23 Jan Disabled Person Suffers Loss of Lifestyle After Motor Vehicle Accident
If you are already disabled and subsequently injured in a motor vehicle accident, how does this affect your personal injury settlement?
The BC Supreme Court had to deal with this issue in the case of Ramchuk v. Wagar, 2016 BCSC 2342. The Plaintiff was rear-ended on the Island Highway. He was 51 years old at the time of the collision and had been on an Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) pension for approximately eleven years. He started receiving the pension after sustaining significant back injuries after falling from a roof while working as a sheet metal worker. Over the years, the Plaintiff was able to manage the pain from the workplace injury by employing postures and strategies he adopted when the pain became disabling.
These back injuries put him at an increased risk for further injury. Following the collision, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with an aggravation of the chronic lumbar spine pain sustained in the workplace accident, chronic whiplash and aggravation of cervical spondylosis.
The Court had to determine how much of the loss of function the Plaintiff sustained was due to the collision, rather than to the previous workplace injury. It also had to determine the impact the collision-related injuries had on the Plaintiff’s quality of life.
The Court considered how significant a loss of lifestyle was to the injured Plaintiff. The Court concluded that the Plaintiff’s ability to enjoy what he had been able to incorporate into his life prior to the collision had been diminished significantly. His prior activities centred on his rural property and vacation home in Mexico. This provided an enjoyable lifestyle notwithstanding his previous level of disability and his ability to pursue the activities associated with this lifestyle has suffered a significant loss as a result of the collision.
The enhanced level of pain and discomfort resulting from the injuries sustained in the collision has significantly affected the Plaintiff’s ability to live as he had before the collision. He became less mobile and more dependent on his cane. He was forced to move into his basement, where everything was on one level. He was no longer able to split firewood. His ability and desire to get out and socialize diminished and he rarely met with friends or had people over following these injuries. He could no longer walk the paths around his property as he had before and only rode his motorcycle infrequently. The Plaintiff became more dependent on his son, who would help with the home improvements and the yard work that he could no longer perform. He could no longer participate as a baseball umpire and had to sell his interest in a vacation home.
The Court noted that the loss of function for a disabled individual can have a magnified effect. The Plaintiff had been transformed from a generally positive, outgoing, and confident person into one who was reclusive, who suffered from consistent depression of significant severity, and who was without energy. The Court considered it noteworthy that notwithstanding the significant challenges the Plaintiff had faced since childhood, he had always persevered and by virtue of his determination improved his state. Since the collision, that was no longer true.
Based on the particular circumstances of this case, the Court accepted that the loss of lifestyle was significant. The Plaintiff was awarded non-pecuniary general damages in the sum of $100,000 and $93,368 for future care costs.