Can Car Accident Victims Be Reimbursed for the Cost of Cannabis?

Recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada. Although cannabis is not an approved therapeutic product, some doctors can authorize a patient’s access to cannabis since 2014. Some patients with chronic pain and anxiety have reported improvements after using cannabis.  Cannabis is typically not covered by O.H.I.P. or extended health insurers so who should pay for it?

If you were injured in a car accident, your rehabilitation treatments and medication can be paid by your own automobile insurer or the insurer of the driver responsible for the accident. What about cannabis? Will it be covered by the automobile insurer?

In 2 recent cases, the courts have ordered automobile insurers to pay for the injured victim’s cost of cannabis.

In the case of Carrillo v. Deschutter, the British Columbia court decided that the injured plaintiff was entitled to a sum of money for cannabis (2018 BCSC 2134).  Mr. Carrillo suffered soft-tissue injuries to his neck, low back, and left arm and shoulder after being involved in a car crash.  He was prescribed pain and sleep medication and attended physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic sessions. He also self-medicated with cocaine. 6 years after the accident, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor recommended cannabis to assist Mr. Carrillo with pain management, mood and sleep. At trial, Mr. Carrillo claimed $91,000 for the future cost of cannabis in addition to the cost of medication and other treatments. The court awarded him $12,000 for the future cost of cannabis while explaining that there was no evidence presented at trial as to how long Mr. Carrillo would require the use of cannabis.

In the case of Chiasson v. Theriault, the New Brunswick court ordered the automobile insurer to pay for the car accident victim’s future use of cannabis (2018 NBQB 177).  The 30-year old plaintiff suffered from chronic pain in her neck, right shoulder and lower back. After the car accident, she obtained the required approval for medical cannabis. Before the accident, she had occasionally consumed cannabis. At trial, Mrs. Chiasson claimed $140,000 for the cost of cannabis for the rest of her life. The judge agreed that cannabis was justified to help Mrs. Chiasson cope with her chronic pain. However, he concluded that she would have consumed some cannabis in any event. The judge awarded only $35,000 for the future cost of cannabis because there was a lack of medical evidence about the frequency and duration recommended for cannabis consumption after the accident.

Take-away points of those court decisions:

  • In order to receive money for the future use of cannabis as a result of car accident injuries, you must provide solid medical evidence about the recommended use of cannabis.
  • You must also present evidence about the recommended duration, frequency and quantity.
  • If you consumed cannabis before the accident, you must provide credible evidence about the frequency of your consumption.

If you have been injured in a car accident and would like more information about your rights, please contact Burn Tucker Lachaîne LLP. Our first meeting is always free. We offer services in English and French.

By Eliane Lachaîne of Burn Tucker Lachaîne Personal Injury Lawyers on July 11, 2019
Tags: Car Accidents, Negligence, Personal Injury, Serious Injury