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General damages and the dream job

My work is important to me; I worked hard to get to where I was before the crash and I am devastated that I can no longer do what I did. I know there is compensation for loss of income but what about the pain of losing my career? I may never have that opportunity again!

The December decision of Anderson v. Rizzardo 2015 BCSC 2349 (http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/15/23/2015BCSC2349.htm) involved a plaintiff who was rear ended while stopped for construction. For over a year following the crash his injuries were neither disabling or deeply painful but as time passed it became apparent that holding his work posture for long hours resulted in a worsening of symptoms which, most importantly to the plaintiff, compromised his ability to perform his dream job – the plaintiff and a business partner had established their own mobile phone dealership with Bell Mobility. The court recognized the value of this effort in the general damages claim, awarding the plaintiff $60,000.00 even though the injuries he sustained in the crash had no adverse impact on the majority of his recreational or leisure pursuits, which included physical sports such as ice hockey and downhill skiing as well as lengthy backpacking trips through South America:

[200]     For the first seven months or so following the Accident, Mr. Anderson’s injuries were neither disabling nor deeply painful; many of them resolved and those that lingered were not interfering with his life or job performance.  As time passed and he continued to assume the aggravating posture for long hours at work, his neck and shoulder/trapezius symptoms and pain worsened and brought about the companion ill-effects of a depletion of his energy, a low mood and, most devastating for Mr. Anderson, a compromised ability to perform his “dream job”.  Mr. Anderson ultimately had to give up his full‑time position as Preston’s director of operations to take a vastly subordinate role in the company that he helped found and in which he had invested so much of his time, talent and sense of self‑worth. 

[201]     Mr. Anderson’s injuries have had no adverse impact on his ability to do housework, yard maintenance or to participate in leisure activities, such as watching television, attending movies, playing video games, backpacking or socializing to the extent he desires.  Nor have they interfered in any appreciable way with his enjoyment of physically intensive sports like ice hockey and snow skiing.  The only recreational pursuit that may have been mildly curtailed by Mr. Anderson’s injuries is his participation in golf.  However, the evidence on that point, including how frequently he played golf prior to the Accident, was poorly developed.  The other problem he has experienced on account of the Accident is driving for extended periods of time without taking appropriate breaks.

[202]     In the near future, the lingering after‑effects of the Accident will continue to pose a serious hurdle to Mr. Anderson’s ability to re‑establish himself in his niche area and the cell phone industry at large.  They may also have foreclosed his ability to more fully reintegrate with Preston, which, as I have noted, is the type of business opportunity that might never again arise for Mr. Anderson.

[203]     In prior cases I have said that enduring pain, even when it becomes intermittent and mostly low-grade, can compel unwelcome adjustments to one’s work life and lifestyle and cloud the pleasures of life, as it has in the case at hand.  Taking care to not aggravate his residual symptoms and trying to manage his pain has become part of Mr. Anderson’s everyday life and will continue for many years to come, although, in all likelihood, on an ever-declining scale.

[204]     I have reviewed the authorities placed before me by counsel.  As they provide general guidelines only I do not propose to address them in any detail, except to say that I find the cases submitted by Mr. Anderson’s counsel to be more instructive in that their facts more closely approximate my findings in this case.

[205]     Having regard to the Stapley factors and the other case authorities in the context of the evidence in the case at hand, in my opinion a fair and reasonable award for Mr. Anderson’s non-pecuniary damages is $60,000.

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