Are Canadian Medical Malpractice Claims Different Than in the United States

The answer is yes.

We often read about large jury awards for personal injury claims that happen in the United States. Sometimes the American Jury Awards can seem to be out of proportion to the actual injury. The Canadian judicial system works differently, and awards are significantly lower than awards for similar injuries from courts in the United States.  This is because of what is called the “Damages Trilogy”; three Supreme Court of Canada decisions that put a cap of $100,000 on damages in 1978.  Currently, this cap is around $390,000 once adjusted for inflation. (1) Sometimes cases that could be successful in the U.S. are essentially not economically feasible to pursue in Canada’s legal landscape.

In Canada, Doctors are defended by the CMPA

Most doctors are defended by one non-profit organization that is called the Canadian Medical Protection Association (CMPA), which operates similarly to an insurer.

This organization is known for providing defendant doctors with strong defences.  They spare no expense when it comes to hiring experts and lawyers. In 2007, it was reported that the CMPA has 2.9 billion dollars in assets at their disposal to protect doctors. This inevitably leads to extremely overwhelming financial odds for Canadian victims of medical malpractice. The challenge to obtain justice and fair compensation for their injuries is immense, as obtaining strong expert opinion can be very expensive.

What the studies are saying about medical malpractice in Canada

A study conducted by the Canadian Medical Association Journal had determined that over 87,000 patients in Canada had suffered from what they call an adverse event in hospitals each year. Additionally, the study had found that as many as 24,000 patients died each year in hospitals because of medical errors. Out of these numbers between the years 2002 and 2006, the CMPA reported that only 5,246 lawsuits were filed against doctors in Canada, or about 1,000 per year. The statistics are alarming, meaning almost 99% of medical malpractice victims have not filed a claim.

Can we help you?

Medical malpractice cases are challenging to advance, and require the services of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.  Wagners’ medical malpractice team has the expertise necessary to advance these claims. If you would like to discuss your medical negligence claim, Wagners’ medical malpractice lawyers offer free consultations, and have the expertise necessary to assess your situation.


  1. The three cases that comprise the “Damages Trilogy” are: Andrews v Grand & Toy Ltd. [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229; Arnold v. Teno [1978] 2 S.C.R. 287; and Thorton v Prince George School District No. 57 [1978] 2 S.C.R. 267
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