Real Victims’ Stories

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Caps for general damages resulting from “minor” injuries were instituted in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island between 2002 and 2004. Here are real-life examples of how those caps have affected accident victims.

Shoulder injury capped
2007, New Brunswick – Fraser v. Haines

A construction worker in New Brunswick discovered the high price of the cap on compensation after he suffered a shoulder injury.

New Brunswick’s Insurance Act caps damages for injury claims at $2,500 if the injury is deemed to be a “minor personal injury.” The test to determine if an injury is non-minor has three prongs: (1) Is the impairment permanent? (2) Does the impairment affect bodily function? (3) Does the injury result in serious impairment?

Although the injury was permanent and the victim had to find new ways to work because he no longer had the same abilities, the trial judge decided this injury did not qualify as “serious impairment.” The court, therefore, had to cap the damages at $2,500.

However, the trial judge made it clear: had there been no cap, the court would have been able to award $30,000.

Years of pain and suffering deemed “minor”
2014, Nova Scotia – Hopkins v. Graham

In 2009, a 43-year-old man was driving home from hockey practice when a car crossed the yellow line and smashed into his vehicle, sending him into the ditch. During the accident, the victim “was thrown forward. His chest hit the steering wheel and his knees struck the dashboard. His left knee punched a hole in the dash, while his right knee collided with and broke the underside of the console.” He also struck his shoulder and head.

Five years on, at the time of the trial, the man was still experiencing “mid to upper-back pain (between the shoulder blades), shoulder pain and bilateral knee pain.” He also suffered from a “constant burning sensation across the middle of his back” that did not respond to medication and that would sometimes shoot up to the back of his neck.

The man was a Crew Foreman with a concrete finishing company, a job that entailed physical labour. Certain tasks at work became more difficult because of knee pain. He had previously supplemented his income lobster fishing, but no longer did. Because his pain was aggravated by physical activity, it is now more difficult for him to cut and stack his firewood, do tasks around the house, or engage in recreational pursuits he previously enjoyed like playing sports, gardening, or using his four-wheeler.

The Court found this was a minor injury and so the amount awarded was capped at $2,500 for pain and suffering, rather than the $50,000 claimed.