Car accidents don’t only cause physical injuries. People can suffer very real and debilitating psychological conditions as a result of being involved in an accident. These can include anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, because such injuries can’t be seen by the naked eye, ICBC will often say that those injuries don’t exist.
That’s exactly what happened in the recent case of Godbout v. Notter, 2018 BCSC 1043. In that case, the plaintiff, a 53 year old truck driver, suffered extensive physical injuries as a result of a car accident. These included injuries to his neck and shoulder, chronic headaches and various concussion-related symptoms. In addition to those, his doctors, which included a clinical professor psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, all diagnosed him as suffering from PTSD since and because of the accident, and recommended that he receive further therapy to help him cope with its effects. This diagnosis conformed with profound changes in his personality and behaviour observed by his family members and friends who testified at trial.
To refute these claims, ICBC hired a psychiatrist named Dr. Miller who, not surprisingly, concluded that the plaintiff’s current symptoms did not meet the threshold for a diagnosis of PTSD. Unfortunately for ICBC and Dr. Miller, it was revealed at trial that Dr. Miller failed to ask many important questions about the plaintiff’s symptoms. Instead of looking at the plaintiff’s symptoms in the 3 years that had passed since the accident, he only focused his questions the one month before the assessment. In addition, Dr. Miller made numerous contradictory statements about the plaintiff’s medical history and health and in his report.
The court was not taken in by the gross deficiencies in Dr. Miller’s approach and report, and determined that “the opinions of Dr. Miller are not reliable as his conclusions seem to contradict his findings and the reporting to him by Mr. Godbout.”
In every case the testing administered by hired doctors, the questions they ask and the assumptions on which they base their opinions need to be scrutinized in order to determine if those opinions are valid.