A recent case came out exemplifying how psychiatric injuries, injuries that are not visible to a jury, can fetch high damage awards. In this case, Alan Kempton was involved in a vehicle collision resulting in a severe psychiatric injury that now effects all aspects of his life.
Leading up to the accident
Northwest of Prince George B.C. on August 5th, 2015, Alan Kempton was driving his vehicle in a cautious manner, but so was the defendant, William Struke. Mr. Struke was drinking the night before, into the early morning hours and decided to drive afterwards. Mr. Struke’s car crossed over onto the centre line into the lane of Mr. Kempton’s tractor-trailer, resulting in Mr. Kempton having to make a quick decision to firmly brake. Unfortunately, Mr. Struke did not have the same response. Mr. Kempton’s vehicle began to skid. Before the collision Mr. Kempton remembers seeing Mr. Struke appearing to be asleep and slumped over the steering wheel.
The accident and aftermath
According to police report, Mr. Struke’s car went under the front of Mr. Kempton’s car and was described to be folded like an accordion. The vehicle was unrecognizable after the incident. Unfortunately, as a result Mr. Struke was crushed and lost his life instantly.
After impact, Mr. Kempton was reportedly thrown to the floor of his tractor-trailer, trapping him inside only allowing him to see the wreckage of Mr. Struke’s car through the floor level window. He had tried to escape himself, but could not and was rescued by the emergency responders. Mr. Kempton had bruising to his chest and a friction burn on his calf. After being released from the hospital, Mr. Kempton had a chance to retrieve his personal items from his vehicle and was able to see the damages to Mr. Struke’s car, which created an unwanted image of Mr. Struke being crushed.
Mr. Kempton struggled with severe violent nightmares of the accident and could only sleep for two to three hours a night over the course of five years. As the years progressed, Mr. Kempton no longer participated in activities, gained weight, secluded himself from everyone and self-medicated with alcohol.
The consistent scary flashbacks of the collision were greatly affecting Mr. Kempton’s psychological state. Mr. Kempton claimed PTSD as a result of the accident. He stated that the constant episodes of the accident with Mr.Struke, or any violence he was exposed to on the news triggering PTSD symptoms. Mr. Kempton was unable to reach out for psychological help due to limited establishments in Northern B.C.
Mr. Kempton eventually pursued compensation for his psychological injuries, including PTSD, and other physical injuries that had worsened in a lawsuit. He had various medical records to support his claim moving forward. The lawyer for Mr. Kempton. argued that the medical evidence substantiated the severity of his psychological issues.
Mr. Crerar additionally highlighted the findings in Stapley v. Hejslet 2006, BCCA 34 which stated the lifelong effects on a plaintiff due to depression and PTSD. Mr. Kempton was ultimately awarded $225,000.00 for non-pecuniary general damages.
Mr. Kempton was awarded a total of $1,594,469.45 in damages. The total amount of damages covered his struggles with PTSD, financial losses (present and past), future costs for care, housekeeping, special damages and a management fee.
The gravity of psychiatric injuries
This case, along with others in recent years, highlight the significance of psychological injuries on car accident victims. It is important to make sure any psychological injuries car accident victims have are well-documented by the family doctor and specialists. This is especially important because psychological injuries are not as visible as other fracture injuries that are visible on x-rays and other types of injuries.