Injuries sustained in a car accident can have a huge effect on your life. Some of those effects can be easily quantified into dollars and cents, for example, lost wages or future care costs. However, other categories are not so easily quantified, such as pain and suffering caused by the injury. These are very real losses, but often, they cannot hope to be properly compensated with money. Instead, the approach to these losses is to provide additional funds as consolation for these effects. Courts and legislatures have created sets of caps and rules for pain and suffering damages, in an attempt to ensure people receive an additional fund of money to make life more endurable, without overburdening the public purse and causing insurance premiums to skyrocket.
Pain and Suffering Damages
The goal of any personal injury claim, be it a car accident claim or not, is to put the injured person back in their original position, had the injury not occurred due to the negligence of the at-fault party. Compensation is categorized into various heads of damage, that compensate for various effects of the injury sustained. More information on the various heads of damage and factors that affect the value of your claim can be found here.
Pain and suffering damages fall under the head of general damages, also called non-pecuniary damages, as they are not easily quantifiable. The purpose of non-pecuniary damages is not to compensate for the loss, since that is typically accounted for under wage loss and future care costs. It instead attempts to provide a fund that makes living life more endurable for the injured person.
Factors to Consider when quantifying Pain & Suffering
Factors to consider when determining the value of general damages you may be able to claim are:
- The severity of your injury
- The pain caused by your injury
- The emotional impact of your injury
- The loss of enjoyment of life you have experienced because of your injury
- The loss of your future expectations or plans due to your injury
Caps on General Damages and Ranges of Compensation
Because general damages awards are not intended to compensate for the injury, which is dealt with in other categories, but instead provide an additional fund to make life more bearable, courts and legislation have imposed upper limits on the amount you can receive. This depends on the severity of the car accident injuries and the longevity of the effects. Your injury may fall into any of the following categories:
Car Accident Claim with Minor Injuries
If you have been injured in a car accident in Nova Scotia, and you have suffered a minor injury, the Nova Scotia Minor Injury Cap may apply to limit the amount of general damages you are eligible to receive. It will not limit your recovery of other types of damages. The legal definition of minor injury is complex, and whether it applies to your injury is a question for healthcare professionals, as well as personal injury lawyers. Primarily, minor injuries include those that have healed within 12 months of the accident. The Nova Scotia Government sets the Minor Injury Cap each year, and it applies only to recovery of general damages. The Minor Injury Cap for 2019 is $8768. More information on the 2019 Minor Injury Cap can be found in this article.
Car Accident Claim with persistently troubling injuries
In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s decision in Smith v Stubbert creates a range of general damages that are available for injuries that are persistently troubling, but not totally disabling. This can include injuries that may initially appear to be minor, but do not heal and continue to be troubling a year after the accident occurred. This case was decided in 1992 when the range was $14,000-$40,000. Adjusting this range for inflation, it is approximately $32,000-$66,000 in present day. Where your injuries fall within the range will vary based on the factors listed above, and the severity of the injury’s impact on your life. For more information on the Smith v Stubbert decision, check out this article.
Car Accident Claim with Severe and Disabling Injuries
For injuries that are totally disabling, the compensation available will exceed the upper end of the Smith v Stubbert range. In a 1978 case called Andrews v Grand & Toy, the Supreme Court of Canada imposed a cap of $100,000 for the most severe injuries, such as quadriplegia and severe brain injury. Adjusted for inflation, that is now approximately $400,000 in 2019. While this cap applies to all personal injury general damages claims, this top amount is typically only awarded in the most severe cases, so compensation for most injuries will fall below that value.
Beyond the Smith v Stubbert range
You may be severely disabled by your car accident injuries, while retaining independence in a few areas, and not having an injury of the most severe kind such as quadriplegia. You may be eligible for compensation for your pain and suffering beyond the upper end of the Smith v Stubbert range ($65,000), but it will fall below the general damages cap of $100,000.
How to calculate your pain and suffering damages
The amount of compensation for pain and suffering you may be eligible for will depend on many factors, including the severity of your injury, the extent it has affected your life, and the type of injury. Given the wide array of factors and the different ranges and caps on general damages, a personal injury lawyer will be a helpful resource to help you determine what compensation you are due.
NOVA Injury Law offers free consultation for all types of car accident claim. There is no risk or obligation to proceed with your claim following the consultation. You will leave the consultation knowing how to assess your car accident claim, whether a personal injury lawyer can add value to your claim, and whether Jeff Mitchell is the right lawyer for your case.
More information on whether or not a lawyer can add value to your claim can be found in Jeff Mitchell’s book on Car Accident Claims. Get your free copy here.
Jeff Mitchell is Principal Lawyer and Founder of NOVA Injury Law. Jeff has dedicated his practice to the area of personal injury, accident, and disability benefits law. Contact 1.800.262.8104 or [email protected] to arrange for a free case review today.