Life Thrown Off Track By Pain From Car Accident

A car crash may change a young person’s path in life. Accident injuries may lead to pain, depression and other psychological consequences that become deeply rooted, leaving the victim’s future under a dark cloud.

The BC Supreme Court was faced with such a case recently. A key question was whether the accident injuries, and their consequences, were responsible for the downward spiral in Carla’s life.

Carla (name changed), 19, was hurt in a 2010 car accident. She was a passenger when her boyfriend lost control of his vehicle on a highway early one morning. His car flipped over and landed in a ditch (the court concluded the accident was his fault).

Though wearing her seatbelt, Carla suffered serious injuries, including spinal compression fractures, soft tissue neck and back injuries, and bruising to her head, face and upper body. She also suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. Her injuries left her in pain, depressed and anxious about her future.

Unfortunately, the pain from her accident injuries over time became chronic, and fuelled her anxiety disorder and depression.

Before the accident, Carla’s dream was to become a nurse, and she still forged ahead toward that goal in the years after. She took a care-aide course and, later, a college nursing degree program. But due to the pain and emotional, cognitive and psychological problems stemming from the accident, she had to withdraw from these physically demanding programs.

Working toward her goals had given her some purpose and hope that she could still have the life she’d aspired to. But having to quit her nursing program in her second term, and giving up that hope, was a devastating psychological setback that sent her spiralling downward.

Carla was seen, evaluated and treated extensively by a number of medical professionals in the years after the accident. To help manage her pain, she was prescribed various medications, some of them addictive. Unfortunately, by the time of trial in 2017, her life was on a downward treadmill, and her prospects for improvement poor. Though she had tried working at other jobs in the years after the accident, it was doubtful whether she would be able to hold a job for very long in future.

The court decided her debilitating pain, depression and anxiety disorder – which aggravated each other in a “vicious cycle” – would not have happened but for the car accident. Said the court: “As a young person moving into adulthood, her life was seriously thrown off-track.” She’d become addicted to narcotic pain medication, yet her pain was still uncontrolled at the time of the court hearing. She was unemployed (and possibly unemployable). And she was socially isolated.

Carla was awarded $200,000 for her loss of life enjoyment as a result of the car accident. In addition, the court awarded over $1,000,000 for loss of past and future earning capacity and cost of future care.

This column has been written by Janice Mucalov LL.B as part of “You And The Law”. It provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer.

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