In this twelve-part blog series, personal injury lawyers Bree Hankins and Adrienne Staley discuss important steps to follow after a motor vehicle accident and what you need to know about making a personal injury claim. Part 9 focuses on the types of compensation you can expect to receive after a motor vehicle accident.
Part 9: What types of Compensation do I get for my injury?
The type of compensation you can expect to receive after a motor vehicle accident, can depend on the type of injury you sustained, and how your injuries have impacted your life. In this post, we will focus on three types of compensation, non-pecuniary damages, loss of housekeeping, and in trust claims.
Non-pecuniary damages are compensation for your pain and suffering. This is often a difficult area of compensation for clients to understand, as they often feel like no amount of money can adequately compensate them for how they have felt in the months and years after an accident. In addition, the way it is calculated can often be intimidating and confusing to clients.
The object of non-pecuniary damages is to compensate you for your loss of enjoyment of life. This involves a consideration of what your life looked like before and after the accident and how your life has changed. For example, if you previously enjoyed hiking and snowboarding and can no longer participate in these activities, non-pecuniary damages are intended to compensate you for that loss. In addition, if you can no longer play with your children in the same manner you were previously, non-pecuniary damages provide your compensation for that loss.
Unlike in the USA, in Canada, awards for non-pecuniary damages are subject to an upper limit. In 1978, the Supreme Court of Canada issued three judgements that discussed the importance of non-pecuniary damages and this type of compensation is intended to be used by the injured person to make his or her life more bearable and provide solace for the intangible losses (Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alta. Ltd.,  2 S.C.R. 229; Thornton v. School District No. 57,  2 S.C.R. 267; Arnold v. Teno,  2 S.C.R. 287.)
The upper limit that was set in 1978, for even the most tragic of cases, was $100,000. Adjusting for inflation, the upper limit is $372,768. The Court also made it clear in 1978, that the upper limit should only be awarded in cases where there have been very serious injuries, such as paraplegia, brain injuries, or other catastrophic injuries.
When the Court is dealing with a claim for damages for pain and suffering, it is the role of the Court to consider a number of factors, such as your age, the nature of the injury, the severity and duration of the pain, any emotional distress, loss or impairment of family life and relationships, impairment of physical abilities and loss of lifestyle. It is important to remember that the severity of the injury is not the only factor, and the effect on an injured person’s life is also considered.
In determining what to award for non-pecuniary damages, the Court will also compare your circumstances, to previous injury cases that have been decided by the Courts. The Court will then make adjustments to fit your specific circumstances.
An award for loss of housekeeping, can have some overlap with non-pecuniary damages. It is your non-pecuniary damages that compensate you for the discomfort you experience when you are vacuuming and completing other household tasks. An award for loss of housekeeping is a separate type of compensation you receive in addition to your non-pecuniary damages that compensates you for the possibility that you will require paid housekeeping in the future. It is compensation for the loss of the ability to complete household tasks. However, it is important to note that not every injured person will be entitled to this compensation and the Court is supposed to exercise restraint when considering a claim under this head of damages.
An in-trust claim will be awarded to compensate an injured person’s immediate family members who have had to go above an beyond to assist the injured person following an accident. The types of things a family member can claim relate to completing household tasks, nursing, or other services. However, there must be evidence that there was a need for the family member to complete the tasks and also that the family member either suffered an economic loss by providing these services or saved an expense that would have otherwise been incurred. For example, the saved expense of having to hire a housekeeper when it was necessary to have that type of assistance.
Next week we will focus on the remaining three types of compensation, wage loss (past and future), cost of future care and special damages.