A former Coquitlam RCMP officer has been awarded over $3 million in a case that pit his claim — stemming from two on-duty accidents — against both the scofflaw drivers of the other vehicles and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).
The first incident occurred back in September 2012, while Coquitlam RCMP Const. Jeffrey Neufeldt was patrolling a Port Coquitlam neighbourhood after someone had been stabbed there earlier in the day. Police were concerned there would be retaliation for the attack.
That’s when a call came over the radio. There was a violent domestic dispute in progress. Neufeldt arrived at the residence just as one of the people involved in the incident jumped in a Honda Civic and fled the scene. Neufeldt pursued, and as he pulled into a warehouse parking lot, saw the Honda smash into a parked car. When Neufeldt tried to box in the suspect, the Honda slammed the car into reverse and smashed into the police cruiser.
Both officer and suspect jumped out, but Neufeldt was able to talk down the man after he jumped into a “fighting position.”
As a result of the collision, Neufeldt suffered musculoskeletal injuries to his spine, as wells as chronic headaches. He was totally disabled from work for six months and spent another 18 months on desk duty.
Neufeldt filed a claim for lost wages with Veterans Affairs — the equivalent of WorkSafeBC for federal employees — claiming he couldn’t do any yard work, play with his children or push a grocery cart without pain, let alone play sports. His claim was ultimately denied.
Still, three and a half years later, he had never fully recovered from the first accident, found Justice Ball. The second accident was again late at night, but this time, Neufeldt was sitting in the cruiser's passenger seat, with an officer-in-training behind the wheel. They were stopped at a red light when another vehicle rear-ended them before fleeing across an overpass onto United Boulevard, never to be tracked down.
Neufeldt was in immediate pain and felt nauseous due to what would later be diagnosed as a concussion. His hips were sore and pain shot through his back and neck. Neufeldt was taken to Royal Columbia Hospital where he was injected with pain medication for several hours and told to follow up with a family doctor the next day.
But the pain never went away, and the back and neck symptoms continued throughout the following weeks. Further, his headaches got worse and happened more often as he bounced around from General Practitioner to physiotherapist to concussion specialist.
Neufeldt’s physical health bled into his mental health. On the first anniversary of the second accident, Neufeldt testified he considered suicide, according to the decision.
A psychiatrist would later diagnose him with PTSD, anxiety and depression and prescribe him medication to deal with the anxiety and mood swings.
“On duty, he has been in hand-to-hand combat, high speed chases in vehicles, and has arrested over 100 people,” wrote the judge in the decision.
But in court documents, Neufeldt testified he now can’t simultaneously drive, look out for driving infractions and respond to the radio at the same time. He can only read for a few minutes before becoming nauseous. And he if exerts himself while exercising, he becomes too dizzy to stand.
After hearing from several doctors, Justice Ball found it was impossible to separate the injuries sustained from the first accident with those from the second.
The defendants in the case — including ICBC, the driver in the first accident and several John Doe's — proposed roughly $134,000 in damages related to the first accident and roughly $900,000 in damages for the second.
In the end, the Justice Ball awarded more than triple that proposal to the former Coquitlam RCMP officer, handing him nearly $3.2 million, including $2.4 million due to future loss of income.