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Understanding how damages are assessed in a personal injury case

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It can be very difficult to assess damages for an injured person at the beginning of a claim. When you you are in the acute healing phase, it is difficult to know how much treatment you will need, how long your body will take to heal, and the overall affect an injury may have on your health and well-being. It is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer early. Lawyers can help ensure that you have access to various funding and treatment options and ensure that you start things off right.

In personal injury cases such as motor vehicle accidents or slip and fall injuries, monetary damages are paid to an injured victim by the person or company found to be legally responsible for the accident. In Ontario, most at- fault parties have insurance in place and damages are paid by the insurance company. In most cases, the amount of damages can be agreed upon prior to trial by way of a settlement.

Personal injury damages are “compensatory”, in that they are intended to compensate an injured party and “make them whole” from a monetary perspective. This means trying to assign a monetary amount to represent how an accident has affected a person’s life. Naturally, it is difficult to represent an effect in a monetary way. Compensatory damages are distinct from nominal damages, which are valid but hard to value and punitive damages, which are awarded to punish a wrongdoer with the intention of discouraging certain behaviour.

Pecuniary v. Non-Pecuniary Damages

In Canada, compensatory personal injury damages fall under one of two categories: pecuniary and non-pecuniary. Pecuniary damages are damages that can be quantified in financial terms. These include:

  1. Medical Costs such as treatment costs, ambulance bills, and medication expenses;
  2. Lost Income if an injured person is unable to work as a result of the accident;
  3. Future Care Costs where an injured party is likely to need medical and rehabilitation care into the future; and
  4. Property damage costs to either a motor vehicle or other property that has been damaged.

By contrast, non-pecuniary damages are those that cannot easily be quantified in financial terms. The largest examples of non-pecuniary damages are damages awarded to compensate an injured party for the pain and suffering they have experienced as a result of the accident and damages to represent the impact an accident has on an injured party’s quality of life.

In Canada, non-pecuniary damages were capped by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1978. With inflation, the current cap on non-pecuniary damages is approximately $340,000, which are only awarded in the most severe injuries including paraplegia, quadriplegia and severe brain injury. In order to fully understand what damages you may be entitled to, it is important that you seek legal representation if you are an injury victim. Contact the team at CRB Law at 519-254-6433 or contact us on our website for a private and free consultation to determine your legal rights.

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