15 Aug Will Injuries Before and After a Motor Vehicle Accident Affect the Damages Award?

In the case of Lafond v. Mandair, 2017 BCSC 523, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Before the accident, he had experienced back pain. After the accident, he fell from a ladder and injured his back. The issue was whether pre-existing disc degeneration or the intervening event of falling from the ladder affected the amount of the damage award.


The Plaintiff was a 57 year old barge captain.  Prior to the accident, he was not restricted in his recreational activities or his employment duties.  At work, he was highly thought of and his employer valued his reliability, knowledge and dedication.  Outside of work, the Plaintiff was socially active and energetic.  He loved living where he had access to the lake and back country, and spent much of his time with his children doing outdoor activities.


The accident occurred as the Plaintiff was leaning into the passenger side of a friend’s SUV that was parked in a parking lot. The Defendant drove into the back of the SUV.  The collision between the two large SUVs was significant. The Plaintiff’s left shoulder was struck by the door pillar, he was spun about and ended up on the ground.


As a result of the collision, the Plaintiff experienced pain in his right shoulder, neck and back. He also experienced headaches and suffered from anxiety and depression.


Subsequent to the motor vehicle accident, the Plaintiff lost his balance and fell from the ladder. The Court found that the fall was not causally connected to the accident.


The relationship of the accident to the back pain was a central issue to this litigation.  The Plaintiff conceded that prior to the accident his back was stiff at times after a long day of physical work. However, he did not complain of significant pain, nor was he treated for such in the six years prior to the accident.  The Plaintiff’s doctor did not attribute his present pain to any pre-existing condition.


The medical expert for ICBC was of the opinion that the Plaintiff’s back pain was the result of a pre-existing condition.  The Court declined to accept this expert’s opinion as there was no reasonable basis upon which such a finding could be made.


The ICBC expert was supposed to be objective in order to be helpful to the Court and his failure in that respect tainted the entirety of his report.  As a result, the Court placed no weight on the ICBC expert’s opinions where it conflicted with those of other medical practitioners.


In the years following the accident, the Plaintiff continued to have chronic pain in his neck, shoulder and back. The pain significantly curtailed his ability to live life to the fullest as he had prior to the accident. His cognitive functions had also suffered.  The Court awarded him the following:


a)non-pecuniary damages for pain and suffering:$100,000
b)past income loss:$10,000
c)loss of future earning capacity:$175,000
d)cost of future care:$27,000
e)loss of housekeeping capacity:$20,000
f)special damages:$11,529.58