10 Jul Maximum Award for Pain and Suffering in Canada

In personal injury claims, the plaintiff is entitled to general damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.  The court refers to these as “non-pecuniary damages”.  Although no amount of money can really compensate a plaintiff for their pain and suffering, this award is considered additional money to help the plaintiff’s life more endurable.

In order to determine an appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages, the court looks at a number of factors including the plaintiff’s age, the nature of the injury, the severity and duration of the pain, loss or impairment of life, impairment of physical and mental abilities, and loss of lifestyle.  Awards made to other plaintiffs in similar circumstances are considered, but each case is decided on its own facts.

In 1978, the Supreme Court of Canada noted that these damages were difficult to explain and did not rely on an objective measure.  Their fear was that this could lead to increasingly excessive damage awards, such as those in the United States, or to unaffordable insurance premiums caused by exorbitant damage awards. As a result, the Supreme Court of Canada set an upper limit for non-pecuniary damages.

After consideration, the Supreme Court of Canada limited damages for pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, to a maximum of $100,000.  The Supreme Court judges felt that this upper limit was appropriate in serious cases, such as the case of a young adult quadriplegic. Subsequent cases established that this conservative upper limit should be adjusted for inflation.  By 2017, the upper limit for non-pecuniary damages was approximately $367,000.

Non-pecuniary damages only compensate the plaintiff for pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.  Plaintiffs are also able to seek damages for other losses, including past wages, loss of capacity to earn future income, cost of future care, etc.