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Psychiatric Injury

Since being in a crash I have become depressed and am having a difficult time coping with my situation. I feel like if I hadn’t been in the crash I wouldn’t feel like this. Who is responsible for this change and can I be compensated for it?

In the case of the case of Pike v. Kasir (2016 BCSC 555), Mr. Pike suffered injuries to his neck, back, knees, and hips when he was T-boned by  a negligent driver who blew through a red light. Previous to the crash, Mr. Pike had been a healthy 33 year old who worked as a plumber and played baseball at a high level. The injuries to his hips resulted in two surgeries and Mr. Pike found himself unable to work as a plumber and participate in baseball. Basically, his sense of identity was taken away from him. Over the course of the next several years Mr. Pike found himself angry, depressed, often suicidal, having regular nightmares and severe driving anxiety. Previous to the crash, his personality was such that he was described as “ a well-adjusted, outgoing and sociable man in a happy marriage”. During the trial, many witnesses came forward to give evidence of just how much Mr. Pike’s behaviour and mood had changed. In an effort to deal with these issues, he sought the treatment from a psychologist and began taking medication and, while improvement had been made, he was still having difficulty dealing with the circumstances he found himself in.

In his report for the Plaintiff, psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Wiseman give his opinion on Mr. Pike’s psychological injuries:

My sense from this material is that Mr. Pike has been very sensitive to the stressors and frustrations in his life—particularly those arising from his pain and subsequent financial situation. At times, the depressive mood symptoms as described have likely reached the cross-sectional severity to warrant a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. On the other hand, these symptoms have seemingly fluctuated and have recently improved (see below) without the use of anti-depressant medication—which would be more in keeping with a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder.

Overall, it is my opinion that Mr. Pike has continued to experience distressing and functionally- impairing emotional symptoms since the accident. These symptoms have largely been depressive in nature, presenting within the context of marked pain and life changes in a man who typically operated with a clear sense of personal control and preference to plan ahead prior to the accident.

Madam Justice Arnold-Bailey considered case law:

[273]     With regard to the psychological/psychiatric injuries sustained by the plaintiff, the principles to be applied in assessing such claims are summarized by Mr. Justice Lambert in Yoshikawa v. Yu (1996), 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 318 at paras. 12-13 (C.A.).

[274]     Also worthy of note is that when the psychiatric injury arises as consequence of physical injury caused by the defendant, the concept of “reasonable foreseeability” is subject to a qualification. As Madam Justice Bennett stated in Hussack v. Chilliwack School District No. 33, 2011 BCCA 258 at para. 74:

… where the psychiatric injury is consequential to the physical injury for which the defendant is responsible, the defendant is also responsible for the psychiatric injury even if this injury was unforeseeable. See White v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, [1999] 2 A.C. 455 at 470, Varga v. John Labbatt, [1956] O.R. 1007, 6 D.L.R. (2d) 336 (H.C.);Yoshikawa v. Yu (1996) 21 B.C.L.R. (3d) 318, 73 B.C.A.C. (C.A.); Edwards v. Marsden, 2004 BCSC 590; Samuel v. Levi, 2008 BCSC 1447.

She then concluded:

[280]     The post-accident deterioration of the Plaintiff’s mental health is clearly delineated in the evidence of the Plaintiff and those who know him and his reports to Dr. Fyfe, in conjunction with the assessment and diagnoses by Dr. Wiseman and treatment by Dr. Hopp. It was and continues to be caused by the injuries he sustained in the accident, most prominently the injury to his left hip that has resulted in two surgeries, years of pain and physical limitation.

[281]     Considering the principles set out in Yoshikawa, the genuine nature of the Plaintiff’s deteriorated mental health is without question. He has been very motivated to engage in psychological treatments and has done so regularly, and he clearly desires to be pain free and resume his former lifestyle and employment. There are several objective root causes identified in his left hip and low back by Dr. Duncan and Dr. Bishop and attributed to the accident for the pain that has undermined his mental health. Based on Hussack the Defendant is also responsible for this injury.

[282]     Therefore, the Court finds that the injury to the Plaintiff’s left hip was caused by trauma from the accident; the injuries to his spine, in particular his upper and low back, were caused by trauma from the accident; and his deteriorated mental health is directly related to those injuries, primarily the injury to his left hip.