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Sommerville v. Munro

Mr. Sommerville was involved in a significant head-on collision on November 23, 2015.  At that time he was retired from his work as an RCMP officer after more than 35 years of active duty.  The accident caused fractures in his spine, which went on to heal however continued to cause him significant limitations and pain and suffering.  While ICBC did not dispute the fault for the accident was with the other driver, it did take a position that a lot of the issues which Mr. Sommerville suffered were not related to the accident but to pre-existing complaints.  Mr. Sommerville had a previous back complaint while working as an RCMP officer, which by all accounts resolved after retirement.  It was our position, on behalf of Mr. Sommerville, that the accident was the major cause of his continuing back complaints, and that those complaints have significantly interfered with his retirement.  There was also significant care costs relating to those injuries for which Mr. Sommerville should be compensated for into the future.

The trial took place just over 2 years after the accident date.  The experts we retained included a physiatrist who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and an occupational therapist.  We also retained an economist to cost out the future care needs that Mr. Sommerville would require due to the accident, as recommended by the occupational therapist.    As witnesses we called Mr. Sommerville, his spouse, and several of his friends.  ICBC retained 2 experts including a psychiatrist and a neurosurgeon.  The neurosurgeon provided an opinion that in essence stated that the fractures in the spine had healed and that any continuing complaints related primarily to Mr. Sommerville’s pre-existing arthritic spine.  We cross examined that expert and in the course of doing so, that expert admitted that trauma to someone’s spine can cause ongoing pain and discomfort in the spine, even after the fractures had healed.  

Judge Smith presided over the trial.  In his reasons, he agreed that the accident was the major cause of Mr. Sommerville’s ongoing limitations and pain in his back.  He awarded Mr. Sommerville $150,000.00 for pain and suffering, reduced by 10% on his finding that Mr. Sommerville would have experienced pain and suffering due to unrelated conditions in his spine regardless of the accident.  Judge Smith also awarded cost of future care in the amount of $64,584.00; $10,000.00 for Mr. Somemrville’s loss of ability to do homemaking and yardwork; $10,000.00 towards the care that Mr. Sommerville’s spouse helped him with in the first few months after the accident; and reimbursement of $16,709.19 worth of out of pocket expenses.  This total award was far in excess of ICBC’s valuation.  Mr. Sommerville will also receive payment of his allowable legal costs and payment of the disbursements that were necessary to bring this matter to trial.  This was a case where it was very much worth the effort and risk to go to trial in order to obtain fair compensation from ICBC.


Click here to read the full court decision. 

 

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