Whiplash is a very common injury that can easily result from a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash occurs in a motor vehicle accident when the vehicle loses momentum and the muscles in the neck are strained. While whiplash is a common injury, when dealing with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) it is important to demonstrate evidence of a soft tissue injury, and whiplash specifically.
Unfortunately, insurers may take the position that, as a claimant, you have exaggerated the extent of your injuries, and this is difficult for you to disprove. Insurers may also seek to discount your injury as a result of any pre-existing conditions you may have had. However, symptoms you may have had at the time of the accident, in relation to a pre-existing condition, will not extinguish your claim as they could have been aggravated by the whiplash. It is important to seek medical help and legal advice if you think you have sustained whiplash from a car accident.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a sudden injury to the neck from a rapid stop in momentum. The greatest risk of sustaining whiplash is when your car is hit with a rear impact, which is generally known as being “rear-ended”. In these types of accidents, your neck is whipped backward and then forward in a quick and violent manner. Usually it is the “soft tissues” which are significantly impacted; the muscles and the ligaments. Symptoms can include: neck pain and stiffness, headaches, weariness, shoulder pain and stiffness, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and back pain. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident and are experiencing any of these symptoms described, you may have sustained a whiplash injury and should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Whiplash as Defined by ICBC
According to ICBC, whiplash is considered a soft tissue injury. ICBC assesses whiplash injuries along a gradient of severity known as Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD). This grading system, which ranges from WAD 0 – WAD 4 (with 4 being the most severe), has been adopted by ICBC, the government auto insurer for British Columbia.
ICBC relies on internal injury settlement guidelines to limit the amount of damages available. However, it should be noted that the courts in BC are not bound by the ICBC’s soft tissue injury settlement guidelines, as they are simply internal guidelines. The courts will assess the quantum of damage on a case-by-case basis, while also relying on the legal precedents for whiplash injuries. It is for this reason that you should know your legal rights. You do not need to feel pressured into accepting any settlement offer from ICBC, and you can speak with a personal injury lawyer in Coquitlam to determine the potential value of your claim for non-pecuniary damages.
What Are You Entitled To?
If you have suffered a grade 0 to 4 whiplash injury from a car accident and you’re not at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. ICBC might offer you an amount in order to settle your claim, but they may also dispute the severity of your injury. ICBC relies on their WAD assessment, but also on certain non-pecuniary damages (for pain and suffering), which may also affect your life and for which you may receive compensation. Non-pecuniary damages can help to alleviate the pain and loss of enjoyment of life both now and in the future.
Ultimately, the courts determine the quantum of damages to which you are entitled. The Supreme Court of Canada has held, in Lindal v. Lindal, that non-pecuniary damages must be fair and reasonable to both the claimant and to ICBC. Further, this case held that the amount of damages depends on the seriousness of the injury, and also on the ability of the amount to ameliorate the condition of the injured party.
The BC Court of Appeal, in Boyd v. Harris, has held that the following factors must be considered:
age of the plaintiff
- nature of the injury
- severity and duration of pain
- emotional suffering, and
- loss or impairment of life.
Note that the courts in BC have distinguished between soft tissue injuries that resolve fully in a matter of months, and those that persist with residual pain for an extended period of time (Gill v. Janzen).
When to Contact a Car Accident or ICBC Lawyer in Coquitlam
It is important to ensure that you get medical treatment for your injuries and that the treatment is well documented. A thorough documentation of your accident and your injuries is critical to the success of a future claim. A legal professional can facilitate this process for you or provide names of reputable treatment providers if needed.
If there is some disagreement or issue about who was at fault for the accident, you should not accept any fault and have a lawyer speak for you. A personal injury lawyer can clarify what your legal options are and help by representing you in your claim.
Do not wait until it is too late to seek compensation. Our personal injury lawyers can discuss the time limits with you and discuss what options are available to you for compensation.
At Spraggs & Co., our car accident lawyers are experienced in dealing with ICBC claims in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, Burnaby, and the surrounding Lower Mainland Region. We focus on insurance and personal injury law, including whiplash claims. We can effectively challenge ICBC soft tissue injury settlement tactics. If we feel that ICBC is not providing a fair measure of compensation for your injuries, we can challenge them through the civil litigation process. Expert evidence is often required and a thorough independent investigation, especially if ICBC attempts to challenge your credibility and injury severity.
At Spraggs & Co., we understand that your whiplash injury is painful and may have caused a debilitating effect to your ability to function. In some cases, this can include permanent pain, financial loss or the inability to work and support yourself and your family. We take the time to understand the impact of your whiplash injuries to your unique circumstances, and seek compensation on your behalf.
Our car accident lawyers provide services to clients in Surrey, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Langley, and surrounding areas of the Lower Mainland Region. Contact a Spraggs & Co. lawyer today at 604-464-3333 or 1-866-939-3339 to arrange your free consultation.