General damages for pain and suffering: what is the maximum you can be awarded?

If you are badly injured, you may wish to file a lawsuit with the goal of getting financial compensation for your pain, suffering and other expenses you now have as a result of your injury.

The money awards (known as “damages”) available through the courts can be broken up into two main categories: pecuniary and non-pecuniary.

Pecuniary damages (also known as “special damages”) are those that can be measured in dollars, such as loss of past and future earnings, medical costs or care expenses.

Non-pecuniary damages (also known as “general damages”) are those that can’t be measured in monetary terms. They attempt to compensate the injured person for their pain, suffering, or disfigurement.

You may have seen American television shows that depict an injured party winning millions of dollars in court, but in Canada, there is actually a cap, or limit, on the amount of non-pecuniary/general damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering.

The cap was determined through a trilogy of cases decided in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1978. At that time, the amount was $100,000, but it is adjusted annually to account for inflation and the cost of living. Today that amount is a little more than $362,000 (source: McKellar Structured Settlements).

If the injury has arisen from an automobile accident, the situation is a little different. If the lawsuit awards a person pain and suffering damages under a certain amount (threshold) related to a motor vehicle accident, there is an automatic deductible taken from those damages. In fact, both the deductible amount and the threshold increased last August. You can read about those amounts here.

It may be discouraging to learn about the cap on pain and suffering damages, and the deductible applied to certain motor vehicle accident award deductibles. Rest assured that these types of awards are not the only financial compensation available to you. In fact, general damages awards are usually only a small portion of the total award: the awards related to income loss and care are generally the biggest portion.

Be sure to contact us with your questions or concerns on this topic; we would be glad to help you discuss what constitutes fair compensation for your injuries.