Can Brain Injuries From An Automobile Accident Be Blamed For Poor Financial Decisions?

Automobile accidents can have devastating impacts on those involved as well as their families. The fallout from an accident can take many forms. A recent decision from the Court of Appeal for British Columbia recently addressed whether the brain injuries suffered by an individual can be blamed for poor financial investment decisions he made after a car accident.

The accident and what followed

The plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident in July 2007. He remembered losing consciousness after the accident and being dizzy when he came to. He also remembered a “horrific headache” as well as a sore neck. However, he did not take an ambulance to the hospital, instead, taking a taxi home.

The plaintiff made a substantial income prior to the accident through securities trading and a significant investment in the stock market. He returned to securities trading four days after the accident and would go on to lose, in his calculations, approximately $5 million. A year after the accident he purchased a very expensive home which he was not able to afford. He blamed this on his inability to apply his previous careful judgment. He testified that in the years following the accident he experienced headaches, fatigue, irritability, and nervousness.

Was the blame injury to blame?

The defendant did not dispute liability for the accident, but did dispute the extent of the injuries claimed by the plaintiff as well as the impact the injuries had on the plaintiff’s decision making.

Both parties brought witnesses who testified in regards to the plaintiff’s investment styles. The plaintiff’s witness said the plaintiff was “a skilled, disciplined and prudent investor, but afterwards he became ill-disciplined, erratic and made decisions no prudent trader would make.” Meanwhile, the defendant’s witness stated the plaintiff “had carried large unrealized losses prior to the accident and that he was a risk-taker who invested in unproven companies,” also citing the financial crisis of 2008 as a contributing factor to the plaintiff’s losses.

At trial, the judge concluded that the plaintiff’s behavior did not change after the accident and that there was no evidence of cognitive impairment in the years following the accident. The trial judge blamed any losses on the economic crash of 2008 as well as decisions that were found to be poor in retrospect, but not out of line with those made by investors. In fact, the trial judge noted that the plaintiff’s portfolio grew by $900,000 shortly after the accident.

Issues on appeal

The plaintiff appealed on four grounds:

1. The trial judge misapprehended or misunderstood the evidence of brain injury

2. The trial judge failed to recognize that injuries from the accident caused or contributed to his condition

3. The trial judge misapprehended the financial evidence and erroneously concluded that the value of his stock portfolio increased after the accident

4. The trial judge erred in making no award for the plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity.

Did the trial judge misapprehend or misunderstand the evidence of brain injury?

The trial judge determined the plaintiff had suffered a mild concussion. The plaintiff argued he suffered from an MTBI. While the plaintiff submitted notes from a physiotherapist, he did not call the physiotherapist as a witness. The court agreed with the trial judge in finding that the difference between an MTBI and a mild concussion are ones of semantics, and that the physiotherapist’s notes do not lead to any other conclusion.

Did the trial judge err by failing to recognize that injuries from the accident caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s condition?

The trial judge accepted evidence that any cognitive difficulties experienced by the plaintiff were caused, in part, by pain and anxiety. The plaintiff argued the accident caused him pain for a number of years, and as a result, was a contributing factor to the cognitive difficulties. Regardless, both the court and the trial judge were unable to tie the results of the accident to the plaintiff’s ability to trade on the stock market. Even if the accident resulted in cognitive difficulties, those difficulties were not to blame for his financial losses.

Did the trial judge misapprehend the financial evidence and erroneously conclude that the value of the plaintiff’s stock portfolio increased after the accident?

The plaintiff submitted that the trial judge relied on incorrect calculations of his portfolio when determining his stock increased after the accident. He claimed he actually lost money as a result of repayment of cash and stocks. He also argued the trial judge relied on incorrect prices when assessing the value of a stock. Lastly, the plaintiff claimed his portfolio was worth only $600,000 when he signed the papers to buy his house. However, the court agreed with the trial judge that there was no change in the pattern of the plaintiff’s trading, and that he had made successful trades, even if the profits of those trades was used to pay debt.

Did the trial judge err in making no award for the plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity?

The plaintiff claimed that even if the trial judge did not make errors in the first three grounds of appeal, he failed to take into account his diminished earning capacity. He pointed to having worked fewer hours and having difficulty concentrating as evidence of this.

However, the court pointed out that the plaintiff did not bring this up at trial, and as a result, failed to “demonstrate that his capacity to earn an income was diminished and that there was a real and substantial possibility of loss.” Additionally, the court stated once again that his ability to trade stocks was not impaired by the accident.

Should you find yourself seriously injured in an automobile accident, you should reach out to speak to a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer before taking any other actions. The lawyers as Deferel Injury Law assist victims in their claims for damages and can help identify all possible avenues of compensation. Please call us at 416-847-3580 or contact us online to make an appointment today.