01 May Tinnitus Resulting From A Motor Vehicle Accident

In the case of Sharpe v. Koomson, 2019 BCSC 558, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2013. Although he slowly improved, his symptoms were aggravated when he was involved in another accident in 2016.  Liability for both the accidents was admitted but there was some dispute as to causation of the Plaintiff’s symptoms, including his tinnitus.

The tinnitus was of particular focus in this case and was described by one expert as an internal sound created by the individual. The Plaintiff described it as a constant ringing in both ears, more so in the left than the right. He wore “maskers” which generated a louder noise to alleviate the tinnitus and he found those effective. They did not assist, however, when he had to remove them at work. He reported poor sleep due to the tinnitus, for which he was prescribed medication. Among his other complaints, the Plaintiff reported difficulty focusing in conversation, dislike of loud environments, dizziness, balance problems, nausea, headaches, and difficulty riding as a passenger in a vehicle.

The Plaintiff’s expert was of the opinion that the Plaintiff’s tinnitus was caused by the accident, as the Plaintiff had no tinnitus until the 2013 accident.  The Defendant’s expert conceded that this was likely.

The Plaintiff’s expert also opined that, in general, tinnitus can be expected to improve for a period of approximately a year and at the end of that time whatever was present was likely to be permanent. As such, the Plaintiff’s tinnitus, which was of moderate severity, was likely to persist on a long-term, permanent basis.

The Plaintiff worked at HSBC before the 2013 accident.  He began a gradual return to work in 2015.  After the 2016 accident, his symptoms continued and he was laid off.  He did not return to work again until 2017, when he began working at his family’s recording studio. Although he had some difficulty at first, the Plaintiff was able to work full-time as an ADR Recorder which gave him more control over his environment, permitting him to take breaks during the day, and starting and finishing early before the fatigue set in. The Plaintiff testified that although he wanted to be a Rerecording Mixer, his symptoms, particularly the tinnitus, make it unlikely he would ever be able to. He continued to deal with his tinnitus with the use of maskers.

The Judge was satisfied that the Plaintiff’s tinnitus and other symptoms were caused by the accidents. They were distressing and an obstacle to him in any future work. The Judge granted the Plaintiff non-pecuniary damages in the sum of $170,000.