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Whiplash Victim Gets Yoga Paid For Life

Pain-killers. Physio. Anti-inflammatory medication. If you’re hurt in a car crash, traditional medical treatments alone may not always be enough to get you back on your feet to the maximum extent your injuries allow.

What if less traditional therapies could help?

If yoga can help you best deal with chronic pain afterwards, you can recover the cost of that for as long as necessary – even for life – said our B.C. Court of Appeal recently.

The accident victim in this case (let’s call her Petra) was 43. She was hit from behind while stopped on a highway off-ramp, waiting to merge into northbound traffic. The driver who struck her van was clearly at fault. Most of the case was about what compensation she should get for her “non-pecuniary damages” (pain and suffering) and costs of future care.

Petra suffered soft-tissue, whiplash-type injuries in the accident. She had neck, shoulder and back pain, mostly toward the left side. She did everything she could to get back to normal after the crash. But despite this, even by the time of trial some six years later, she still suffered chronic pain. She also couldn’t sleep well at night anymore and she was depressed.

The doctors’ opinion was that her chronic pain was permanent and she’d likely have such pain for the rest of her life.

Petra was a mother of three young children. Before the accident, she had been a very active, happy and unusually athletic individual. She’d played competitive field hockey at university and had run several marathons, both before and after the accident. At trial, she was working full-time. She had only taken minimal time off work after the accident, for medical appointments and occasionally due to headaches.

But after the accident, she had to constantly fight neck and shoulder pain. Even though she took pain medication and was committed to her health and rehabilitation, she could only reduce that pain, not get rid of it. Her whiplash injuries meant she couldn’t do her house work as usual, she had less stamina at work, and her mood and psychological well-being were negatively affected.

One of her strategies to deal with her ongoing pain was to do yoga. She joined a yoga club near her place of work in Vancouver, where she did one hour of yoga before work each day.

The Court of Appeal pointed out that her doctors and health professionals supported the yoga as beneficial to manage Petra’s ongoing pain.

The purpose of a compensation award for future care costs in injury cases is to put the victim, so far as money can, in the same position she would have been in had the accident not happened. The court therefore decided Petra should get some $28,000 to fund a life-time yoga membership going forward. (The amount was based on her age and life expectancy.) This was in addition to other compensation she was awarded.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, seek medical attention and legal help promptly so as 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.

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