Court Applies Principle Of Indivisibility Of Injuries When Plaintiff Does Not Sue For Second Accident Which Aggravated Injuries

In Griffioen v. Arnold, the Plaintiff was injured in two motor vehicle collisions. With respect to the first accident, she commenced legal proceedings, and liability was admitted on behalf of the Defendant by ICBC’S lawyer. In regards to the second accident, she was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband, who was deemed to be at fault for the accident. She elected not to commence legal proceedings. The injuries that she sustained in the first accident were aggravated by the second accident.


Given that the nature of the injuries were similar between the two accidents, the principle of indivisible injuries was considered by the Court.


Indivisible injuries can be injuries that cannot be separated, such as aggravation or exacerbation of an earlier injury; can be an injury to the same area of the body; or, can be global symptoms that are impossible to separate. In the event of two or more separate motor vehicle accidents, the law in British Columbia allows for joint and several liability in this scenario, with either one of the Defendants, as long as they contribute to the injuries, being wholly liable for the loss to the Plaintiff. It is then up to the Defendants to attempt to apportion the loss between them.


In the case at bar, ICBC’S lawyer argued that the Plaintiff’s award must be reduced to the extent that the second crash aggravated the injuries from the first accident.


The Court disagreed, commenting :


[123] In both Pinch and Sandhu, the plaintiffs were not simply beyond the time limit for commencing an action, but would be barred by statute from commencing an action even if they had done so within the statutory time limits.


[124] It seems to me that it was open to the defendants in this case to commence a third-party action provided it was commenced within the time limit that started when the defendants became aware of their right to commence an action against the plaintiff’s husband. That is, the time limits for the defendants may not be the same for a third party action as for an action by the plaintiff.


[125] The plaintiff obviously knew of her right to commence an action from the time of the accident. The defendants were aware of their right to commence an action from the time they discovered they might be liable for some damages from the second accident. I therefore find that Pinch and Sandhu are distinguishable from the facts of this case and in the circumstances, I am not prepared to apportion liability to the plaintiff’s husband in reliance on the principle of indivisibility and will apply the principle in Bradley.


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