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Do I Gotta? Going Back to Retail After Losing Your Career Because of a Car Crash

If I can’t work at my pre-crash job, do I have to do something else?  What if I’d rather not work at all than work some low-level job on a part-time basis?

Short answer: yes, you gotta.  In this week’s case, the court considered past income loss for a plaintiff who had quit her work without discussing with a doctor and then remained away from the working world without attempts to return to some other position (Sandhu v Bates 2018 BCSC 2116).  Ms. Sandhu was an insurance administrator prior to an unfortunate trilogy of crashes that left her with significant anxiety and pain.  She made a two attempts to return to work after the collision.  While the defendants conceded that the first attempt had failed as a result of the collision-related injuries, it was argued that she was unreasonable in giving up on the second attempt, which last just a few partial shifts before she handed in her final resignation.  The defendants argued that Ms. Sandhu should have consulted her doctor before quitting, and that even if she had quit she should have sought part-time employment in another field.

Ms. Sandhu had given evidence that she had considered returning to retail work as an alternative occupation, saying that it was not her ideal job but she would do it if it was necessary financially.  Justice Winteringham agreed with the defendants that Ms. Sandhu should have tried to return to some form of work – even the undesirable retail work -and reduced Ms. Sandhu’s past income loss award to account for the finding that she could have been employed on a part time basis, even if it wasn’t as an insurance administrator:

[173]     Taking into account her employment earnings prior to the accidents, Mrs. Sandhu’s estimated earnings from the time of the first accident to April 3, 2018, adjusting Mr. Turnbull’s numbers for negative contingencies and taking into account her decision to terminate her employment in February 21, 2017, and not seek any part-time alternative employment, I award $175,000 for past loss of earning.

[174]     To be clear, I have found that her decision to terminate her employment in February 2017 has not disentitled her to any claim for loss of earnings for that time period. Rather, I have found, consistent with the medical evidence, that she could have been employed on a part-time basis and, as such, I have adjusted the amount of this award accordingly.