Are Injury Victims Entitled to Compensation for Non-Physical Damages?
When a personal injury lawyer seeks compensation for their clients’ damages, they must consider the various ways in which the client has been injured. In some cases, the injuries are clear and apparent. In an obstetrical malpractice case where a doctor’s negligence caused a child to suffer brain damage, for example, the impacts of that negligence will be plain to see. Similarly, a serious car accident could result in spinal injuries leading to paraplegia or quadriplegia – again, the injuries and their impacts on the plaintiff’s life would be obvious.
In other cases the plaintiff’s injuries may not be so evident. Chronic pain is a good example: many personal injury victims experience chronic pain that may develop or intensify weeks or months after the accident occurred. Chronic pain is considered an ‘invisible injury’ or ‘invisible impairment’; someone who suffers chronic pain may look perfectly healthy on the outside, but their life could be catastrophically derailed by their affliction.
Invisible injuries can be just as debilitating as outward injuries, but personal injury lawyers often find these cases more challenging to litigate. Judges and juries are more likely to award compensation to a plaintiff suffering from visible catastrophic injuries than a plaintiff whose personal and professional life has been put on hold by chronic pain.
Having said that, there appears to be a growing understanding that plaintiffs should have access to fair and reasonable compensation for invisible injuries that lead to a loss of enjoyment of life. Take the recent BC Supreme Court case Morgan v Ziggiotti as an example.
Morgan v Ziggiotti
The injuries at the centre of Morgan v Ziggiotti occurred when one of the defendants, McCann, backed a vehicle owned by another defendant, Ziggiotti, into a parked vehicle occupied by the plaintiff, Morgan. The impact of the collision drove Morgan’s knee into the steering wheel of the vehicle she was occupying. She was able to exit the vehicle and speak to the defendant; the extent of her injuries wouldn’t become apparent until later.
According to Canadian Lawyer, Morgan eventually suffered a variety of injuries as a result of the collision, including anterior knee pain syndrome, sometimes referred to as chondromalacia patella; soft tissue damage to her spine, hip, and left leg; decreased left quadricep muscle mass; chronic pain and fatigue; and a lingering inability to exert herself.
Prior to the accident, Morgan had been very fit and active. Her athleticism was central to her self-esteem and sense of self. Indeed, she considered it her defining feature, the one thing at which she excelled. The injuries she suffered prevented her from taking part in athletic activities at the volume or level that she once did, which affected her confidence and her mood. Canadian Lawyer reports that she felt a deep sense of sadness.
She was also unable to support herself financially. Prior to the accident, she had worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at a local pool. This work was now off the table, and she was unable to afford the physiotherapy or chiropractic treatments that would ease her pain.
The defendants in the case argued both that Morgan had experienced pre-existing mental health issues (she had spent time in a psychiatric unit) and that other events in the period after the accident – the death of relatives, a miscarriage, a terminated pregnancy – were as much or more to blame for her state of mind than the fallout from the accident. The Supreme Court disagreed, and awarded non-pecuniary damages, special damages, damages for lost wages, damages for lost future earning capacity, and damages for the cost of future care.
Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Will Davidson LLP
If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers will assess your claim, explain your legal options, and provide the representation and support you need on your road to recovery.
During our decades in practice, we have come to understand that serious injuries take many different forms. It is our goal to ensure that our clients have access to the compensation they need to secure necessary physical and mental support services. We believe that every client deserves to have their story heard and their interests protected – reach out today to learn more about how we can help.