We’ve all seen headlines proclaiming “Judge Awards So-and-So X Amount of Dollars in Suit Against So-and-So”. Naturally, the media always zeroes in on the big number, the total amount the injured party will receive. However, these amounts are not pulled out of thin air. In personal injury cases, damages are assessed in categories, which are then added together to arrive at the total award.
So, what exactly are these categories? Personal injury damages are divided into three main categories, special damages, pecuniary damages and non-pecuniary damages. Within each of these main categories, there are subcategories, each of which is analyzed individually to determine the amount of money to which the injured party is entitled.
In the headings below, we will explain what is included in each of these categories:
Special Damages: expenses the injured party has actually incurred prior to the date of the settlement or trial. Since these expenses have already been incurred, the injured party will be expected to provide receipts, and it is fairly easy to calculate the appropriate award. In most cases special damages will include items such as loss of income for time off work that has already occurred, medical expenses, loss of or damage to property (ex. a vehicle).
Pecuniary Damages: expenses the injured party is expected to incur in the future. Pecuniary damages can also be calculated in money, however there is less certainty, since they haven’t actually arisen yet. In most cases pecuniary damages include items such as cost of future care, loss of future earnings, loss of future valuable services (ex. housekeeping abilities),
In calculating pecuniary damages, lawyers and courts are forced, to the best of their ability, to determine what is going to happen in the future. In order to do so, lawyers and courts rely on expert reports and prior case law for guidance in determining what the future holds for the injured party. Regardless, this can be a daunting task, particularly so where there are serious uncertainties, such as whether or not the injured party will be able to return to work, or the injured party is a seriously injured young child and it is
impossible to determine what career path they would have taken had they not suffered the injury.
Non-Pecuniary Damages: are not expenses at all, but are meant to compensate the injured party for their loss and suffering. Although non-pecuniary damages cannot be easily translated into monetary terms, the courts have set out methods for calculating them in order to ensure injured parties receive some compensation for their loss and suffering. Non-pecuniary damages include items such as pain and suffering, loss of expectation of life and loss of life’s amenities. In 1978, the Supreme Court of Canada imposed a cap on non-pecuniary damages, finding that at that time $100,000 was an appropriate upper limit on non-pecuniary damages, and that the upper limit should only be awarded in the most serious cases. This upper limit is adjusted to reflect inflation, and as such in 2017 the upper limit is approximately $351,500.
Sampson McPhee has prepared this publication to provide legal information of a general nature. It is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions or concerns one of our lawyers will be happy to assist you. You can reach us by calling 902 539 2425.