Subsequent Injuries in ICBC Claims (Causation)

What is “Causation”?

Causation is a very common defense to ICBC injury claims.  It refers to the issue of whether the claimant’s pain and disability is caused by injuries suffered in the auto accident, or some other prior or subsequent injury or medical condition. This is an issue that comes up frequently in motor vehicle accident injury cases.

The basic principle is that if you are susceptible or predisposed to injury because of a previous injury or medical condition (say, for example, a surgically repaired knee) but you had no symptoms or limitations, then you injure the same knee in a car accident, and suffer a more serious injury as a result, you are still entitled to compensation for all of your knee pain and disability.  ICBC cannot argue that they should pay you less because, compared to others, you were vulnerable to injury, or a more severe injury, due to your prior knee surgery.  This is because the car accident triggered all of the knee pain and disability, notwithstanding the pre-existing vulnerability to injury.  We sometimes refer to this as the “thin skull rule.”

On the other hand, if you had a prior injury or medical condition that still caused you pain or disability, and then you were involved in a car accident which made the injury or medical condition worse, you are only entitled to compensation for the aggravated or increased pain or disability, not all of it.  This is because some of your pain or disability was already an active condition when the car accident intervened.  You are only entitled to compensation for the pain or disability that was caused by the car accident, not that which was already there.  We sometimes refer to this as the “crumbling skull rule.”

Sometimes, an ICBC claimant is involved in a new accident or event (at-fault auto accident, workplace or slip and fall injury) which aggravates the ongoing ICBC injury before the case is settled.  When these subsequent injuries occur, it is necessary to tease out what symptoms or disability is related to the ICBC claim, and what is due to the intervening event.  Again, the aggravated symptoms caused by the subsequent event, and not the car accident, are not compensable.

The Importance of Finding the Right ICBC Claim Lawyer

Causation issues come up all the time in auto accident cases.  ICBC will carefully review your medical records from doctors and therapists, before and after the auto accident, to try and find notations of pain or activity restrictions which may support a causation argument.

Usually, to prove or negate a causation issue, expert medical opinion is required. Often, the family doctor or specialist who knows the claimant’s condition before and after the accident, is in the best position to give an opinion.

If you have an ICBC injury, and are concerned about how a prior or subsequent injury or condition may impact your claim, call us immediately.  We have plenty of experience dealing with causation issues and know best how to oppose ICBC when this defense gets raised.

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