22 Apr Stoic Plaintiffs Should Not be Penalized

Many people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents return to work shortly after the accident and continue working even though they are in pain.  ICBC may claim that since they are working they must not be injured but the courts do not agree. 

Our firm represented such a stoic individual in the case of Hawkins v. Espiloy, 2014 BCSC 1804.  Our client, Ms. Hawkins, was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended in December, 2009.  She was seriously injured and years after the accident continued to suffer from sciatica pain, ongoing lower back pain, overall back stiffness and hip/groin pain.

At the time of the accident, Ms. Hawkins was in the first term of her nursing program.  She had been a licensed practical nurse for several years, putting her husband through school before pursuing her dream of becoming a registered nurse. Despite the pain she was experiencing as a result of the accident, she continued with her nursing program and was able to complete it in April, 2012. 

Ms. Hawkins accepted a full time nursing position upon graduation.  She worked full time for seventeen months, at a tremendous cost to her health, family and social relationships.  She then changed to a part time position. 

At trial, ICBC argued that Ms. Hawkins had largely recovered from her injuries.  They based this on the fact that she had excelled during nursing school and worked full time afterwards.  They also claimed that she had changed to a part time position at work by choice, not because of her injuries. 

The Judge did not agree with ICBC’s characterization of Ms. Hawkins or her injuries.  Instead the Judge preferred the evidence of Ms. Hawkins, and her friends, family, co-workers and experts called on her behalf.  The Judge found that Ms. Hawkins had sustained significant, ongoing and likely permanent injuries due to the motor vehicle accident.  She attributed Ms. Hawkin’s ability to work full time for seventeen months to “her general stoicism and sense of responsibility to her patients”. 

The Judge concluded that Ms. Hawkins chose to work part time because her injuries made full time work unsustainable and awarded her $525,000 for loss of future earning capacity.