A B.C. Supreme Court justice has awarded $31,000 to a five-year-old boy for his emotional suffering following a car crash caused by his mother driving too fast for winter conditions.

The case placed the son's aunt in the role of litigation guardian, while his mother was in the uncomfortable position of defendant — though in reality the defendant was her insurer.

The crash happened in February, 2012, after the mother left a visit with her mother in Mackenzie, B.C., and was returning to her home in Quesnel. Her son — then five years old — was in the back seat.

According to court documents, "At the speed of 70 to 80 km/h, she could not control her vehicle which skidded, went down a ten-foot embankment and flipped over before it came to a rest on its roof."

The boy's injuries were not in dispute. He suffered a facial fracture and bruising that lasted for months. There was no surgery or scarring, and the judge found the boy had recovered from his physical injuries within six months.

The boy's lawyer asked for an award of between $35,000 to $40,000. The mother's lawyer argued $20,000 was appropriate, noting the only lasting effect of the crash was evidence the boy had cried twice in the past year when his mother was late to pick him up, as he feared she had been in another crash.

Emotional trauma

In her reasons for judgement, Justice Jeanne Watchuk awarded the boy $31,000, saying he should not be punished for his stoicism. 

Though Watchuk described the boy as stoic and noted he recovered quickly, she gave particular weight to his young age and emotional suffering in deciding to award more money than his mother's insurer wanted to pay.