Court Rejects ICBC’s “Common Sense” Injury Analysis

Posted on by Mussio Goodman

Court Sides with Mussio Goodman for Injury Analysis

Sometimes moderate or severe injuries can result from a relatively minor collision. In these cases, ICBC typically takes a hard line approach, arguing “common sense” dictates that a minor collision cannot result in anything but a minor injury. Unfortunately for ICBC, the laws of British Columbia and the laws of physics state otherwise.

Vehicle manufacturers design modern cars to crumple on impact. They do this in order to absorb the force that is being transferred from one body to another. Therefore, if there is more damage on impact, less force is being transferred to an occupant and more to the vehicle. However, if there is little damage to a vehicle, it does not necessarily mean that the impact was insignificant. A possible explanation is that the force from the impact was transferred elsewhere (i.e. to the occupants of a vehicle).

In Dunne v. Sharma, our court recently confirmed that there is no presumption in law that low velocity impact collisions cannot cause significant injury to a claimant. In Dunne, ICBC tried to use the “common sense” approach that a minor accident cannot cause a moderate to severe injury. The Court rejected ICBC’s argument as follows:

[90]         Dealing first with the low velocity and minimal material damage aspect, I note that the defendants have tendered a report prepared by an engineer with expertise in the field of accident reconstruction. The essence of his opinion is that in each of the subject collisions, the velocity change experience by the plaintiff’s vehicle was probably less than about 12 km. per hour. The photographs contained in his report also demonstrate that the damage done to the cars by the collision was quite modest.

[91]         I appreciate that to have to been the case and I accept that common sense might generally dictate that a minor collision would not be expected to result in significant injuries. However, there is simply no basis upon which I am able to extrapolate the information concerning the velocity of the collision to a conclusion that the plaintiff’s injuries must therefore necessarily be of a certain type and degree. As has been judicially observed in a multitude of cases, the court cannot conclude that because the impact of the collision was relatively minor, then any resulting injuries must necessarily be minor as well. Justice Thackeray noted in Gordon v. Palmer (1993), 78 B.C.L.R. (2d) 236, 38 A.C.W.S. (3d) 924 (S.C.):

Significant injuries can be caused by the most casual of slips and falls. Conversely, accidents causing extensive property damage may leave those involved unscathed. The presence and extent of injuries are to be determined on the basis of evidence given in court. Objectivity is thus preserved and the public does not have to concern itself with extraneous philosophies that some would impose on the judicial process.