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Addiction or Relapse Caused by Injury

Whether it is pain killers, sleep medication, alcohol, or other drugs, injuries from car crashes, slips and falls or other incidents can create an increased risk of addiction to those who are recovering from an injury. Pain is an unpreventable consequence of most injuries, and when the pain does not get better, some people resort to pain medications or self medicate by other means. It may not be only the physical pain, but the emotional consequences of going through the trauma and the changes in a person’s life as a result, that cause the addiction (or relapse in the event they struggled with an addiction before they were injured).

The courts in BC have recognized that addiction is a factor to consider in assessing fair compensation for an injured plaintiff. In Zwinge v. Neylan, 2017 BCSC 1861, the plaintiff was working as a drywaller when he was injured in a car accident in Vancouver. Before he was injured he used alcohol heavily, but it had a marginal affect on his attendance at work. The insurance company defending the case argued that the plaintiff’s drinking history before the accident should be considered by the court to reduce the amount of compensation he was entitled to receive. In addressing this argument, the court stated:

[62] The defendants’ concerns about the plaintiff’s alcohol use here are legitimate. The plaintiff would likely have had materially better prospects for recovery absent the pre-existing Substance Use Disorder. Below, where appropriate, I have treated this issue either as a negative contingency, or as a relevant factor in assessing the baseline “original position” of the plaintiff.

[63] However, in this case the extent of the concern is moderated by the fact that the Substance Use Disorder was under some level of control before the accident, in that: (a) its effect on his quality of work was marginal, (b) he had obtained some treatment in 2013, and (c) his drinking appears to have been somewhat moderated in the months leading up to the accident.

Each case involving issues with addiction is very fact specific, however, simply because a person struggles with a substance use disorder does not disentitle them from fair compensation for injuries cause by a traumatic event.


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