23 Nov Addicted to Narcotics Following a Motor Vehicle Collision

Sometimes people are in so much pain following a car accident that their doctor prescribes narcotic analgesics.  Most people are able to wean themselves off the medication once their symptoms improve.  What happens if a person becomes addicted to the medication or moves on to illegal drugs after the accident?

The Court deal with this issue in Picco v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2015 BCSC 1904.  In that case, the Plaintiff made a claim for injuries after a motor vehicle collision with a police vehicle.  The Plaintiff argued that he was prescribed narcotic analgesics by his doctors following the collision.   He claimed that this lead to his addiction to heroin.  At the time of the trial, he was in a methadone treatment program.

Based on expert evidence, the Court accepted that some chronic pain patients may transition from narcotic analgesics to heroin, because they both reduce pain symptoms.  However, in this case the Court found that the collision was not the sole cause of the Plaintiff’s addiction.  The Court noted that the Plaintiff had a history of drug abuse and use of narcotic analgesics before the collision.

When assessing the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering, the Court awarded him an additional $10,000 because of the post-collision heroin addiction.   The Court explained this increased amount was moderate because there was a “real and substantial chance that the plaintiff would have overcome his addiction, though remain vulnerable to it” regardless of the collision.


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