By Patrick McMurchy
The most common form of car accident injuries are soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissues are muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. These tissues are often strained, sprained or bruised in car accidents.
ICBC uses a grading system according to the signs and symptoms reported by the examining doctor in an attempt to standardize claims. Grade I describes a case where there is pain, stiffness or tenderness but no physical signs, Grade II is where there are signs of decreased range of motion, Grade III describes a case where there are neurological signs, such as numbness or tingling, and Grade IV is where there soft tissue injuries are associated with a fracture or dislocation.
The problem with the grading system is that while injuries might be able to be standardized, (a challengeable assertion), injury victims can’t. Many fall outside the perimeters of insurance companies’ guidelines, and in law everyone is entitled to be treated as an individual. The person responsible for causing the injuries must “take the victim as they find them”.
Soft tissue injuries, by their nature, are often impossible to objectively confirm by X-ray or MRI scans, for example. Doctors rely on the patient’s reports of pain, stiffness and disability, although there are tests which can be performed to see if the reports are consistent.
Probably the most difficult aspect in understanding and assessing soft tissue injuries is that the main symptom is usually pain. As one judge recently said, “Neither the medical profession nor the court can measure or confirm the existence of pain.” Even if pain could be measured, people have different pain tolerances. Some have high pain thresholds, while others, through no fault of their own, do not.
For a variety of reasons, soft tissue injuries can result in long term or even permanent chronic pain, and can be the catalyst for permanent, significant impairment and even conditions like fibromyalgia.
Because of the difficulties with assessments, legally there is a very broad range of possible settlement or trial outcomes for a soft tissue injury claim. If you have a soft tissue injury claim with ICBC, it’s recommended you have your claim assessed by an experienced lawyer acting on your behalf.
This article is for general information only, and should not be relied on as legal advice in any particular case. Consult a lawyer for advice on your case.