In 2004, the Alberta government introduced a piece of legislation called the Alberta Minor Injury Regulation, which placed a cap on the compensation available to an individual who sustained minor injuries in a motor vehicle accident (the “Cap”). This bold move was taken in an attempt to balance the rights of injured victims, with the increasing costs of providing and purchasing insurance. In the years prior to the introduction of the Cap, insurance companies lobbied the government for a change, arguing that, as a result of an increase in personal injury claims and subsequently, a spike in their costs to settle these claims, they had no choice but to increase insurance premiums. The insurance companies promised the government that by limiting the money that goes to injured Albertans by putting a cap on payouts for “minor injuries”, that they could reduce their own costs and consequently, lower insurance premiums to the general public. This scheme proved successful, and the Cap was created.
The reality of it is however, that the Cap may have been successful in decreasing the amount of personal injury claims in Alberta, and therefore, saving the insurance companies some money, however, the idea of lower premiums for average Albertans has remained a fallacy. Further, the creation of the Cap has denied thousands of legitimately injured Albertans the compensation they would otherwise be entitled to.
In 2004, the minor injury cap was set at $4,000.00. The law adjusts the Cap every year to account for inflation, and as of 2020, it sits at $5,296.00.
What is a Minor Injury?
In the Minor Injury Regulation, a minor injury is defined as a sprain, strain, or WAD injury (whiplash associated disorder) caused by a motor vehicle accident, that does not result in a serious impairment. This definition is confusing, broad, and complex. Without the guidance of a personal injury lawyer, it can and likely will be used against you.
What is a “Serious Impairment”?
A sprain, strain, or WAD injury, will not be considered “minor” and will not fall subject to the Cap, if it renders you unable to perform the essential tasks or activities of your daily life, employment, or of an education or training program. This “serious impairment” must not be expected to “improve substantially” and must also continue for six or more months from the date of the accident. If these criteria are met, it is likely that you are suffering from a serious impairment.
What does this mean for me?
If you were injured in an accident in Alberta, and you were not at fault, then you are entitled to make a claim for compensation against the at-fault party. The compensation you can claim for falls into two categories: 1) general damages, and 2) special damages. General damages is the legal term for the compensation you get for your pain and suffering, which accounts for all of the injuries you cannot put a price tag on. Special damages, on the other hand, are things that you can easily calculate, such as: out-of-pocket medical expenses or the income you lost because of an inability to work.
The Cap only applies to the pain and suffering portion of your claim. In other words, if you suffer from a minor injury, and are subject to the Cap, the most you can sue the at-fault party for, is $5,296.00, for your pain and suffering. The Cap does not apply to special damages, such as the ones mentioned above.
Why do I need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
At Braithwaite Boyle, we have dealt with thousands of cases in which an insurance adjuster or opposing counsel will claim that our client’s claim is capped, when it is in fact, not.
Every single day, we receive calls from individuals who were informed by an insurance adjuster that their claim is capped. More often than not, they are wrong.
There remains a great deal of misinformation surrounding the Cap, which is constantly perpetuated by insurance companies whose main goal is to limit the amount of settlements to Injured Albertans.
Only an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve when you are injured in an accident.
*** Please note that this article is only to provide general information. It cannot be considered legal advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Braithwaite Boyle at 1-800- 661-4902 and one of our lawyers would happy to assist you ***