When it comes to personal injury claims arising from auto accidents in B.C., there is no one-size-fits all formula. A judge will take into account a number of factors related to the victim’s educational, employment, and even family status when determining damages for things like loss of past and future income or pain and suffering. Along those same lines, the defence will attempt to highlight certain aspects of the victim’s life in order to minimize their own financial liability for the accident.
Take this recent decision from B.C. Supreme Court, Laliberte v. Jarma. In this case, a now-21-year-old woman sustained serious injuries in an accident that took place three years earlier, when she was 18. According to the undisputed facts presented at trial, the plaintiff was a passenger in a car where the driver “lost control of the vehicle, went through a fence and over a bump and landed in a field.” The plaintiff subsequently sued both the driver and the owner of the vehicle, who conceded liability for the accident itself.
The defendants also agreed the plaintiff sustained injuries in the accident and deserved compensation. But there was disagreement as to the amount of compensation. A trial was therefore held before Justice Loryl D. Russell of B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo in March of this year. On June 14, Justice Russell issued her judgment.
Determining the Plaintiff’s Loss of Past (and Future) Income
The plaintiff’s status as a single mother played a significant role in Justice Russell’s determination of damages. The plaintiff was eight months pregnant at the time of the accident in December 2015. Due to the ongoing pain caused by the accident, however, the plaintiff testified she “could not hold her baby or more than five minutes without pain.” For example, the plaintiff could not carry her child upstairs to his nursery or place him in a car seat.
The plaintiff also testified she was afraid to have additional children in the future, as she would need to stop taking her pain medication for the duration of any future pregnancy.
Conversely, the defence pointed to the plaintiff’s pregnancy and single-mother status as proof she did not sustain serious damages with respect to her loss of past and future income. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff worked a number of “short-term, minimum wage jobs,” according to Justice Russell. The plaintiff testified she planned to become a hairdresser or tattoo artist, but she lacks the formal educational training for the former and the ability to physically perform the work required by the latter.
More to the point, the defence argued that due to her pregnancy and another medical condition unrelated to the accident, the plaintiff would not have been able to work full-time after December 2015 for at least a year. As for the plaintiff’s present employment situation, the defence noted that she waited until fall 2018–three years after the accident–to start looking for full-time work of any kind. And given that the plaintiff lacked even a high school education prior to the accident, it was unlikely she would have ever found more than minimum-wage work.
In short, the defence’s position was that the plaintiff chose to become a single mother at the age of 18 rather than pursue additional educational or employment opportunities. As this choice was unrelated to the auto accident, the defendants said they should not be liable for any employment-related losses claimed by the plaintiff.
Justice Russell ruled on these issues as follows:
Compensating the Plaintiff for Her Childcare-Related Losses
Justice Russell also awarded the plaintiff $100,000 in non-pecuniary damages. In support of this figure, the Court cited the loss of the plaintiff’s “ability to cradle her baby in her arms and to breastfeed without pain” and the potential impact on the plaintiff’s decision to have more children for fear of aggravating her accident-related pain. The judge also noted the pain experienced by the plaintiff when giving birth to her present child was likely “heightened by the pre-existing injury.”
Call Preszler Law in Vancouver Today if You Have Been Seriously Injured in an Auto Accident
A car accident can affect your life in ways you probably cannot imagine unless it happens to you. Even simple everyday tasks like caring for a newborn baby may be significantly more difficult, if not impossible, following a serious accident. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, it is important to seek legal advice from a Vancouver personal injury lawyer with experience in assisting accident victims.
Call Preszler Law today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.