Damages Can Vary Widely for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Routinely, I field questions about how damages are assessed in personal injury matters. Needless to say, the determination is highly complex and depends on a staggering array of factors, including the nature of the injury suffered, and the age and circumstances of the person afflicted.

Two recent court decisions from B.C. highlight the complicated interrelationship between the various factors that go into making a damages award.

In Park v Donnelly, the plaintiff was a 31-year-old steam pipe fitter who suffered head, shoulder, neck and back injuries when his car was broadsided by another vehicle and pushed into a third car. He was initially trapped inside the car and had to be removed using the “Jaws of Life”.

Among the head-related injuries was a laceration and a noticeable bump on his forehead, likely caused by his head striking the roof of his car. He complained of memory loss and fogginess, some inability to form complete sentences on occasion, as well as temporary depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. After hearing some conflicting expert evidence, the court accepted that the accident had caused the plaintiff to have some lasting cognitive and emotional difficulties, but found the diagnosis fell somewhat short of his having mild traumatic brain injury. The court awarded him $85,000 in damages for the head and upper body damages, plus another $250,000 for loss of future earning capacity.

In contrast, the decision in Wallman v. John Doe involved an emergency room physician who sustained head injuries in a motor vehicle accident.   He suffered long-term cognitive impairment and communication difficulties, which included forgetfulness, irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and memory loss. The court heard evidence that the sudden onset of these symptoms had profoundly changed his life and impaired his ability to work and function, especially he had previously functioned at a high level, and was very successful and hard-working.   He now struggled even to make decisions and initiate activities, was inattentive, displayed poor judgment, and had withdrawn socially. In fact, he could no longer practice as an emergency physician, which was a job he was passionate about.

In light of the nature and impact of the plaintiff’s mild traumatic brain injury, the court awarded him general damages of $210,000, as well as over $4 million for loss of future earning capacity.

As these very disparate outcomes show, there can be huge variations in the damages that might be awarded in any personal injury matter. If you have suffered any sort of injury, it is important to get good advice on your potential entitlement. Contact me for an appointment to discuss your particular case.