We’ve all heard about damage awards in the U.S. being in the millions of dollars. It seems that the awards by juries for the slightest of injuries are made all the time. I’m often asked what to expect for similar injuries in Canada. Generally damage awards in Canada are much lower than those in the U.S.
Canada’s legal system is quite different and the Supreme Court of Canada has set an upper limit on compensation for pain and suffering at about $360,000 (indexed for inflation). This sum of money would only be payable in cases involving significant brain damage or quadriplegia. The courts in each province are obliged to follow case law from their own province (in addition to decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada).
Historically, Alberta courts can be very conservative when awarding compensation for pain and suffering – this is true whether your case is heard by a judge or a jury (juries are bound by the same $360,000 upper limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada). In addition to your claim for pain and suffering, you may also have claims for the cost of future care, income loss, lost opportunity (e.g. a loss of the ability to do certain types of employment that you might have done but for ongoing injuries) and other compensation based on the circumstances and nature of your injuries. This is why it is crucial to have appropriate representation to navigate through the legal process and court proceedings.