Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Head or Spinal Injury?

Paine Edmonds - Tuesday, August 22, 2017

If you are involved in a car accident, you may not immediately realize that you are injured. You may have an initial emotional shock and then be immersed administrative headaches that can come with getting in an accident, such as dealing with the other driver and your insurer, notifying your family, and getting your vehicle towed and repaired or replaced. These factors combined can lead you to ignore physical symptoms or injuries that have resulted from your accident.

For example, if you hit your head on the driver’s door or steering wheel because of a high-impact accident, you may initially feel fine, and presume that nothing is wrong. Similarly, you may jolt your back as a result of being involved in a rear-end or t-bone type collision. However, you may not feel much discomfort, and may walk away from the accident seemingly fine, even if you have in fact suffered whiplash injuries.

Injuries Do Not Always Produce Symptoms Immediately

Often injuries may be unnoticeable at first, but may lead to chronic symptoms that only arise days or even weeks down the line. For example, even a minor concussion resulting from a hard hit to the head can lead to cognitive difficulties, disturbed sleep, and mood changes later. Similarly, whiplash type injuries may be completely asymptomatic at first, but may ultimately degenerate into long-term neck and back pain.

If You Want to Commence a Legal Claim

If you are injured in an accident, you may realize months down the road that your injuries are not resolving, and that you are suffering monetary losses as a result – whether for medications, physiotherapy treatments, and possibly income loss or if you are unable to work. In this situation, you may want to collect accident benefits from your own insurer, and/or sue a liable third party with help from a brain injury lawyer in Vancouver or spinal cord injury lawyer in Vancouver. However, it is your duty to prove that your injuries arose from the accident and the extent of your losses.

Do not suffer in silence — if you are genuinely in pain, see your physician to ensure that there is a paper trail detailing your medical complaints. Even if you are not in pain after an accident, but have hit your head or been seriously jolted, it is best to see a physician and let him or her know what happened. There are at least two good reasons to visit your physician after an accident: 1) ICBC will rely on proof of your injuries and symptomatology and 2) it is your duty to mitigate your losses.

ICBC Will Rely on Proof of Your Injuries and Symptomatology

If you do not seek medical treatment immediately following an accident, insurers are much more likely to be skeptical that your injuries are genuine, and may question whether the injuries even arose from the accident.

Proving your injuries generally requires medical documentation, including doctor’s notes. Evidence of when you went to see doctors, the symptoms described to the doctor, and his or her impressions, and the results of any medical tests will be considered at trial in determining whether the injuries described arose from the accident.

For example, in Lee v. Hawari, 2009 BCSC 1904 (CanLII), the plaintiff claimed that she suffered whiplash-type injuries and general soft tissue injuries from a collision. The defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to show that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the accident.

The trial judge determined that the plaintiff had tendered sufficient evidence to show that the accident had caused her injuries. In making this assessment, the judge considered the fact that the plaintiff had seen two doctors within a very short period after the accident, and that their notes and records contained evidence of injuries consistent with those described by the plaintiff.

It Is Your Duty to Mitigate Your Losses

It is easy to convince yourself that your injuries are temporary, and just try to “ride out” the pain. Unfortunately, failing to seek early treatment for serious injuries such as concussions (even if minor) can result in long-term consequences that may have been preventable. If you seek compensation from a third party for causing your injuries, that person is entitled at law to argue that your injuries and consequent losses are worse than they would have been if you had sought appropriate medical treatment.

Further, failing to heed your doctor’s advice or recommended course of treatments can also be determined to be a failure to mitigate your losses.

For example, in Antoniali v. Massey, 2008 BCSC 1085 (CanLII), the plaintiff suffered whiplash-type injuries to her back and neck from a rear-end motor vehicle accident. However, following the accident, the plaintiff failed to take the initiative to follow a program of exercise under the guidance of a personal trainer, as recommended by her treating and consulting physicians. The trial judge found that doing so would have helped her to rehabilitate herself and reduce or eliminate the continuing effect of the injuries on her.

As a result, the plaintiff’s entitlement to damages was reduced by 15 percent for the period leading up to trial, and 50 percent thereafter, based on an estimate of how much following the exercise program would have reduced her losses during each period.

See a Personal Injury Lawyer in Vancouver at Paine Edmonds LLP

If you have injured your head or back in a Vancouver motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or other type of accident, contact a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver at Paine Edmonds LLP. We can discuss your case with you and the steps you can take to ensure that you are properly compensated for your losses. Contact us at 604-683-1211.