26 Nov Mental Health Issues Arising from Motor Vehicle Accident

In Evans v. Keill, 2018 BCSC 1651, the Plaintiff sought damages for physical and psychological injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident. The Defendants did not dispute liability for the injuries but they did dispute the extent of the injuries, and whether the mental health issues were solely caused by the accident or were pre-existing.

The Plaintiff had to establish on a balance of probabilities that the Defendant’s negligence caused or contributed to her injuries. The question was, “but for” the Defendant’s negligence, would the Plaintiff have suffered the injury?  The negligence did need not to be the sole cause of the injury, so long as it was part of the cause.

With regard to her mental health, the Plaintiff’s evidence, as well as that of friends and co-workers, was that her mood was good before the accident. She had even endured a marital breakdown without a depressive episode. After the accident she was moody and irritable, and became depressed. She withdrew socially. She began drinking heavily which had not been a problem prior to the accident. On two occasions she took pills after drinking large amounts of wine. The Plaintiff also tendered the medical evidence of a psychologist, who was of the opinion that she met the diagnostic criteria for mild somatic symptom disorder, major depressive disorder in partial remission, and social anxiety disorder.

The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff’s suicide attempts coincided with her relationship breakdowns and those relationship breakdowns, rather than injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident, were the main causes of her major depressive episodes and suicide attempts.

The Court accepted that the relationship breakdowns that immediately preceded her two suicide attempts played a role in her depression and suicide attempts. But the Court also accepted that she became depressed as a result of her accident injuries, her loss of self-esteem due to not being able to do a job she had previously been very good at and derived a lot of self-worth from, her inability to engage in strenuous and challenging physical activity, her associated weight gain, and her inability to become pain-free.

The Court found that the accident met the “but for” causation test with regard to the Plaintiff’s somatic symptom disorder, her depression and her suicide attempts. As a result of the accident, the Plaintiff suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life, which she was unlikely to ever fully recover from. For her psychological and physical injuries, the Court granted the Plaintiff non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $110,000.