$1 million damages for Shawnigan crash victim

A Shawnigan Lake woman has been awarded $1 million in damages in B.C. Supreme Court after a 2009 crash in View Royal that left her with significant injuries.

Judith Katherine Hill, now 42, was driving home along Helmcken Road at Burnside Road West on Oct. 26, 2009, when her vehicle was struck by a truck driven by Gerald Murray, wrote Justice Malcolm Macaulay in a decision released Tuesday.

Murray was driving a work truck owned by his company, Hilltop Greenhouses Ltd., when his steel-toed boot became stuck between the accelerator and brake pedals and gained speed.

The truck struck a car, which was later written off, and then struck Hill’s vehicle. The two vehicles spun off the road, broke through a railing, plunged down an embankment and fell onto a grassy area several feet below the road surface.

Murray admitted fault in the accident and didn’t dispute a violation ticket for driving without reasonable consideration.

Hill was taken to Victoria General Hospital with severe pain in her back and neck.

Later, she felt foggy and couldn’t understand what people said to her.

A month later, she had ringing in her ears and nightmares.

Since the accident, Hill has taken part in a 10-month program for trauma and brain-injured patients that focused on managing fatigue and cognitive issues. She also saw a psychologist for pain management and emotional issues.

Hill now avoids driving the Malahat by taking the Mill Bay ferry to work at Butchart Gardens.

She continues to have problems with balance and has fallen several times since the crash. Hill, a former half-marathon runner and single mother to three teenage boys, says she’s now inactive at home and needs help with household chores.

Her prospects at work have gone from likely being promoted to manager to barely being able to get through a normal shift.

She currently works 60 per cent of a normal work week.

Friends and family testified that Hill has become withdrawn and said "the spark is no longer present."

Dr. Trudy Woudstra told the court that Hill may suffer from post-concussion syndrome as well as musculoskeletal issues.

She also has significant issues with her memory, mood and vertigo.

Macaulay awarded Hill $120,000 for pain and suffering, $40,433 in special damages and $600,000 in loss of earning capacity.

The total damages amount to $1,061,224, which will be paid to Hill by the Insurance Corporation of B.C., said her Victoria lawyer, Natalie Foley.

Hill is a private person and wouldn’t comment on the judgment, Foley said, "but she’s continuing on with her life."

"She has been able to get back to her employment that she loves on an accommodated basis at Butchart Gardens, so that’s to her credit that she has pushed and managed to be able to that."

The pain will be lifelong, said Foley.

Foley’s law firm has funded Hill’s therapy since the crash and the judgment assures that treatment will continue.

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