29 Mar Plaintiff has Severe Psychological Reaction to Accident

Some individuals will experience a much more extreme reaction to a motor vehicle accident than would the average person. How do the courts handle these individuals?

In the case of Pololos v. Cinnamon-Lopez, 2016 BCSC 81, a construction worker was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. He suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, lower back and mid back, as well as pain in his shoulder, arms, tailbone and abdominal area.  However, the most significant disability the Plaintiff suffered was a psychological reaction caused by the cumulative effect of all his physical injuries. This psychological reaction caused him to believe he was more physically disabled then he actually was.

Psychiatrists called by both the Plaintiff and the Defendant at trial agreed that there is a relationship between physical pain, a lack of sleep, financial stress and isolation that can lead to a “downward spiral”.  All individuals are hardwired differently and respond to physical pain differently.

The Court found that as a result of the accident the Plaintiff had developed an inaccurate perception of his own abilities, where he believed he was no longer capable of working because he suffered from an extreme disability. The medical evidence did not support his perception.

ICBC accused the Plaintiff of failing to mitigate his losses by refusing to return to work. They suggested that if the Plaintiff had returned to work it would have relieved his financial stress and social isolation, thereby allowing him to recover from his mental deterioration.

The Court did not agree with ICBC.  The Judge stated that ICBC could not assume the Plaintiff’s exaggerated perception of disability was of his own making or within his control. It was the inherent makeup of the Plaintiff that caused him to experience a higher than average reaction to his injuries. Even though the Plaintiff’s false assessment of his disability caused him to withdraw from the workforce, leading to further financial stress and deterioration, the Plaintiff’s actions were a function of his disability, which was ultimately caused by the Defendant.

The Judge explained that the legal term for the Plaintiff’s severe reaction is known as the “Thin Skull” principle. This legal principle applies in cases where the Plaintiff is particularly vulnerable or more fragile than the norm.  The Defendant must compensate the Plaintiff for all the damages he caused, even if the damages are more extreme than what the average person would experience.

The Court found that the Plaintiff had no pre-existing psychological disability, and that if it hadn’t been for the accident the Plaintiff would likely had gone the rest of his life without experiencing this type of psychological disability. The fact that the Plaintiff had a more serious reaction to his injuries than the average person did not relieve the Defendant from compensating the Plaintiff.

At Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota, we work hard to protect the rights of those vulnerable individuals who have been injured.