Once liability (or legal responsibility) for a motor vehicle accident has been determined the remaining question is the quantum or amount of damages to be awarded. There are 5 different heads of damages that must be considered in arriving at the final amount: past wage loss, future wage loss, non-pecuniary damages, costs of future care and special damages.
The legal principle that governs the entire process of awarding damages is that, insofar as is possible, the plaintiff should be put in the position he or she would have been in but for the injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence.
Past wage loss deals with the victim’s lost earnings from the accident up until the point of trial. This amount is determined through employment records, medical records and any other relevant materials.
Future wage loss is a much more involved process. Once again employment records and medical records will be relevant. In addition, high school records, university records and your family history will be reviewed. The Judge must consider how long you likely would have been able to work as well as how much money you likely would have earned but for the incident. The Court must consider variables such as the likelihood of your early death, economic downturns and likelihood of another debilitating injury.
Non-pecuniary damages compensate a plaintiff for their pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life up to the date of the trial and in the future. The essential principle derived from the jurisprudence is that an award for non-pecuniary damages must be fair and reasonable to both parties and should be measured by the adverse impact of the particular injuries on the individual plaintiff. This valuation is completely up to the discretion of the Court. Awards vary a great deal depending on the type of injury and the type of person that was injured.
Costs of future care are awarded on the basis of what is reasonably necessary to promote the mental and physical health of the plaintiff having regard to the medical evidence. To determine the appropriate award the Court must be satisfied that there is a medical justification for claims of future care and the claims must be reasonable.
Special damages cover a person’s reasonable out-of-pocket expenses they incurred as a result of an accident. The expenses claimed must be limited to those expenses which are restorative rather than putting the injured person in a better position than before the accident.
In British Columbia, all of the above heads of damages are added together and paid out to the injured party as a lump sum.