What is a sufficient connection to an accident for a court to provide compensation?

Rarely do we have a case where there are no pre-existing and/or subsequent conditions or accidents. How does a court assess compensation in a claim? These are issues that doctors, lawyers and the courts have been struggling with for many years.

The country’s highest court has set the ground rules. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Athey v. Leonati held:

  • “…causation is established where the defendant’s negligence “materially contributed” to the occurrence of the injury … A contributing factor is material if it falls outside the de minimis range…
  • “The causation test is not to be applied too rigidly. Causation need not be determined by scientific precision; in some circumstances an inference of causation may be drawn from the evidence without positive scientific proof.
  • “It is not now necessary, nor has it ever been, for the plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of the injury. There will frequently be a myriad of other background events which were necessary preconditions to the injury occurring … As long as a defendant is part of the cause of an injury, the defendant is liable, even though his act alone was not enough to create the injury. There is no basis for a reduction of liability because of the existence of other preconditions: defendants remain liable for all injuries caused or contributed to by their negligence.”

A court will consider the above issues on a balance of probability. No greater certainty is required, although, if it exists it should be expressed. On balance, has the accident materially contributed to the person’s overall condition?

Those are the ground rules. When forming a medical or legal opinion, those rules must be applied. It would be quite proper to use the terminology expressed in the court decision. The decision is extremely important to a victim pursuing a claim for their injuries.