Car Accident: Quantum of Damages for a Moderate Brain Injury.
Article by Walter W. Kubitz, Q.C., a personal injury lawyer in Calgary, Alberta.
Mr. Jones (not his real name) was injured in a motor vehicle collision where his vehicle was struck in an offset collision from behind and off to the driver side, when a large commercial vehicle tried to pass him from behind on the left while Mr. Jones was making a left hand turn at an intersection. There was significant damage to the driver’s side.
Mr. Jones was unconscious at the scene of the accident and suffered a brain hemorrhage. He was taken to the hospital where he was put into an induced coma. He was in the hospital for 12 days, when he released himself against the advice of doctors. He did not have surgery in the hospital. He was diagnosed as having a moderate / moderate – severe traumatic brain injury. He has had a decrease in his executive functions, and perhaps most notably suffers now from anger issues. He also suffers from mild depression, mild anxiety and fatigue. Another ongoing difficulty is with his balance, and he suffers dizziness. He has had behavioural changes. There has been deterioration of his left hand co–ordination. He has undergone a course of physiotherapy. He qualified for AISH.
This case was settled at mediation for $165,000.000 for pain and suffering damages.
The following cases are inflation-adjusted to January 2018.
Matthew v. Tattrie, 2009 BCSC 263 $200,000 $230,200
In this case the 25-year-old male plaintiff was hit with a baseball bat at a party. He suffered a significant head injury, including a skull fracture, a large right subdural hematoma over the right cerebral hemisphere and a left frontal parietal hemorrhage contusion. He was left with permanent cognitive impairments including personality change, loss of manual dexterity and strength in his right hand, and epilepsy. He was left with deficits in memory, concentration, and executive function. He manifested poor judgement and lacked insight into his limitation. His behavior was inappropriate. He had poor anger management and impulse control. He had sporadic employment. He had not been able to hold down a job and was no longer employable in a competitive environment. He was no longer able to live independently and needed considerable assistance. His ability to engage in social relations had been impaired, leading to estrangements and isolation.
This plaintiff has suffered more severe injuries than Mr. Jones in view of the skull fracture, but has many of the residual deficits including problems with anger and deficits in executive function. Similar to this plaintiff, Mr. Jones is no longer employable in a competitive environment. Further, like this plaintiff, Mr. Jones is seeking assistance in order to function, as is evidenced by his application for income assistance to the British Columbia government program. This is a British Columbia case, however, and will reflect a higher damage award that will be available in Alberta. This case therefore likely represents a higher general damage award than Mr. Jones can achieve in Alberta.
Labrecque v. Heimbeckner, 2007 ABQB 501 $200,000 $236,400
In this case the 27-year-old female plaintiff suffered significant pre-accident injuries, including major depression and insomnia and addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol abuse. In the accident she suffered traumatic brain injury and a fracture of her right humerus, a fractured clavicle, a compression fracture in her lower spine, and a complex fracture to her left calcaneus. She alleged she suffered moderate brain injury and had ongoing difficulties with memory, nightmares and insomnia. She suffered from a panic disorder and a major depression. She had significant loss of self-esteem. The defence argued that she only had mild traumatic brain injury, and the judge declined to hold whether it was a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury, simply finding that he was satisfied that she suffered a traumatic brain injury which contributed to her lack of ability to function normally or independently. She had difficulty coping with daily living and lived with constant pain in her left foot. The accident changed the plaintiff’s personality.
This case has been selected as it is an Alberta case awarding damages for a mild/moderate brain injury. There were significant fractures suffered by this plaintiff, however, thereby increasing the general damage award. Further, this plaintiff was unable to function independently. Although Mr. Jones is seeking assistance with his daily living in British Columbia, his injuries are much less severe than this plaintiff. This damage award therefore reflects a greater award than Mr. Jones can likely achieve.
Grassick (Litigation Guardian of) v. Swansburg, $220,000 $229,000
2015 BCSC 2355
In this case the 16-year-old male plaintiff suffered moderately-severe traumatic brain injury that would continue to negatively affect every aspect of his life. He had difficulties with memory, processing speed, focus, cognitive and efficiency, fatigue, anxiety and depression. He had sleep difficulties, adjustment disorder, memory issues, and difficulty multi – tasking. Before the accident he excelled academically, recreationally and socially and wanted to be a civil engineer. After the accident he struggled to do well in his academic programs, although he still wanted to be a civil engineer. He suffered from a sense of a loss of his former self and recognized his limitations, which the judge characterized as emotional suffering. He also had a broken femur and abrasions, which healed uneventfully. He continued to live at home with his parents and “could barely cope”.
