RCMP staff sergeant, Brent Henderson (“Henderson”), who suffered serious injuries when his father’s boat was struck from behind at high speed in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia was recently awarded more than $2 million in damages by the court.
In November 2016, Henderson commenced a civil lawsuit against Michael Raymond Gettle (“Gettle”) requesting damages for past and future wage loss, loss of pension and costs of future care.
Gettle was criminally charged for the accident and was convicted of three counts of dangerous operation of a boat causing bodily harm. He served a 90-day intermittent jail sentence and was prohibited from driving a boat for 10 years.
At the time of the accident, Henderson was 57 years old, lived in North Vancouver and was married with two adult children. He maintained a very active lifestyle and enjoyed cycling, skiing, sailing, racing yachts and was actively involved with the Vancouver Rowing Club.
While visiting his father and stepmother on August 1, 2015, they took his father’s powerboat to have dinner and watch the fireworks at Butchart Gardens. At approximately 10pm when the fireworks ended, many boats began leaving the area through a narrow opening at the end of the inlet. It was dark and visibility was poor as there was no moon that night. Unexpectedly, Henderson heard an engine roar, saw a boat approaching from the rear at high speed and seconds later the boat crashed into his father’s boat.
Witnesses described hearing a vessel rev its engine and accelerate loudly and many yelled for the boat to slow down. One witness estimated that the boat that hit Henderson was travelling between 20 to 30 miles per hour, while another witness estimated it was traveling at 30 km/h.
Henderson could not recall the impact of the accident, but recalled waking up on the floor lying partly on top of his father and his stepmother was lying across the engine with her head hanging over the back of the boat. He was able to call 911, but had difficulty communicating with the operator. Henderson and his family were rescued and were taken to Victoria General Hospital.
THE CIVIL LAWSUIT
As the defendant, Gettle, did not respond to the claim, default judgment was entered against him and the trial proceeded on the issue of assessing Henderson’s damages.
Henderson remained in hospital until August 8, 2015. He suffered two fractured ribs, fractures to the bones beside each vertebra, fractures to the L3-4 lumbar segments in his spine and soft tissue injuries to the right posterolateral chest wall and abdominal wall bruising. He also suffered from excruciating muscle spasms.
Henderson’s injuries required extensive medical treatment, including regular appointments with his family physician and treatments with a kinesiologist, chiropractor and massage therapist.
His injuries left him suffering from constant pain in his mid-to-low back, decreased concentration, fatigue, depression, anxiety and short-term memory loss.
As a result of the accident, Henderson missed eight months of work and has returned to work with the RCMP but can only work five hours a day and receives significant accommodation and other supports.
Henderson was planning to retire and work as a consultant until the age of 70. Since the accident, he intends to retire at the age of 63 when he reaches his maximum pension entitlement.
Justice John Steeves, who presided over the case, concluded that Henderson has not reached his pre-accident level of function. He stated:
Overall, it is clear he has significant and permanent physical and psychological limitations as a result of the 2015 accident … He works now through the generous accommodation of his employer and his income continuity program. It is a precarious situation for the plaintiff because it cannot work except in its unique form.
The trial judge awarded Henderson more than $2 million and concluded that his life was severely and permanently impacted by the accident as a result of the injuries he suffered. Damages were awarded as follows:
Special Damages (ie. out of pocket expenses) $58,558
Non-pecuniary Damages (ie. pain and suffering) $240,000
Past Income Loss $98,889
Future Income Loss $1,225,100
Cost of Future Care $160,581
Health Care Costs Recovery Act $24,004
Pension Loss $202,000
BOATING AND PERSONAL INJURIES
The majority of injuries resulting from boat accidents are preventable when safe boating is practiced. However, there are occasions when a boat operator’s carelessness is responsible for the boat accident and the subsequent death or injury to innocent individuals.
If you are involved in a boating accident, it is important to take the following steps:
- Check for injuries: If there are any injuries, call for help immediately.
- Take photographs and document details of the accident.
- Keep track of all costs associated with any damages or injuries caused by the accident.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. It is important not to delay seeking legal advice to avoid weakening your case or losing the right to sue.
If you or a loved one have experienced a serious injury or loss as the result of a boater’s negligence and you would like information about your legal options, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP. Please contact our office for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation you deserve.