If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. It is often a difficult task, however, to determine how much compensation you are entitled to. The goal of compensating an injured party is to put them back into the position they would have been in had the accident not occurred. In most cases, we are obviously not able to take the pain or disability away, so an appropriate amount of money, or “damages”, is awarded.
An award for damages is generally broken down into various categories, referred to as “heads of damages”.
Non-pecuniary damages (often referred to as “general” damages) are intended to compensate an injured party for his or her pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The range for non-pecuniary damages can go from as little $1,000 to as high as what is known as the “rough upper limit”. The rough upper limit increases with inflation and is currently at approximately $350,000. Awards approaching the rough upper limit are reserved for individuals who have sustained catastrophic injuries, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia.
There are a number of factors that will be taken into consideration when determining the appropriate amount for a non-pecuniary damages award. These factors commonly include: age; the nature, severity, and duration of the injuries; the resulting disability; the emotional suffering flowing from the injuries; the extent to which enjoyment of life has been impaired, and so on.
It is also important to remember that two individuals with the exact same injury may receive very different awards for non-pecuniary damages. For example, a concert pianist who has lost a finger in an accident will have suffered a far greater loss than a professional soccer player with the same injury. At the same time, a professional soccer player who has suffered a broken ankle in an accident will likely have suffered a far greater loss than the concert pianist. No case is the same. While the courts often use similar cases as a guide for an award, each individual case is assessed on its own merits.
If your ability to work and earn income has been compromised by injuries sustained in an accident, you will be entitled to damages for lost income as well. Income loss is often broken down further into past income loss and future income loss. Past income loss is the amount of income you have lost on account of your injuries dating from the accident up until damages are assessed (whether that be settlement with the ICBC or judgment at trial). Future income loss is the amount of income you are expected to lose from the day damages are assessed onward. Making an assessment of future income loss is commonly referred to as “crystal ball gazing”, as it can be very difficult in most cases to predict the future. It is not impossible, however. Generally various experts in medicine and economics are hired to provide opinions to assist with the assessment.
Special damages are the out-of-pocket expenses that an injured party incurs as a result of injuries. They often include items such as costs of physiotherapy, medications, counseling, housekeeping assistance etc.
Future care generally refers to out of pocket expenses the injured party is expected to incur from the date of the assessment of damages forward. It will generally be awarded for items that are deemed to be reasonable and necessary.
These are the main heads of damages that injured parties are often entitled to. It is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, come talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer at Gillespie & Company LLP and we can discuss the compensation that you might be entitled to.