This case has been chosen because it involves a plaintiff with moderately – severe traumatic brain injury, who suffers many of the same residual sequelae as Mr. Jones, including loss of executive function, depression and fatigue. This case seemed to have awarded significant general damages to some extent because of the youth of the plaintiff and his realization of his loss of his future potential, which does not translate to the situation of Mr. Jones. This is a British Columbia case. This case likely represents a higher damage award than Mr. Jones can anticipate.
Payne v. Miles, 2013 BCSC 1545 $210,000 $225,000
In this case the 16-year-old female plaintiff was struck in a crosswalk and suffered moderate to moderate – severe brain injury with emotional, psychological and cognitive difficulties. The accident fundamentally transformed her and diminished her life. She was independent, hard – working, cheerful, sociable, active and ambitious before the accident. Following the accident, she lived a largely solitary existence and struggled with serious depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, memory, concentration and fatigue. Her depression was in remission at the time of trial, with medication, but she continued to suffer from low mood. She struggled with her sleep and had headaches. She had periodic hallucinations. She had difficulties with memory, concentration and various forms of executive function. She had difficulty processing information and was limited in her ability to read. She became overwhelmed and had meltdowns. She failed or struggled in her academic endeavours. She was employed in low level positions, whereas her potential was to earn a more than average income having achieved a university education.
This case has been selected as the plaintiff suffered from a moderate – severe brain injury. She seems to have many of the same sequelae suffered by Mr. Jones, including loss of executive function, depression and anger. This plaintiff was able to work in low level jobs and seems to have been living independently. Mr. Jones similarly works in low level jobs and has applied for assistance with his daily living. This is a British Columbia case. It is therefore likely that Mr. Jones would attract a general damage award somewhat less than this plaintiff.
Megaro v. Vanstone, 2017 BCSC 2256 $175.000 $175.000
In this case the male plaintiff was in a motor vehicle accident with a hit-and-run driver. He suffered mild traumatic brain injury, neck and back injuries, headaches, issues with balance, fatigue and psychological issues including depression, anxiety, anger and difficulties with mood and motivation. His back pain and balance issues had resolved by the time of trial. His headaches were being treated with Botox injections. He suffered from depression and had gone from being a breadwinner to a depressed and withdrawn individual who relied heavily on his wife for support and direction. He was capable of participating in casual hockey, went to the gym with his son, and was able to do maintenance work on his house and rental properties.
This plaintiff would seem not to be as injured as Mr. Jones, suffering only a mild brain injury, and, but for the fact that this is a British Columbia case, one could anticipate a greater general damage award for Mr. Jones. As the below reviewed Alberta cases have come in with less significant general damage awards, however, I have included this case as a marker to argue what the lower limit of general damages for Mr. Jones should be.
Calahasen v. Northland School $135,000 $146,205
In this case the male plaintiff was assaulted by 10 to 15 people– he was aged 40 at the time of the assault. Prior to the assault he was employed as a security guard with the school division. He sustained a mild-moderate traumatic brain injury and facial deformity. His injuries included basal skull fractures, brain concussion, and fractures of his nose and orbital floor, in addition to other facial fractures. He continued to suffer pain from his facial fractures, and had double vision for two years. In terms of his brain injury, he had few difficulties with higher processing skills but had significant difficulty with attention and short-term memory. He also suffered from depression, PTSD and post – concussion syndrome. He was deemed not to be employable and his injuries further prevented him from continuing to participate in sports.
Mr. Jones has suffered a greater brain injury than this plaintiff (moderate – severe as opposed to mild – moderate), but Mr. Jones has not suffered the skull and facial fractures of this plaintiff. On the whole, this case is concerning in that the general damage award is so low in view of the British Columbia authorities and in view of the significant injuries suffered by this plaintiff. It may nonetheless be a good marker for what Mr. Jones can anticipate in Alberta as a general damage award.
Adams v. Canada (Attorney General), $130,000 $135,000
2015 ABQB 527
In this case the male plaintiff was assaulted by another inmate shortly following admission to the penitentiary. He was in a coma for one month and suffered a serious traumatic brain injury. He suffered brain hemorrhage and post–traumatic amnesia. He continued to suffer from headaches, low back pain and reduced cognitive ability, including poor word generation and logical memory problems. He suffered injuries to his ankle and legs affecting his gait, balance and posture. After his release from hospital he had 12 months of outpatient rehabilitation services, including physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy.
This case is of concern as such a low general damage award amount was awarded for a serious brain injury.
If you have been injured in an accident, the Lawyers at Kubitz & Company would be pleased to discuss the claims that are available to you. Please feel free to call 403-250-7100 to speak with us.
Walter W. Kubitz, Q.C., a personal injury lawyer in Calgary, Alberta.