25 Aug Psychiatric Medication Post-Collision

In the case of Wilhelmson v. Dumma, 2017 BCSC 616, the Plaintiff was the sole survivor of a horrendous, high-speed collision that killed three other people, including her boyfriend. She had to be resuscitated at the scene and was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital for emergency surgery for life-threatening injuries. She was in a medically induced coma for almost four weeks and spent over a month in the traumatic care unit of VGH. In the first month of hospitalization, the Plaintiff underwent 10 surgeries.

The Court noted that the Plaintiff had been permanently and severely injured. The evidence was overwhelmingly clear and consistent that the crash had dramatically altered her physical, emotional, psychological and social well-being. She was 21 years old at the time of the crash and it was clear her life would be nothing like what she or anyone else envisioned it would be before the accident. The Plaintiff continued to suffer from moderate to severe PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and night-mares as a result of the accident.

ICBC argued that the Plaintiff’s PTSD and anxiety would resolve if she took Cymbalta, a medication used to treated anxiety disorders and relieve pain.  ICBC’s expert, Dr. O’Shaughnessy, opined that taking the medication was essential for the Plaintiff’s future treatment.  He expected that if she took Cymbalta her symptoms were likely to improve. The Court disagreed with Dr. O’Shaughnessy.

The Court also noted Dr. O’Shaughnessy had provided an opinion as an expert and this opinion was unsolicited.  Dr. O’Shaughnessy did not typically provide specific diagnostic recommendations in his reports.  He claimed he offered it in this case because he was concerned about the Plaintiff and believed it would bring her relief.  The Court found his unsolicited opinion did not prove that medication would improve her symptoms.  Given the complexity of her physical and emotional issues, the Court noted that it was “neither unreasonable nor surprising that her psychiatric conditions have not been fully treated as of the date of trial”.

The evidence showed the Plaintiff had done everything she needed to do to recover. In fact, she had tried Cymbalta for approximately five months, which the experts agreed was a sufficient time to determine the medication’s effectiveness.  During those five months, the Plaintiff suffered negative side effects so her family doctor advised her to stop taking it.  He was of the opinion that she should not take it unless it was absolutely necessary.

Overall, the Court found the Plaintiff suffered permanent psychiatric injuries and that she would not recover.  The Court awarded the Plaintiff approximately $3.8 million in damages.

This case highlights the importance of following your family doctor’s advice to determine your post-collision treatment regime.