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Don’t Be Too Quick to Settle an Accident Claim

Sometimes, a person hurt in what appears to be a minor collision unfortunately ends up with serious injuries, resulting in a large court award. As compensation, however, he or she is then entitled to a large court award.

A classic example of this was reported not too long ago in one Vancouver injury lawyers BC case. The young woman involved received close to $400,000 as compensation for her injuries. The reason was because she ended up developing a severe case of “anorexia nervosa,” an eating disorder. The BC Supreme Court concluded that a car crash triggered her anorexia.

The woman had been rear-ended while stopped at a red light. At first, she experienced dizziness, neck and back pain, stomach pain and vomiting. But her problems worsened, and a month after the accident, she had to be hospitalized for 10 days. Soon after, she moved to Ontario with her parents. There, a specialist diagnosed her as suffering from an eating disorder.

A year later, her family decided to return to BC. Because of her problems, her parents felt it best that she not drive back across the country with them. Instead, they arranged for her to fly out once they were settled. But while they were away, her weight dropped to a dangerously low 79 pounds and she had to be hospitalized in intensive care in Toronto for 10 days. At trial, she was still receiving treatment for her anorexia and depression.

Her psychiatrist, who saw her for three years after the car crash, admitted he couldn’t say for certain that the accident caused her anorexia. But he testified that the accident compounded some previous emotional difficulties and “helped tip the balance.”

Doctors for the defence suggested that her anorexia wasn’t triggered by the crash but by previous traumatic events, including the suicide of a close friend, the death of an aunt, and a boyfriend who abused her.

The judge preferred the testimony of her psychiatrist. He concluded that before the car crash, she had a number of “pre-disposing” factors making her susceptible to anorexia. But the trauma of the accident was the trigger that precipitated its onset. In particular, the judge was persuaded by the fact that there was no evidence she would have become anorexic in any event if she hadn’t been involved in the motor vehicle collision.

This case illustrates a well-known legal motto: “Don’t be too quick to settle.” You want to know the full extent of your injuries and how they affect you before you settle any claim.

Some think that exaggerating your injuries will get you a larger settlement. On the contrary, the opposite result can occur. You must prove your injuries through testimony by your doctors and medical evidence, and other witnesses. As the person making the claim, you have the legal obligation to prove your injuries and any resulting financial and other losses.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic or other accident, you should obtain the best possible medical advice and consult a lawyer before signing any papers.

Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Gertsoyg & Company at (604) 602-3066 for a free legal consultation concerning your particular case.

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