Court Case Highlights The Importance Of Credibility

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, it is important to remember that you may not experience all of your injuries at the time of the accident. Some injuries creep up later, while symptoms of others may be prolonged, leaving the victim in need of ongoing care. One important consideration to keep in mind is the importance of maintaining your credibility if you were the victim of an injury following an accident. As seen in a recent decision from the Court of Appeal of Alberta, a failure to do so might leave you without the compensation you need.


The appellant was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on September 12, 2004. The respondent admitted liability for the accident. The original trial took place on October 24, 2016. The primary issue at trial was whether the appellant’s ongoing chronic pain syndrome as well as somatic symptom disorder (“SSD”) was a result of the accident.

The trial judge found the appellant to not have been a credible witness. Her evidence was inconsistent when she discussed the nature and location of her injuries. Her self-reports were also inconsistent with those provided by her medical providers’ notes and records, which relied heavily on the appellant’s credibility.

This caused the trial judge to favour the respondent’s medical experts. The opinion of these experts failed to draw a casual connection between the accident and the appellant’s SSD and chronic pain. The trial judge concluded that the appellant had suffered some injuries as a result of the accident, but that she had since recovered from them. The damages awarded in the amount of $76,028 reflected this.

The appeal

The standard of review when it comes to a finding of fact by a trial judge is that of a palpable and overriding error. This means that an error must be plainly visible for it to be successfully appealed.

In this case, the trial judge was tasked with determining which set of contrasting medical opinions was true. He ultimately preferred the evidence provided by the respondent’s lawyers. The court wrote,

“While the trial judge could reasonably have concluded otherwise, the issue is whether his conclusions are reasonably supported by the evidence and whether he misapprehended the medical evidence. This Court must be careful not to fall into a correctness review, substituting its opinion for that of the trial judge, where the standard demands deference. In our view, the trial judge’s findings of fact and conclusions are reasonably supported on the evidence and he did not misapprehend the medical evidence.”

To support its decision, the court ran through a list of instances where the appellant’s credibility was called into question, including inconsistencies and surveillance videos. The court summarized its position by writing,

“ The trial judge’s preference for the evidence of the respondent’s experts over the appellant’s is reasonable and well supported by the record and by his findings as to the appellant’s credibility. The trial judge is entitled to accept some, none, or all of an expert’s evidence, so long as the trial judge is reasonable in doing so. Where a trial judge is presented with competing explanations or conclusions from expert witnesses, there is no reversible error when he makes a reasoned choice between the two”

At Derfel Injury Law we have over a decade of experience in representing clients who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents. Our compassionate and professional approach seeks to ensure you are represented as best as possible through every step of your claim, including properly documenting your injuries, including those that are ongoing. Please call us at 416.847.3580 or reach us online to see how we can help you today.