigating ICBC’s system is difficult. Understanding your rights, knowing how to prove your claim and identifying the amount of compensation is even more difficult. It is always advisable to speak to a personal injury lawyer who has the expertise to advocate on your behalf and even the playing field with ICBC. Contact us for a free initial consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.