13 May Vehicle Runs Stop Sign and Hits Motorcyclist

In the case of Scott v. Cheng, 2019 BCSC 697, the Plaintiff was injured when the Defendant’s car ran a stop sign and collided with the Plaintiff’s motorcycle. The Plaintiff and his partner were thrown to the ground. His motorcycle was written off and the Defendant received a traffic ticket for failing to yield.

The Plaintiff sought damages for injuries to his neck, back, shoulders, right foot, right hand, and other parts of his body, as well as sleep disturbance. The Defendant admitted liability for the accident but disputed the amount of damages sought by the Plaintiff.  In particular, the Defendant argued that no damages should be paid for future loss of earning capacity.

The Plaintiff’s health was excellent before the accident.  At the time of the accident he was working for a decking company. The work involved moving and installing large, heavy steel panels, primarily on roofs. His employer said that the Plaintiff was a great worker. In addition, the Plaintiff had side-jobs doing other work, sometimes for family and friends.

It was very clear to the Judge that the Plaintiff was now restricted in what work he could do. He was not expected to improve and would experience increasing limitations in his ability to work in the years ahead. The Plaintiff was in denial to a certain extent about his limitations but the evidence was clear that his injuries would result in an impairment in his earning capacity, along with a less valuable capital asset. This was confirmed by all of the doctors, as well as his friends and family.

The Judge disagreed with the Defendant’s focus on the two years as representative of the long term earning capacity of the Plaintiff. Rather, the basis for assessing future loss for this 34-year-old man was not the two years after the accident, but his entire future working life.

The Judge went on to say that although the Plaintiff did not have a loss of actual earnings now and likely wouldn’t in the short term, his capital asset was less valuable now. The deterioration in the asset that was the basis of his ability to earn money would continue as the Plaintiff aged. It was not possible or necessary to precisely calculate that loss.  All that could be said was that in some years the loss would be greater than other years and it would be greater at the end of the Plaintiff’s working life.

Over a working life to age 65, and using annual income of $72,000, the Plaintiff could have expected a future lifetime earning capacity of $2,232,000.  He would now earn less than that as a result of the accident. The Judge concluded that something approximating four years of the Plaintiff’s pre‑accident salary was an appropriate measure of his loss of future earning capacity. The Judge assessed the amount of the Plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity at $300,000.