Written by Drew Wilson

In July 2017, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench awarded Margaret Stevenson nearly $200,000 for injuries she sustained after being involved in a minor parking lot accident.

Ms. Stevenson was sitting in the driver’s seat of her parked car with her legs sprawled across the passenger seat waiting for an appointment. The Defendant was reversing slowing (5 km/hr) when she struck the front bumper of Ms. Stevenson’s vehicle. At the time of impact, Ms. Stevenson was in the process of swinging her right leg back under the steering well. Ms. Stevenson was diagnosed with a WAD II injury and a grade 2 sprain/strain to her neck/back area. At trial she claimed chronic pain developed as a result of her injuries and that it was further amplified by her ongoing depression and hypothyroidism.

The Honourable Mr. Justice A.G. Park accepted the evidence of Ms. Stevenson’s expert, Dr. Flaschner (physiatrist and expert in chronic pain), and concluded Ms. Stevenson suffered from chronic regional myofascial pain, headaches, and a chronic mechanical low back pain as a result of her injuries from the Accident. She was awarded $75,000 in General Damages ($60,000 after a 20% reduction for contributory negligence) and $189,426.16 total.

Thompson could represent some concerns for insurance companies going forward. The first concern is Courts are taking chronic pain seriously and are willing to accept low-velocity motor vehicle collisions can be a major source of trauma. Second, a relatively minor injury like a WAD II injury can be the cause of chronic pain. Therefore, insurance companies may need to reassess how much money they are bringing to the table when dealing with plaintiffs who are able to provide medical evidence of chronic pain (even if the originating injury/collision appears minor). Lastly, Thompson reminds us that you take your victims as you find them and pre-existing conditions (e.g. depression) can amplify chronic pain and increase the costs of treatment.

Thompson can also serve as a warning to Defendants who wish to rely on the Minor Injury Regulation. The Defence provided an expert designated under the Minor Injury Regulation in an attempt to cap Ms. Stevenson’s General Damages. However, under cross-examination the expert admitted he had no specific training to become approved under the Minor Injury Regulation (other than his experience in medical practice and through independent medical examinations). He also admitted he was not an expert in chronic pain and was unaware of what mild, moderate and severe impairments were under the Minor Injury Regulation when he made his report. Therefore, Defendants who wish to rely on the Minor Injury Regulation should ensure their qualified expert has knowledge of what the legislation actually says and how it defines impairments.

 If you have any questions with respect to this bulletin, please contact the writer, Drew Wilson, by email at dwilson@brownleelaw.com or by phone at: 403-260-5317.