If a low velocity impact (LVI) car accident results in only minor vehicle damage, ICBC may deny a claim for personal injury, arguing the injury couldn’t plausibly have been caused by that accident.
But this can result in unfair denial of compensation for legitimate claims by innocent victims of LVI car accidents. A sudden hard stop of a car may cause whiplash or concussion – no impact at all is necessary. And while a more serious crash is more likely to cause greater injury, cases differ (race car drivers sometimes walk away from major crashes without a scratch). So a minor car accident can cause unexpected injury, perhaps made worse by a victim’s pre-existing health conditions.
The courts in B.C. have repeatedly ruled that there is no legal validity, and no medical proof, to support the LVI defence – each case must be looked at on its own facts. Courts recognize that some LVI crashes can lead to injuries. To get compensation, an injured victim has to prove that their injuries are due to the particular car accident.
Three Recent Cases in B.C. Supreme Court For Personal Injury Vancouver Illustrate This
In one 2011 case, the plaintiff’s car was hit from behind while stopped. There was only minor damage to the bumper which wasn’t repaired. But the plaintiff suffered a minor to moderate whiplash. The defendant admitted fault for the accident. The plaintiff’s neck and upper back were sore and tender, and she experienced headaches and dizziness, but her injuries mostly healed in about six months. In response to the LVI defence, the Court said there was no reason to doubt the victim’s truthfulness and awarded her $7,000 for her “pain and suffering.”
In another 2011 case with minor vehicle damage, the plaintiff’s soft tissue injuries were more serious and persisted longer. She had been in several previous car accidents and also had pre-existing medical conditions (scoliosis and osteoporosis). She was more fragile and susceptible to injury as a result. The Court gave her $25,000 for her proven, legitimate pain and suffering.
The third case, decided in 2010, involved a rear end car accident where vehicle damage was again negligible. ICBC applied its “no crash, no cash” policy. But the plaintiff experienced back pain after the collision and went to Court to recover compensation. ICBC argued its LVI defence in Court. The Court, however, pointed out that “there is no principle of law which says that because damage to the vehicle is slight or undetectable that it must follow that there is no injury.” The plaintiff was awarded $12,000 for her injuries, as well as compensation for time lost from work.
In a car crash involving two B.C. drivers, although the injured victim is probably an ICBC customer with ICBC’s mandatory coverage, ICBC will be on the defendant’s side, since ICBC is typically on the hook for any compensation due to the victim. So if you’re hurt in a car accident, you should contact a lawyer to protect your rights. You may be entitled to compensation, no matter how minor the vehicle damage.
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.