If you’ve been injured and plan to sue in Canada, there’s a limit on what you can receive for pain and suffering, or general damages, and it’s probably lower than you think. General damages, also known as ‘non-pecuniary’ damages, refer to a variety of related losses which have historically been difficult to define. These damages are awarded to compensate for physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment and expectation of life, and loss of amenities as a result of an injury.
In a series of three 1978 rulings, commonly referred to as ‘the trilogy’, the Supreme Court of Canada set a maximum of $100,000 that could be awarded in Canada for pain and suffering. Every year this is indexed to keep up with inflation and as of 2015 sits at approximately $359,550. This is the maximum amount payable, awarded in cases of catastrophic injury. In the original trilogy of cases, the injuries were brain damage suffered by a four-and-a-half-year old child and two young men rendered quadriplegic (15 and 21 years old at the time of injury).
If the $359,550 ceiling seems low, especially in such severe cases, remember that it doesn’t apply to other damages you may claim, including past and future income lost and cost of care, which may represent significant sums of money. In the 1978 trilogy, these other damages averaged to $2,140,000 per case in 2015 dollars, though keep in mind that these were worst case scenarios.
The Supreme Court was motivated in 1978 by a desire to prevent the type of excessively high damage awards that were being seen in the United States, which are typically at least ten times higher than Canadian awards. The Court was concerned with the social costs associated with increased damage awards, including excessively high insurance premiums, and set an ‘upper limit’ to avoid spiraling damage awards.
There are a number of factors that go into determining the appropriate award of non-pecuniary damages, including your age, the nature of your injury, how long your injury lasts and its impact on your daily activities. Keep in mind that the $359,550 cap is for the most serious cases, with more moderate injuries receiving less compensation accordingly.
An injury affects every person differently and we can help you recover the most compensation for yours. We can also help you recover money for the other losses you sustain as a result of your injury, including loss of income and cost of medical care, which are in addition to damages for pain and suffering. Call us at 416-800-4378 or 416-533-7133 to learn more.