Small Accident But Big Income Loss

What might at first seem like a relatively minor car crash can lead to a significant future loss of income. If your ability to earn a living is harmed because you’ve been hurt as a result of another’s negligence, you may be compensated for that loss.

Take the case of Sam (name changed). He recovered $350,000 for his reduced earning capacity after suffering whiplash-type (soft tissue) neck and back injuries.

Sam was stopped in his half-ton pickup at a traffic light, when he was hit from behind by a Honda Civic going about 29 to 30 mph. Sam’s vehicle sustained $1,200 worth of damage.
Sam worked as a heavy duty mechanic. Although his shoulder blades hurt shortly after the accident, he went to work the next day, a Saturday. At work, the pain in his shoulders and neck got worse and he developed a bad headache. On Sunday, he saw a doctor at a walk-in clinic, who recommended that he take a week off work. He then saw his own family doctor, who prescribed physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments and massage therapy, and he visited a kinesiologist for home exercise instruction.

Over the next few years, Sam took various periods of time off work. Ultimately, he decided he couldn’t work as a mechanic and retrained for a lighter career as a realtor.

At trial, both his family doctor and a specialist said his condition was permanent. So long as he didn’t do any heavy labour, he had no major complaints. But if he did heavy work, his symptoms would flare up.

A large part of Sam’s total claim was for future lost income – the difference between what he probably would earn as a mechanic if he hadn’t been injured and what he would likely now earn as a realtor. The BC Supreme Court considered whether any of the following four principles applied to his case:

1. The plaintiff is less able overall to earn income from all types of employment
2. The plaintiff is less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers
3. The plaintiff has lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might have been open to him if he hadn’t been injured
4. The plaintiff is less valuable to himself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market

The court concluded Sam’s ability to take advantage of job opportunities was now limited because of his permanent injury. It awarded him $350,000 compensation for future lost income. “The plaintiff has been permanently disabled from his lifetime occupation as a heavy duty mechanic,” wrote Justice Brown. “He has been forced to retrain. There is some prospect that he will earn more than the median income of male realtors in British Columbia. There is also the prospect that he will earn less.”
If you’ve been injured in a car crash, consult a lawyer experienced in personal injury claims. Depending on the facts and evidence, your lawyer can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Written by Janice and George Mucalov, LL.B.s as part of the YOU AND THE LAW series of articles, with assistance from Davidson Lawyers LLP. This article provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call us at 250-542-1177 for legal advice concerning your particular case. YOU AND THE LAW is a registered trademark.

© Janice and George Mucalov


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Brett H. Kirkpatrick

Brett H. Kirkpatrick


Brett is an active member of the community. His involvement has included directorships with the Downtown Vernon Association, the North Okanagan-Shuswap Brain Injury Society and the Vernon Curling Club. He is a past member of the Vernon Jaycees and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Ethics Committee. Brett was a director of the Funtastic Sports Society for 11 years.

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