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How Will I Be Compensated for Depression?

If you’re depressed after a crash, can you compensated for your loss of enjoyment of life?  What if you’ve had other troubling experiences that might be causing your depression?  Will you still be compensated if the crash wasn’t the only factor?

In the recent case Maldonado v Mooney (2016 BCSC 558), the plaintiff was a construction labourer in his mid-thirties at the time of the crash.  He suffered injuries in the crash that left him with significant low back pain and thoracic pain when his spine was subject to the stresses of his occupation, which was very physically demanding.  He also developed depression.

The judge found that together with the crash, the breakdown of the plaintiff’s marriage contributed to his depression.  It might seem that this would reduce the amount the plaintiff could claim from the defendant. However, in situations where a loss has several causes, and only one of those causes is tortious, the plaintiff has the right to collect full compensation for their injuries from the defendant.

Justice Saunders wrote the following about the plaintiff’s psychological condition before awarding $110,000 in non-pecuniary damages:
[61]         Mr. Maldonado is also suffering from depression. Although Dr. Rasmusen believes there is a causal connection between the major depressive disorder and the motor vehicle accident, from Mr. Maldonado’s own testimony his reaction to the break-up of his marriage must be a significant causal factor as well. It is clear from Mr. Maldonado’s testimony that he relates the break-up of his marriage to the effect of his injuries. I am unable to draw that conclusion. We heard no testimony from Mr. Maldonado’s wife. There is rarely a single cause to the break-up of a relationship; I do not dispute genuineness of Mr. Maldonado’s perception that the accident was a factor, but there is simply not sufficient evidence for me to make that finding on a balance of probabilities.

[62]         Nevertheless, I do conclude that Mr. Maldonado’s psychological reaction to his injuries has undoubtedly complicated his emotional reaction to his divorce. In this respect the two causal factors are best viewed as one tortious and one non-tortious cause. The injuries continue to contribute to the depression as a causal factor and the defendant is fully liable for the consequences.

[63]         The prognosis for the depression, I find, is not so grave as with respect to his physical injury. There is a reasonable prospect that Mr. Maldonado may experience at least some degree of recovery from his depression, although as Dr. Rasmusen concluded some degree of permanent depressive symptoms will likely continue.