Seven years after a T-bone collision fractured Krystal Mann’s pelvic bone, the Windsor, Ont., resident remains in severe pain after surgery on her tailbone.
Mann, 36, is struggling to put food on the table for her two kids as her civil lawsuit sits idle due to court delays related to COVID-19. She can no longer work because of the chronic pain after the crash Nov. 5, 2014.
She was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car, getting a ride home from her job at Toyota in Cambridge, Ont., when a vehicle smashed into her side of the car. It took first responders 45 minutes to get her out because Mann was pinned inside.
Now, she has “severe pain” in her lower back and neck, and her Canada Pension Plan disability benefits only provide roughly a third of what she made while working. Without benefits, Mann has to pay for her therapies out of pocket. To make ends meet, she’s had to remortgage her house and borrow money from her mom.
“I kind of feel like I’m trapped in purgatory because of something that was completely out of my control. I feel like I’ve been forgotten and I’ve been left behind, like what happened to me doesn’t matter, like I no longer possess any type of value.”
WATCH | Krystal Mann describes the physical and emotional toll this has taken on her:
Mann was just months away from qualifying for work benefits in the event of a serious car crash. She used up all the available money from her own insurance company designed to act as interim benefits before possible monetary compensation is issued.
“The hardest part is not being able to provide for my children through my own means. I’ve lost my independence,” said Mann, whose children are 10 and 12.
The lawsuit, filed against both drivers involved in the collision, is seeking $1 million in damages. However, they believe $3 million to $4 million is likely what will be needed to compensate for lost wages and future medical care.
For three years after the crash, Mann said, her pain was unbearable. In 2017, she underwent the surgery on her tailbone, but she said she still cannot sit, stand or walk for long periods of time. The surgery helped, but life’s nowhere near what it was before the accident, she said.
“I couldn’t go to the bathroom without crying every time,” Mann said in tears. “The surgery did help with the ability to use the bathroom like a normal person. But I still live with chronic pain.”
Other than weekly visits to the chiropractor that she pays for on her own, doctors have told her not much else can be done to address her injuries and ongoing pain, she said.
“The words that the doctors have used is that I’ve reached a plateau. There’s just no getting better from here. Where I’m at now, and the chronic pain that I have, is something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life.”
Civil trial not expected until 2023
Mann’s lawyer, Jennifer Bezaire, a partner at Greg Monforton and Partners, said she doesn’t expect the trial to take place until possibly 2023, after filing documents in 2019 for one to commence. Amid the pandemic, which began in March 2020, new trials have been either not scheduled, put on hold or delayed, creating a backlog.
WATCH | Krystal Mann talk about nearly experiencing financial ruin because of the crash:
As a result, Mann will have to wait a few more years before a trial is held, meaning she’ll also have to wait and see if she gets any compensation.
“I want closure,” said Mann. “This is something that hangs over my head. It’s like a dark cloud. I’m never going to be able to get past that night and what happened until I have closure. Until I see my day in court, I won’t get that closure.”
Bezaire has filed a motion for a judge-alone trial, which would hopefully speed up the process given the backlog of jury trials due to COVID-19. The defendants get to choose what type of trial is used for the proceeding. In this case, and in many instances, Bezaire said, insurers select jury trials because they tend to award lower settlements.
“The reason they’re insisting on the jury is because there are a lot of things that me, as the plaintiff lawyer, can’t tell the jury, and so my hands are somewhat tied behind my back,” said Bezaire. “The jury has to decide the case in a vacuum, which often results in the jury awarding less damages at the end of the day and saving the insurance company money.”
One thing lawyers aren’t allowed to tell the jury in civil cases is the $40,000 deductible in any award that automatically goes to the defending insurance company. Bezaire said that’s an Ontario law in civil automotive lawsuits designed to help keep auto insurance premiums low.
Beyond that, she hopes the provincial government abolishes jury trials for civil matters, which Bezaire said would help the entire judicial system.
“If the Ontario government were to step in and remove the right to a jury in a civil case, that would likely free up a lot of court resources, it would speed things along for people like Krystal and it would really, really help.”
Ontario re-examines civil jury trials
In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson from the Ministry of the Attorney General said the government consulted with a number of justice partners and stakeholders “to eliminate some or all civil jury trials.”
“The ministry is currently considering next steps,” said spokesperson Brian Gray.
Despite all she’s been through, Mann clings to a glimmer of optimism.
“I may not have the most physically best life, but I do take the time to appreciate the little things, especially when it comes to my kids because that night could have changed things for my kids in a lot bigger way than it did,” she said. “You can’t take for granted certain things in life anymore.”