Before his brain injury, Gerry Della Guerra loved to play music. He was a drummer for different bands and would accompany them in performance onstage. In his daily life, he worked in construction, ensuring that the equipment onsite was in good condition and acting as the first aid agent.
“Before the accident, my life was great. I had everything going the way I wanted in my life. I worked during the day and [did] the things that I enjoyed after work, “ Gerry said.
Then in August 2009, Gerry’s life changed dramatically. At work, Gerry was climbing a ladder set up on top of scaffolding and had reached about 10 to 15 feet higher when the scaffolding supporting the ladder slipped. This is the last thing that Gerry remembered when he woke up at the Lionsgate Hospital with multiple injuries. He suffered a head injury with a fractured skull, bleeding in his brain, spinal cord damage, permanent loss of vision in his left eye from damage to his optic nerve muscle and severe damage to his motor skills. The light bothers his eyes and changes in weather or temperature cause numbness and pain in his body. The left side of his body is slower than his right side and his teeth on the left side have all been shattered. After the accident, Gerry could no longer do the things he previously loved to do.
When Gerry approached WorkSafe BC for support, he did not receive the help he expected. While WSBC expected to get Gerry back to work as soon as possible, Gerry’s multiple injuries would make this goal impossible. For the first two years, he was provided with some income, but it wasn’t enough. Gerry was told that WorkSafe BC could no longer support him so he was sent to rehabilitation to be trained for other jobs such a doorman.
Gerry felt that he should fight the decision made by WorkSafe BC, but he had difficulty with understanding the language used by WorkSafe BC representatives due to his brain injury. He knew he would need legal help so he hired a lawyer with expertise in WorkSafe BC cases. When lawyer asked for money upfront, Gerry could not afford the legal fees. Despite selling all of his personal belongings, especially sentimental items like his musical instruments. Gerry had no source of income and was struggling financially.
“I was at a park, camping, and getting ready to practice a homeless lifestyle,” Gerry remembered. “A friend I was with told me not to quit looking for resources. I took her advice and kept searching. I found brain injury support groups and attended the meetings. That is when I met Richard.”
Gerry said he had lost everything at that point and with Richard’s help, everything started to get better when Vancouver BIA assisted with reopening Gerry’s case.
Gerry’s initial determination was only a 10% cognitive loss from his brain injury. With a 35% loss benefit for his physical injuries, he had received barely enough money to survive. Vancouver BIA helped Gerry to win an award of 70% for his brain injury, which coupled with the 35% physical injury award, equaled the maximum possible for his injury – a 100% wage loss award. In addition to helping with WorkSafe BC wage repacement, Vancouver BIA helped Gerry to be awarded $330 per month in Home Assistance Allowance. All of this compensation was backdated to the date of his original injury, drawing his retroactive compensation to over $80,000.00.
“In addition to this amazing financial win, attending the Vancouver BIA group meetings helped me to realise that I am not the only person with a damaged brain in the world and there are others like me. This helped me to accept my condition more. I reached out for help and I’m so glad I did that.”