When an individual is injured in a car accident due to the fault of another, they are entitled to compensation to put them back in the position they would have been in if they had not been injured. A component of that is compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that is experienced as a result of the injury. Every case is assessed on its own particular facts in terms of what is appropriate compensation for pain and suffering, however previously decided cases provide a guide as to how a judge will likely assess the compensation in similar cases. The factors that the Court of Appeal has directed the court to take into consideration in assessing damages for pain and suffering include:
- age of the plaintiff;
- nature of the injury;
- severity and duration of pain;
- emotional suffering;
- loss of enjoyment of life;
- impairment of family, marital and social relationships;
- impairment of physical and mental ability;
- loss of lifestyle; and
- the plaintiff’s stoicism which as a factor generally speaking should not penalize the plaintiff.
Two decisions of the British Columbia Supreme Court were released yesterday which demonstrate the way in which pain and suffering is assessed. In Wang v. McNaught the plaintiff was 48 years old. He was injured in tow motor vehicle accidents, the first of which occurred five years prior to trial and the second two years later. The plaintiff was noted to be very active and healthy prior to the motor vehicle accident and a contributor to the household work that was required in his home. At the time of trial he no longer was able to assist with any housework and did not participate in any of his previous physical activities. The trial judge noted that all of the plaintiff’s activities are limited by pain. He was found to be experiencing chronic pain in his neck and back, as well as depression and stress as a result of the injuries suffered in the accident. The conclusions of the trial judge with respect to the assessment of pain and suffering are found at paragraph 43 where he states as follows:
 Mr. Wang was in his mid-40’s when he had the two accidents. He was in the prime of his life. He was physically vigorous and enjoyed many physically demanding activities. His home life appears to have been entirely satisfactory, but as a result of the accidents his home life has been disrupted, as has his relationship with his wife. He cannot hike the Grouse Grind, nor ski, nor swim. His household chores have become a burden. He found employment with a physical aspect enjoyable and, although I cannot find he lost his job with the LDB because of his accident injuries, in the future he will probably need to confine his employment to a desk.
Damages for pain and suffering were assessed at $175,000.
In Parker v. Martin the male plaintiff was 53 years old at the time of the accident, which occurred six years prior to trial. The plaintiff was diagnosed with soft tissue injuries to his neck and low back, facet joint injuries to his neck, re-aggravation of lumbar disc disease and post traumatic headaches. The plaintiff continued to experience pain in his neck, upper back and shoulders at the time of trial as well as headaches. The medical evidence was that there was opportunity for ongoing improvement and that the plaintiff could return to his previous recreational activities. Damages for pain and suffering were assessed at $45,000.
These two cases demonstrate the manner in which damages for pain and suffering are assessed and the variance in the awards that are made.