04 Jul Nurse Injured in Head-On Collision

In the case of Sdrakas v. Dawe-Cook, 2017 BCSC 2276, the Plaintiff was a front seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband. They were travelling on a two lane road when the Defendant’s vehicle crossed over the centre line and collided with their vehicle. The Defendant admitted liability for the collision. At trial, the Court had to determine what damages the Plaintiff was entitled to, including past wage loss and the loss of capacity to earn income in the future.

The Plaintiff was an intensive care unit nurse by profession.  Two years prior to the accident, she became eligible to retire from her full-time job and did so. However, she then took on a casual status in the same field and at the same hospital. Under that arrangement, she would take shifts, as and when she would be called upon and as frequently as she wished. The standard shift on this ward was twelve hours.  Work was readily available to her and she generally worked one or two shifts per pay period.

The work that the Plaintiff did was demanding and had a significant physical component. She was competent at performing those duties before the accident. She was well regarded as a good worker and a good colleague who did her full share.

After the accident, the Plaintiff had pain and discomfort in her head and neck.  She also had pain from her shoulder down into her right arm, as well as numbness in two fingers of her right hand.  She was hoping that she would be able to work through the discomfort but found it persisted. As a result, she stopped taking on shifts, even though she was still being called frequently.

At trial, the Plaintiff testified that her arm continued to be weak. She had continuing pain on the right side of her neck and head, down into her shoulder. Her position was that her condition had plateaued and she was unable to return to work.

The Court found that the Plaintiff had incurred physical limitations resulting from the motor vehicle accident, and those had quite significantly impacted her ability to do her job as a nurse. The Court agreed that she would not be able to return to that work.

The Court canvassed the issue of whether there was alternative work in the nursing field that the Plaintiff would be capable of performing in lieu of her ICU position.  In the Court’s view, there were no practical alternatives.  Accordingly, the Court concluded that the Plaintiff had established a basis to recover damages both for income loss up to the date of trial and into the future.

Determination of past wage loss was not a matter of precise calculation, due to the discretionary and part-time nature of the Plaintiff’s work schedule. A report prepared by an economist calculated the net loss to be $70,532.  The Court made an adjustment for negative contingencies, such as missed work because of vacation and circumstances where sickness or ill health might preclude working a weekly shift, and awarded the Plaintiff $60,000 for past wage loss.

The Plaintiff also sought an award of $78,000 to compensate her for the loss of her capacity to continue to work at her job into the future. In the Court’s view, the determination of an appropriate award under this head had to recognize that there were real and negative contingencies in terms of projecting her ability to work and earn income into the future. Taking into account contingencies, including the fact that the work was difficult and challenging and the fact that the Plaintiff was not without her physical and health limitations, notwithstanding the accident, the Court awarded the Plaintiff $60,000 for loss of capacity to earn income in the future.