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 Glossary of Injuries, Common Medical Terms, Legal Terms

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Soft Tissue Injuries (Also see: Whiplash)

Soft tissue injuries are common in vehicle accidents and may include damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons throughout the body. Side effects can include pain, swelling, bruising and/or loss of use or full function of part of your body. The best method of imaging soft tissue is by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), though it is cost-prohibitive and has a high false positive rate.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries vary depending on the type, level and severity of the injury but generally they fall into one of two general categories: complete injury (function below the neurological (brain) level is lost – total loss of motor and sensory function below a specific spinal level (cervical, thoracic etc) or incomplete injuries (some sensation or functional ability is retained). In addition to impairment of functioning and sensation below the level of the injury, people with this type of injury often experience other complications related to the functional impairment.


A subpoena is a written court order requiring the other side or a third party to testify or produce certain physical evidence such as clinical records or other documents for inspection. A subpoena can be used as a formal discovery tool and the information obtained can be used at trial.

Thin Skull Rule (See also: Pre-existing Injuries & Conditions)

The “thin skull rule” is an additional exposure in tort liability towards persons who are particularly vulnerable or more fragile than the norm, who may have inherent weaknesses, or a pre-existing vulnerability or condition. The rule means that the defendant is fully liable for any symptoms caused by the accident (even though they may be more serious because of the pre-existing injury or condition). The theory is that “but for” the accident the plaintiff would not be symptomatic.

WCB Subrogation Rights

If you were a worker in the course of your work day activities when the accident occurred and obtain compensation through WorkSafeBC but then make a claim under the ICBC, you will be required, because of WCB subrogation rights, to repay WorkSafeBC and pursue benefits through ICBC instead regardless of what you are able to recover on your ICBC claim. This is because WCB subrogation rights enable an insurer to pursue a third party for rights or remedies of a creditor against his/her debtor.

WorkSafeBC is also entitled to collect a percentage-based administration fee on their payment to you. These cases can be complex and it is helpful to consult a lawyer to determine your rights and entitlement given the circumstances.


Whiplash, which is also known as a soft issue injury, is the most common injury suffered in a car accident and can include injury to your tendons, muscles and ligaments. Whiplash occurs when you are suddenly jolted forwards and then backwards (or backwards and then forwards) in a whip-like movement or are suddenly forcibly rotated. Women are more prone to whiplash than men as their neck muscles are less strong. The effects can be immediate or delayed and can include: stiffness, pain, restricted mobility of your limbs, neck and torso, headaches, fatigue and nausea. Symptoms often begin to improve and most people make a full recovery within 4-6 weeks, but sometimes the symptoms persist long-term. Age, physical conditioning and general health and any pre-existing conditions (like arthritis) impact the recovery process.

The difficulty with soft tissue injury claims is that there may not be many physical signs (like broken bones, herniated discs or dislocations) which show that an injury has occurred. The nature of the injury is usually based on what you tell your medical practitioner about the pain you are experiencing from the injury. This is another reason why it is very important to provide complete and accurate information to your doctor or treatment provider.

Whiplash injuries are typically categorized as mild, moderate or severe. Unfortunately, there is no consistent method for doctors, therapists and ICBC adjusters to categorize your injury.


An X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation sent through your body onto a film, which is developed much like a photograph. An X-ray will show if bones are broken or out of place but is unable to confirm the presence or extent of soft tissue injuries and it is used by doctors to confirm or cancel out an orthopedic (bone) injury or a neurological injury.

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