30 Mar The Importance of Accurate Physician Records.
In Sequeira v. Higgins, 2015 BCSC 1192, the Plaintiff was a physically fit 81-year old. After retiring from his job as a heavy duty mechanic at the age of 60, he worked as a fitness instructor until he was in his late 70’s. The Plaintiff started studying karate at age 73 and by 78 had achieved the level of black belt, a few years before the motor vehicle accident.
When the Plaintiff was rear-ended by the Defendant, he suffered soft tissue injuries to his hip and upper back, headaches and bruising to his right hand. Within a week of the accident, the Plaintiff had consulted his family physician and had begun physiotherapy treatments to improve his symptoms. A few months after the accident, the Plaintiff’s physician noted in his records “Feels 100 [better]”.
Shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff’s wife fell ill. The Plaintiff took on the role of her full time caregiver and stopped seeking treatment for his own injuries until her death a year later.
At trial, ICBC submitted that since the Plaintiff had stopped seeking treatment after his doctor had noted that he had substantially recovered, they were only liable to compensate the Plaintiff for an injury that lasted 3-4 months.
The Court rejected ICBC’s submission. The Court acknowledged that the Plaintiff had stopped his treatment because of the emotional turmoil caused by his wife’s illness, not because he had recovered. It was no coincidence that the Plaintiff resumed treatment after the passing of his wife.
The Court applied the ‘Golden Years Doctrine’ which is the legal principle that a Court should not reduce damages for an elderly plaintiff simply because there is limited remaining life expectancy.
Although ICBC asked the Court to award the Plaintiff non-pecuniary damages in the range of $7,000-$10,000, the Court agreed with the Plaintiff and awarded him $45,000.
This case shows the importance of having accurate communications with your physician regarding all aspects of your injury. Injuries may fluctuate over time and it’s important to remember that one symptom free day should never be reported as a full recovery.