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Insurance Law - Automobile insurance - Accident benefits - Total disability - Compulsory government schemes - Bodily injury and death benefits

Thursday, July 07, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  

Appeal by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) from an order that the respondent, Symons, was entitled to disability and medical rehabilitation benefits. The respondent was seriously injured in a 2008 motor vehicle accident. She had no prior injury history. The accident caused moderate soft tissue injuries, headaches, facial bruising and a herniated disc at the lower spine. In the immediate aftermath, the injuries were totally disabling. The appellant paid disability benefits pursuant to s. 80 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation for two weeks. The respondent had financial obligations that required her return to work despite still being in pain. The respondent’s lower back injury progressively worsened despite undertaking a prescribed treatment regime. She had surgery to correct the herniated disc in 2011. In 2012, the respondent re-herniated her disc after sneezing. A second surgery was unsuccessful. In 2013, the respondent sought reinstatement of her disability benefits. The appellant did not respond and the respondent applied for declaratory relief. The appellant took the position the respondent was ineligible for s. 86 benefits, as she was not receiving s. 80 benefits at the end of the 104-week period. The trial judge found that the respondent was totally disabled by injuries causally attributed to the car accident. The trial judge found that the respondent was eligible to apply for revival of benefits pursuant to s. 86 of the Regulation based on her previous eligibility under s. 80. The ICBC appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The purpose of the regulatory regime was to provide a universal, compulsory insurance program with and access to compensation for those who suffered losses from motor vehicle accidents. Reading the words of the legislative scheme in its entire context, harmoniously with the whole of the scheme and purpose, supported a conclusion that if a person who was disabled as a result of an accident returned to work, and then, because of setbacks or otherwise, was again totally disabled due to the accident, she qualified for benefits under s. 86, even if she was not disabled on the last day at the end of 104 weeks. The trial judge did not err in concluding that the respondent was entitled to be reinstated for disability benefits under s. 86.