02 Aug Personal Injury Settlements and Government Benefits

If you are in receipt of government benefits and are then injured in an accident for which you receive a settlement, what happens?

In the case of Shongu v. Jing, 2016 BCSC 901, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident that caused his prior PTSD condition to resurface, leaving him severely disabled.  Unable to work, he was forced to begin receiving governmental disability benefits.  At trial it was determined that ICBC was obliged to compensate him for his lost wages.  The issue was how much of a deduction should be made to account for the Plaintiff’s receipt of government benefits.

In law there is a well-established rule against “double recovery”. What this means is that if a person is injured, they cannot claim benefits from the government for the inability to work and also claim against the defendant for lost wages.  If they did, this would mean the injured person would receive compensation for the same loss from two sources and would be in a better financial position than if the accident had not occurred.

The parties agreed that any past disability benefits the Plaintiff received prior to the trial would be deducted from the award for lost past income earning capacity. The question then focused on what should be discounted for the potential future disability benefits the Plaintiff would receive from the government.

The Plaintiff argued that the $1,080,000 he received as a judgement would disentitled him from receiving social benefits in the future and therefore no deduction should be made. The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff could simply put his assets into a disability trust, which he would not have any control over, and still collect the government benefits. Therefore a deduction should be made.

The Court held that the Plaintiff was entitled to spend the amount awarded to him as he saw fit.  He could not be forced to put his money into a trust, as it would restrict the manner in which he could use the money. As it was likely the Plaintiff would not be receiving any future government benefits, the Court declined to reduce his damages.

Wage loss can be one of the most complex issues in a personal injury case.  At Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota, we have the expertise to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your lost wages.