This personal injury case involved a driver that fled the scene of a car accident causing serious injury to the ICBC claimant. The judge was not only satisfied that it was the defendant that was the driver the judge awarded the claimant $100,000 in addition to the award as punishment for the hit and run driver fleeing the scene and disregarding the suspensions of his driver’s licence. (Howell v. Machi,2017 BCSC 1806)
The claimant who was then 22, was injured in a hit-and-run accident when she was crossing the eastbound lanes of East 1st Avenue, in the block west of the intersection at Commercial Dr., in Vancouver. She jaywalked between eastbound cars which had stopped for the red light at Commercial Dr. Westbound traffic was also stopped for the red light.
The claimant had safely navigated the two lanes of stopped eastbound traffic, but as she started to cross the clear westbound lanes, she was struck by a black pickup truck which was travelling eastbound in the westbound lanes. The claimant was thrown up onto the hood of the truck, before landing on the ground unconscious and bleeding.
The driver of the pickup truck did not stop after striking the claimant and he drove up the dedicated left turn lane and then, instead of turning left, turned right in front of the two lanes of stopped eastbound traffic, pulled over for a moment, then sped off.
The claimant named as defendants both Mr. Machi and an unknown driver and owner of the vehicle. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”) was added as a nominal defendant with respect to the claim against the unidentified owner and driver. ICBC filed a statutory third party notice with respect to Mr. Machi. ICBC denied liability to indemnify Mr. Machi as he was driving without a valid BC driver’s license at the time of the Accident. ICBC pursued its right to contest Mr. Machi’s liability and the quantum of Ms. Howell’s claims against him.
The judge concluded the defendant was the driver of the Sierra which struck the claimant. His denial that he was the driver was “entirely unbelievable”.
Punitive damages have been awarded against defendants who have shown reprehensible conduct in causing motor vehicle accidents. The judge concluded that the defendant’s actions were worthy of denunciation and retribution beyond the compensatory awards. In particular it is relevant to the punitive damages analysis that he fled the scene of the accident. The court also took into account the fact the defendant has repeatedly shown complete disregard for the suspensions of his driver’s licence. In all the circumstances the claimant was awarded punitive damages of $100,000.
The pain and suffering the claimant sought the rough upper limit for non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $371,000. “She acknowledges that there are plaintiffs who have suffered worse injuries but submits that the Accident has taken what she describes as the “four pillars” of her self-identity from her. Those four pillars are her: independence and self-reliance; dignity and privacy; attachment to academia, education, and life-long learning; and her sense of belonging to a counterculture as a young gay woman who loved reading, comic books, and music and whose life revolved around that love.”
In awarding $275,000 for pain and suffering the judge found that the claimant suffered injuries which include: skull fracture, brain injury, rib fracture, chronic neck, shoulder, and upper, mid and low back injuries;temple laceration; post-concussive headaches and other post-concussive symptoms; chronic post-traumatic headaches;PTSD; Major depression and anxiety; chronic fatigue; Somatic symptom disorder; and Neurocognitive disorder.
The total award is summarized as follows:
a) for punitive damages, the sum of $100,000;
b) for pain and suffering, the sum of $275,000;
c) for past income loss, the agreed sum of $14,000;
d) for loss of income earning capacity, the sum of $1,775,000; and
e) for out of pocket expenses, the sum of $14,781.77.