Case Comment – Couch v Olatiregun, 2023 ABKB 104 – Court awards less than Minor Injury Regulation cap
The case involved a motor vehicle accident in which the plaintiff claimed damages for personal injuries. On April 13, 2017, the plaintiff was driving his vehicle in a northerly direction on 19th Street N.E. in Calgary, Alberta, when he stopped at the intersection with Airport Trail N.E. after the light turned amber and was rear-ended by the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant denied liability for the accident, alleging the plaintiff made a sudden stop because the light turned amber without any oncoming vehicles. The court found the defendant – who was self-represented and did not attend trial - liable for the accident.
With liability decided, the only issue was the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. The plaintiff, who was 53 years old at the time of the accident (59 at trial), suffered pain and stiffness in his neck, upper back, shoulders, and mid back/ribs and headaches. His chiropractor diagnosed him with a WAD II. His ribs were “extremely painful” and caused him an inability to lift. He had difficulty carrying groceries, his camera bag, and walking his dog. It took about 10 weeks until he felt comfortable at work. His headaches occurred a few times a week for about 8 or 9 months.
In assessing whether the plaintiff’s injuries fit within the Minor Injury Regulation, the court considered the plaintiff’s pre-existing issues. He sought chiropractic treatment from 2012 to 2016 over 100 times and almost 40 times in 2012. This treatment was for his back (low, mid, and upper), neck, and quads. The court observed the plaintiff had intermittent neck pain before the accident.
After the accident, he was treated with massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care for at least 9 months. He improved moderately by October 2017. In January 2018 his chiropractor recommended continued treatment. Although his treatment between January 2018 and March 2019 was not commented on by the court, the plaintiff was noted as being “pretty good” by his chiropractor in March 2019. He told the court he was back to normal one year after the accident.
The court ruled the plaintiff’s injuries fell within the Minor Injury Regulation. The plaintiff did not have chronic pain and no serious impairment; the court found he had not suffered any whole-person impairment. What impairment he did have was minor and of limited duration; he did not have any inability to perform essential work tasks or activities of daily living. His pre-accident medical history was relevant and consistent with his post-accident treatment. In deciding the plaintiff was entitled to $3,000 in general damages, Justice Sullivan contradicted the plaintiff’s chiropractor in finding his injuries were within a “WAD I level”. No amounts were awarded for lost income or housekeeping.
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