As discussed in several prior blog posts, damages for pain and suffering for ICBC cases, known as non-pecuniary damages, compensate injured claimants for the pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities experienced as a result of the defendant’s negligence to the date of trial and into the future. The amount awarded is based on similar and comparable cases that proceeded to trial. As no 2 cases are identical, these comparable cases are used as a guide to identify a range of damages appropriate to the injured claimant’s circumstances.
A number of factors are considered when assessing pain and suffering awards including the age of the injured claimant, the nature of the injuries, severity and duration of pain, disability, emotional suffering and impairment.
In Dhanji v. Contorines 2021 BCSC 2457, the 32 year-old female injured claimant suffered multiple physical and psychological injuries in a motor vehicle accident. In particular, the trial judge concluded on the evidence that the accident caused soft tissue injuries to the shoulders, upper back and neck along with associated headaches. The trial judge also found that it caused the injured claimant to suffer from a moderate persistent somatic symptom disorder which was considered her primary and most profound injury. Somatic symptom disorder affects the degree of physical pain perceived and experienced and includes the following criteria from the DSM-5 which is a standard classification of psychological disorders:
A. One or more somatic symptoms that are distressing or result in significant disruption of daily life.
B. Excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to the somatic symptoms or associated health concerns as manifested by at least one of the following:
1. Disproportionate and persistent thoughts about the seriousness of one’s symptoms.
2. Persistently high level of anxiety about health or symptoms.
3. Excessive time and energy devoted to these symptoms or health concerns.
C. Although any one somatic symptom may not be continuously present, the state of being symptomatic is persistent (typically more than 6 months).
The psychiatrist expert specifically opined that prognosis was guarded. Even with appropriate treatment, full recovery is unlikely. Non-pecuniary damages were assessed at $120,000.00.