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Workplace Disability Benefits

I have been on short term and long term disability since my crash. My disability insurer is recommending I go to so many appointments and fill out multiple forms. I am so stressed out from my injuries I can’t keep up with it any more. Will my non-compliance with some of the recommended treatments of my workplace disability benefits plan affect my claim with ICBC? Will the judge think I didn’t try hard enough to get back to work as soon as possible?

The plaintiff in the recently released judgment Purewal v. Li (2016 BCSC 1792) found himself on long term disability after injuries sustained in an August, 2012, crash left him unable to return to work as a transit driver. His disability carrier, GWL, requested that he attend KARP, a rehab facility, for treatment.  KARP was located 45-50 minutes away by bus from the plaintiff’s home. He attended twice per week for 50 sessions between March and August 2013, but then stopped attending. Mr. Purewal ignored letters and multiple phone calls from GWL advising him of the need to fill out a form for changes in the policy and to give an update on his health. He missed a recommended medical assessment and did not “re-engage in the rehabilitation plan” as required by GWL. Mr. Purewal claimed he was depressed and did not want to deal with GWL. He claimed their letters caused him to feel stressed. In July 2013, GWL terminated his benefits. Mr. Purewal continued to pursue treatment as recommended by medical professionals but remained off work for over two more years.

In 2016, Mr. Purewal successfully pursued a GRTW in 2016 because he finally felt that he “had better control over his impatient behavior” and his sleep had improved. He denied that his reason for returning was financial pressure.

Mr. Justice Greyell considered whether the issues between GWL and Mr. Purewal was relevant to his claim with ICBC.

[143]     In my view the issues between Mr. Purewal, KARP and GWL do not bear on the issues to be determined in this case. The defendant has not established that by attending further KARP treatments the condition of Mr. Purewal’s physical or mental health would have been any different. The defendant has not established that Mr. Purewal failed to take reasonably steps to mitigate his loss. KARP’s facilities were some distance from Mr. Purewal’s residence and entailed considerable inconvenience is attending. Further, as stated, the defendants have not established his attendance would have improved his condition and enabled him to return to work any earlier than he ultimately did.

[144]     Mr. Purewal’s refusal or failure to co-operate with GWL in regard to continued benefits is not is simply not relevant except to the defendant’s argument Mr. Purewal could have gone back to work earlier than he did but did not as he was receiving LTD benefits. I accept Mr. Purewal did not respond to GWL’s requests for information was entirely due to his mental state during the time such information was being requested. In my view his failure to cooperate with GWL had nothing to do with his ultimate return to work or any attempt to hide information concerning his health from his insurance carrier.

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