Did you sustain injuries following a motor vehicle accident? Are you unable to maintain your previously held position? Do you have a claim for loss of future income-earning capacity? The Goodfirm lawyers can help you recover the compensation that you are entitled to. A recent Supreme Court decision, Murphy v. Hofer, 2018 BCSC 869, shows why it is important to hire experts to maximize your recovery.
In this case, the plaintiff, Leo Murphy, sought damages following a motor vehicle accident. While the defendants admitted liability for the accident, Mr. Murphy’s position was that the accident had permanently disabled him from obtaining any meaningful employment. He argued that his life had been significantly impacted by the physical and psychological injuries that were a result of the accident. The defendant made two counter-arguments. First, they argued that Mr. Murphy’s condition had improved since the accident. Second, Mr. Murphy had suffered from a number of conditions before the accident that would have impacted his ability to continue employment, even if the accident had never occurred.
Prior to the accident Mr. Murphy was employed as a belt technician, or a belter. He repaired conveyor belts used in the mining, forestry and shipping industries. To repair the belts, the plaintiff and his co-workers lifted rubber weighing 250 to 1,160 pounds. His job was specialized and physically demanding. During his many years of employment he sustained some physical injuries, but despite these injuries he was in a relatively good physical health up to the time of the accident.
Following the accident, Mr. Murphy sustained pain in his left leg and left foot, intense lower back pain and pain in his left hip, intense thoracic back pain, pain in both shoulders and pain and discomfort while breathing and moving about. While some of his symptoms subsided, he continued to suffer from debilitating pain in his left shoulder joint. He was eventually diagnosed with SLAP tear. Further, Mr. Murphy suffered from depression, loss of libido and self-image, and became socially isolated. He did not exhibit any of these psychological conditions prior to the accident.
The court relied heavily on the evidence of experts to determine the amount of damages Mr. Murphy was entitled to. For instance, the court agreed with an orthopaedic surgeon’s conclusion that Mr. Murphy’s pain in his left shoulder was distinguished from his injury prior to the accident and the accident aggravated his pre-existing pain in his thoracic, lumbar and cervical spine. Another expert, a neurologist, concluded that the plaintiff’s psychological problems were a predominant contributing factor to his ongoing partial disability. Further a registered psychologist, a psychiatrist and neuropsychologist gave evidence in relation to Mr. Murphy’s psychological injuries. The court determined that Mr. Murphy suffered from somatic symptom disorder as a result of the accident. Next, a work capacity evaluation of Mr. Murphy concluded that he was capable of performing jobs in the sedentary light and medium strength categories. Finally, a vocational consultant prepared two reports with regards to vocational options available to Mr. Murphy both before and after the accident.
In relation to Mr. Murphy’s loss of earning capacity claim, the court concluded that he was no longer employable as a belter or any position requiring heavy physical strength. In addition to the physical limitations, Mr. Murphy’s psychological difficulties created significant obstacles for future employment. The court further stated:
 I conclude that there is a low probability that Mr. Murphy will be able to find any meaningful employment in the future. His physical limitations preclude employment in occupations for which he has an aptitude. His lack of education and fragile psychological condition severely limit his ability to retrain. His personality changes have rendered him incapable of dealing with the stresses of most occupations.
The court further relied on the calculations of an economist to determine the value of Mr. Murphy’s pre-accident future income-earning capacity to age 70 and ordered as follows:
- Non-Pecuniary Damages: $175,000
- Loss of Past Income: $221,680
- Loss of Future Income-Earning Capacity: $1,600,000
- Cost of Future Care: $95,520
- Special Damages: $2,659
Total: $2,094,859 rounded to $2,095,000
Not every personal injury case requires such an army of experts, but every case requires that your unique facts be brought to the court’s attention. Give Richter Trial Lawyers a call and we will help you build your case 604.264.5550.