Photo: Glacier Media
Prince George Courthouse
A former Prince George man who continues to suffer from the psychological fallout from a fatal head-on collision has been awarded nearly $ 1.6 million in damages.
Alan Whitney Kempton was driving a tractor-trailer on the morning of August 15, 2015, when a car driven by a 19-year-old local man swerved into its lane as it moved along Ness Lake Road.
Although Kempton applied the brakes, they collided and the man was killed instantly. Kempton escaped serious physical injuries but, according to a Dec. 31 ruling by BC Supreme Court Judge David Crerar, Kempton was unable to shake off the memory of that day.
“In the five years since the accident, he has been unable to sleep for more than two or three hours at a time. The recurring nightmares of the accident and the fact of being trapped in the taxi make him jump violently in his sleep. He scratches the room. wall, and his fingernails cut into his legs, as he tries to kick a free kick, ”Crerar wrote.
Kempton continued to work as a truck driver for another 10 months, but eventually quit because he found driving in general too stressful. This caused anxiety attacks, especially when driving at crash scenes, and rage against other drivers who were driving aggressively or lagging behind.
“Sometimes he had flashbacks to the accident. He would sometimes freeze or faint while driving his truck; when he regained his concentration, his knuckles were strained from gripping the steering wheel. Sometimes he would vomit. Several times he had panic attacks, and drove his personal vehicle off the road, ”Crerar wrote.
While totally faultless for the collision, Kempton still tends to feel guilty. On the day in question, Kempton broke his routine of buying coffee at a local gas station and believes that if he hadn’t, the delay of a few minutes would have made all the difference.
Kempton now leaves most of the driving to his wife. When the anxiety is acute, he wears a blindfold or sunglasses with blocked eyepieces so as not to see the road or the surroundings and sometimes adds a mixture of Gravol and vodka to his coping strategy as as a passenger.
Noting that a reading disability limited Kempton’s education to a 6th grade level, Crerar described a lifelong struggle for Kempton to overcome adversity and seemed to have finally landed his “dream job” when he started carrying fleas a few weeks before the accident.
Kempton and his wife have since moved to Nova Scotia, where he grew up, and where they now live in a remote area and effectively in a semi-hermit state.
Crerar wrote that the man who died in the crash had been drinking with friends the night before and in the morning and that Kempton remembers seeing the man slumped on his steering wheel, presumably asleep, just before the impact.
The man’s estate and his family are named as defendants in the case, but in an interview, Kempton’s lawyer David Wallin said the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia was responsible for paying the total.
Wallin was looking for $ 2.3 million, which is $ 710,994 more than the $ 1.59 million Crerar set for himself. However, Wallin said he offered to settle the matter out of court for an amount “considerably less than what the court awarded us in order to avoid a trial.”
Wallin blamed ICBC for forcing a lawsuit and said it would ask the insurer to pay “double the cost” for legal fees accrued on Kempton’s behalf.
“If you make a preliminary offer that is less than the amount the judge gave you, you can ask ICBC for a spanking for forcing my client to go to trial when he could have solved the case for hundreds of thousands of dollars. less, ”Wallin says. “It’s just another example of mismanagement at ICBC as far as I’m concerned. ”
Wallin said he was generally happy with the amount awarded by the court, but noted that Kempton will only receive $ 700,000 for lost future income, some $ 300,000 less than he was seeking.
“I thought the field was a bit thin on his future earning power given that he’s still 20 years ahead of him,” Wallin said. “Sadly, Al had just started with a new job and didn’t have a great earning history for the years leading up to the accident, so the judge basically awarded him $ 700,000, which equates to 32 to 35. $ 000 per year for the next 20 years. years, which is considerably less than what most truck drivers earn.
“In fact, it’s somewhere around the minimum wage. If you worked at Tim Hortons you would be so disappointed with that number, but overall I thought it was a fair result for sure.
In an email response to a request for comment, ICBC spokesperson Lindsay Wilkins said the crown corporation “is doing everything possible to resolve claims before they go to trial.”
In 2019, less than 1% of cases went to court. Additionally, approximately 60% of the trial results received by ICBC for the 2019 trials resulted in better outcomes than the Complainant’s final claim, resulting in savings for ICBC clients. Wilkins said.
“Unfortunately, this was a case where the parties were unable to agree on the value of the claim and he proceeded to trial. ”