In 2018, Cantini Law Group went to court for another client. Mrs. Karen Matthews, 48 years old, was injured in a rear-end motor vehicle accident. Unfortunately, she was already suffering from the sequelae to a workplace back injury sustained several years prior. Although she had returned to full-time employment between the two events, she continued to take some fairly potent medication for her condition. However, her workplace accident had considerably limited her job options as she could no longer perform the duties of that employment. She had thus been compelled to find work in a less physically demanding environment but she had managed to remain on the labour market despite her vulnerable state.
When the car collision happened, some 7 years after the workplace injury, she worked as a front-end customer service clerk in a bakery. She also remained the central pillar to her family, taking care of a disabled war veteran and bringing support to her children and grandchildren. The family was not financially secured, relying mostly on a war veteran’s disability pension and Mrs. Matthews’ own low-paying job income to make ends meet. Her education was limited to a grade 9 level. Despite her condition, she regularly worked overtime hours to help bring home more money. The family managed: except for a car loan, it was debt free but without any substantial savings. After the workplace accident, its situation was certainly assisted by the WorkSafe NB coverage for her medication.
To complicate things further for Mrs. Matthews, the rear-end collision was at low speed, while she was in a merging lane waiting to cut into traffic. Her car had sustained visible but relatively small damage. So, when Mrs. Matthews was placed on medical leave, unable to return to work, of course the defendant argued that it was due to her workplace injury. The Defendant argued, namely, that such a low velocity impact could not cause the type of disability claimed by Mrs. Matthews even if she had been able to sustain full-time employment up to the time of the car accident. She went the extra step of hiring two accident reconstruction experts and a biomechanical expert to dispute the nexus between the collision and the disability.
To add to Mrs. Matthews’ misfortune, WorkSafe NB piled on another layer when it decided to terminate her medical coverage. Relying on a medical note from her family physician seeking to increase the dosage of her medication, it took the position two years after the car collision that her condition was now the result of that accident. Mrs. Matthews did benefit from the Section B medical coverage for four years, but that eventually ran out as well. For some time, the Section B insurer even terminated her weekly indemnity benefits, forcing her to file an action for reinstatement. Thus, from a family would could scrape by and at least pay the essential bills at the time of the car accident, it quickly ran into financial troubles.
With minimal income, the end of medical coverage and increased medical expenses, Mrs. Matthews was compelled to contract high-interest loans to survive. She did not bother to file a motion for advance payment of special damages. The defendant had already shown resilience in her fight of the claim by all means possible. Lengthy video surveillance had been obtained; she had first denied any liability for the accident, before admitting to it shortly before trial but maintaining denial that the collision was the cause of the injury; plus retaining two accident reconstruction experts and one biomechanical expert.
Hence, it is in that context that a trial in the matter was held in December 2018 with claims for general damages, loss of income, valuable services and costs of care. The evidence and arguments revolved mostly around issues associated with the pre-existing condition, i.e. causation, medical coverage, extent of injuries, etc., and Mrs. Matthews’ credibility. Judgment was rendered on June 20, 2019 (2019 NBQB 127). The decision was favorable to Mrs. Matthews and so, proving her resilience once again, the defendant followed suit with an appeal. It was heard by telephone conference on May 21, 2020(due to the Covid19 outbreak) and a unanimous decision rendered on July 30, 2020 (2020 NBCA 52). The result remained favorable to Mrs. Matthews; her battle has not been wasted as the decision formulates a series of interesting statements that may be useful for future plaintiffs.