Can a BC Car Accident Lead to Early-Onset Dementia?

A traumatic brain injury is often dismissed as nothing more than “getting knocked out for a few seconds.” Indeed, the popular tendency to describe traumatic brain injuries as “concussions” illustrates how poorly understood the long-term effects of such traumas are. Any kind of traumatic brain injury–including those arising from car accidents–can significantly alter the victim’s mental capacity and quality of life going forward.

Weaver v. Pollock: Negligent Drivers Liable for Victim’s Dementia

Fortunately, the British Columbia courts have a greater appreciation for the true measure of the damages inflicted by traumatic brain injuries than the general public. Justice Grant Burnyeat of the Supreme Court of British Columbia recently delivered an interesting judgement in a personal injury case where such an injury tragically led to the early onset of dementia in the victim. Despite the defense’s protests, the judge clearly found their negligence was responsible for the plaintiff’s present state of neurological decline.

The plaintiff was 63 years old at the time of the accident, which occurred in 2010. At the time, the plaintiff owned his own business, which operates a janitorial services franchise based in Kelowna. Despite the fact the plaintiff was–and still is–in his 60s, he remained an active participant in his business.

As the plaintiff was driving his truck one day in Kelowna, another driver–one of the defendants–side-swiped him. The force of this impact sent the plaintiff’s vehicle into oncoming traffic, which led to a second collision, this time with a B.C. Transit bus. A witness who was riding the bus at the time later testified that the bus was “travelling between 60 and 90 km per hour” when it made a “heavy” impact on the plaintiff’s truck.

After the second collision, the witness said that she was the first to attend to the plaintiff at the scene. She testified that the plaintiff appeared “out of it,” had a visible head wound, and overall appeared to be “confused and disoriented.” When the paramedics arrived several minutes later, they confirmed that the plaintiff was “conscious but generally confused and disoriented.”

In his own written statement to ICBC, which he signed about two weeks after the accident, the plaintiff said he could not recall the specifics of what happened. He did say that he was “unconscious for some time” and that he could “vaguely remember my car getting hit,” but that was all. He also remembered going to the hospital after the accident, where “the emergency doctor told [him] to watch for concussion symptoms.”

Roughly two months after giving that statement, the plaintiff reported experiencing a migraine headache “for the first time in about 40 years.” He was also “forgetting names of people he knew well and street locations,” including the address of one of his own business offices. At one point he even forgot the name of a longtime friend.

Roughly a year after the accident, the plaintiff’s friends and family observed that he “he was having memory and other problems.” In 2013, about three years after the accident, an occupational therapist observed the plaintiff at work. She concluded that he required a rehabilitation assistant to help him improve and to compensate for his memory problems.

Several medical experts examined the plaintiff and testified at the trial in his subsequent personal injury lawsuit against the negligent defendants, who conceded liability for the accident itself. The experts agreed that the plaintiff “had suffered a traumatic brain injury.” Some of the experts went even further and said the injury led to the development of “early neurocognitive disorder,” more commonly known as dementia.

According to one of these experts, the plaintiff has experienced a “definite progression and deterioration in the level of functioning” in the years since the accident. Based on his pre-accident and family medical history, there were “no risk factors” for dementia or similar brain disease. In other words, aside from the traumatic brain injury caused by the car accident, there was no other credible medical explanation for the plaintiff’s dementia.

Although some of the other experts disputed the severity of the plaintiff’s long-term prognosis, Justice Burnyeat said that he was “satisfied that the medical evidence demonstrates that the neurocognitive disorder of [the plaintiff] is progressive.” Given that there was “no evidence” that the plaintiff suffered from any early onset of dementia prior to the accident, he was also satisfied that the accident was the cause of his current neurological impairments. Even if there was some evidence to suggest that the plaintiff would have eventually developed dementia anyway, the judge said that the accident still “lessened the time” before that otherwise would have happened.

Altogether, Justice Burnyeat determined that the plaintiff was entitled to recover damages of nearly $1.3 million. The largest portion of this amount–roughly $766,000–will be for the costs of the plaintiff’s future care, including treatments and equipment necessary for his rehabilitation, as well as various home support services. The court also awarded more than $197,000 in damages for the plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity in relation to his business, and another $175,000 in non-pecuniary damages to compensate him for his pain and suffering.

Speak With a B.C. Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer Today

Obviously, not all traumatic brain injuries lead to dementia. Even in less severe cases, a traumatic brain injury can produce long-lasting direct effects that continue to affect the victim for years after the initial accident. These effects may be permanent and therefore will not improve with additional medical treatment or rehabilitation.

If you or a family member have sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation for the full measure of your past, present, and future damages. The Vancouver brain injury attorneys at the Preszler Law Firm can help. Call us today at 1-844-373-8202 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation so we can learn more about your accident and how we can best assist you in holding the responsible parties accountable.