11 Aug Addiction to Pain Medication Following A Motor Vehicle Accident

It is well known that if a Defendant injures a Plaintiff, the Defendant must compensate the Plaintiff for the harm that was caused. But what if the Plaintiff requires prescription medication to manage the pain caused by the injury, and over time becomes addicted to the pain medication.  Is the Defendant responsible for the Plaintiff’s addiction or is it the Plaintiff’s own responsibility?

This issue was litigated in the case of Smith v. Wind, 2017 BCSC 342.  The Court concluded that a Defendant will be responsible for all the harm that they caused, including a prescription pain addiction, if it can be shown that the Plaintiff would not have developed the addiction if they hadn’t been in the accident.


Prior to the accident, the Plaintiff had been addicted to heroin and other drugs at points in his life. He had been to detox and received counselling, and at the time of the accident he was sober.  He was working as a handyman and property manager.

When the Plaintiff was rear-ended in this motor vehicle accident, he sustained injuries to his right shoulder and neck.  He was prescribed Oxycodone, became addicted and had to go through a painful weaning off period. Several years after the accident, the Plaintiff’s pain increased to the point where he began purchasing Oxycodone illegally off the internet.

The Plaintiff’s wife testified that his pain and dependence on Oxycodone caused him to become more irritable, which was damaging their relationship. She further stated that when his doctors tried to taper him off Oxycodone the Plaintiff experienced intense pain, panic and anxiety attacks.

The Defence argued that the Plaintiff was suffering from a knee injury and a reflux condition prior to the motor vehicle accident, and it was these ailments which led him to get a prescription for Oxycodone and become addicted. The Defence further argued that the Plaintiff would have become addicted to Oxycodone even if the accident hadn’t occurred.

The Court held that based on the opinions of the Plaintiff’s physicians it was apparent that “although his substance dependence disorder may have been “smouldering” prior to the collision, it was ignited after the collision.”

While the Plaintiff’s knee and reflux disease were factors in his being prescribed Oxycodone, the Court held that the shoulder injury the Plaintiff sustained in the accident was the catalyst for his addiction to Oxycodone and therefore the Defendant was liable.

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