The value of a personal injury claim is determined through a calculation of your heads of damages. There are several heads of damages which are classified as pecuniary or non-pecuniary damages. Special damages, also known as pecuniary damages, are monetary awards for specific losses such as economic losses, including repair costs, loss of income, loss of future income, loss of housekeeping, and medical and rehabilitation costs. General Damages, also known as non-pecuniary damages, are awards to compensate for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
1. General Damages
In 1978 the Supreme Court of Canada put a limit on the amount of general damages one can claim. Accounting for inflation, that current limit is $366,000.00, and is only awarded in those cases where some one has suffered catastrophic injuries. In 2004 the Alberta government implemented legislation that caps general damages for pain and suffering at $4000.00 for “minor injuries”. This amount is increased every year for inflation. The 2023 CAP in Alberta is $5,817.
2. Loss of Income
There are 2 parts to a loss of income claim - past and future. A past loss of income covers the time from the date of the accident until the date of settlement. If your accident injuries prevent you from working, you are entitled to claim the lost wages from the at fault driver. An analysis of the pre-accident and post accident earnings is undertaken. Income from other sources following an accident from a disability plan, CPP. Section B or employment insurance are factored into the calculation of lost wages.
Future loss of income is often very difficult to calculate when an individual has returned to work. The law requires that you mitigate your damages. This means that they expect an individual to find employment that their doctor says they are capable of even if it is not the same type of work someone did before the accident. Future loss of income is the difference between what someone was earning before an accident and what they are capable of earning now.
Courts are not capable of looking into the future to see what may happen regarding the effects of a personal injury on someone’s ability to earn income. In some cases, the courts award what is called a Loss of Future Earning Capacity which is a lump sum awarded as an acknowledgment that someone’s ability to earn income has been affected by accident injuries.
3. Loss of Housekeeping
The law allows someone to claim damages if the injuries sustained in an accident impact the ability to undertake household chores or management whether or not you hire third party assistance. Loss of housekeeping claims are restricted to compensation for activities that a person is not capable of doing because of an accident. The claim does not apply to those activities that someone can do, but they take longer and may aggravate pain or discomfort.
4. Out of Pocket Expenses
This part of a personal injury claim relates to claiming to be reimbursed for items you have had to pay for in relation to your injuries and treatment. Normally this includes items such as the cost of prescriptions, over the counter medication, medical aid devices such as a brace or cane, and mileage and parking at medical appointments. You must first try and recoup the cost from any other source of insurance such as Section B, Blue Cross, and health care plans at work.
5. Cost of Future Care
Once a settlement is reached and the lawsuit is discontinued, you are not entitled to come back and ask for more money in the future. If you require ongoing care or treatment past the settlement date, a claim is made during the lawsuit for cost of future care. Normally a medical professional or an expert is required to give an opinion that someone will likely require future care including medical treatment, either temporarily or permanently in order to recover the costs.