You probably do a lot of driving for work or pleasure. No doubt you try to be careful. But sometimes that’s not enough – through no fault of yours you may get hurt in a car accident. A recent case shows that if that happens, the courts will likely have your back.
Jeffrey, 46, was driving to Vancouver one winter day. He had to make a highway stop in Manning Park due to a car crash in front. Harnek had stopped tractor-trailer on a hill above Jeffrey and got out, leaving his vehicle driverless. Unfortunately, the tractor-trailer slid down the hill and struck a number of vehicles below, including the car Jeffrey was sitting in.
Though damaged, Jeffrey’s car was still drivable (it was ultimately written off as a total loss). Jeffrey initially continued on after the collision, but then decided to turn around and drive back home as he felt unwell due to the trauma and emotional distress from the collision. He made it as far as Princeton, got temporary car repairs done there the next day, reported the accident to the police, then got himself home to Naramata.
At the trial in late 2013, the defendants admitted fault, so the court had to decide what compensation payments were fair. Apart from things like past income losses and lost earning ability in the future, the court dealt with Jeffrey’s claim for “pain and suffering” damages. This element is always difficult to gauge in terms of money, which is a poor substitute for the loss of enjoyment of life anyway.
Here, Jeffrey suffered serious and chronic injuries, which sapped his energy and were likely to persist. Most serious were the injuries to his neck and his “vestibular” injuries.
What are vestibular injuries? Turns out they have to do with damage to our natural sense of balance (regulated by the inner ear), which we normally take for granted.
In Jeffrey’s case, they led to him suffering a sense of dizziness, of disequilibrium. He felt like he was moving forward when he wasn’t, or having the floor drop out from below him. An episode of acute vertigo (a spinning sensation) left him afraid that this would occur again. His problems were worse when he moved his neck (due to the neck injury). He clearly had sustained a strange injury, hard to put into words, but confirmed by medical experts and tests.
Individually and together, his neck and vestibular injuries caused physical and psychological damage – they led to ongoing fear of injury from rapid movement, migraine headaches, anxiety, fear of driving and other travel, and sleeplessness.
Before this accident, Jeffrey was a vital and energetic man with lots of enthusiasm for life. Afterwards, his life became far more one-dimensional, with the strain of work and the ongoing toll of his injuries leaving him with little energy for anything else.
In the end, the court decided that, in addition to substantial compensation for his past income losses and lost future earning ability, $120,000 was a fair “pain and suffering” payment for Jeffrey.
If you’ve been hurt in a car crash, see your lawyer as soon as possible afterwards to protect your rights.
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.