What Everyone Should Know about Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Damages

If you are injured by someone else’s negligence – such as by a distracted driver in a car accident – you can seek compensation for the losses, or legal damages, you incur. These damages break down into both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, and understanding the difference can help you better navigate the path forward. If this is the difficult situation you find yourself in, consulting with an experienced Nova Scotia personal injury lawyer can help.

Pecuniary vs Non-Pecuniary Damages

In Canada, pecuniary damages refer to those losses that are quantifiable in the sense that there is a price tag attached. If someone else’s negligence leaves you injured, the medical costs you face – for example – come with detailed bills that make them pecuniary. Non-pecuniary damages, on the other hand, refer to those losses that – although they are very real – do not come with an attendant bill or breakdown of costs.

What Are Pecuniary Damages in Canada?

The basic pecuniary damages that victims of negligence-based accidents experience generally fall into several basic categories.

  • Physical damage to property, such as damage to your vehicle if you are injured in a car accident
  • Medical expenses, which include both current related expenses and ongoing costs that are associated with secondary health concerns or complications that arise from the accident in question
  • Lost earnings related to hours lost on the job as well as any losses related to decreased earning potential into the future

If you’re harmed by someone else’s negligence, your pecuniary damages include all those for which a verifiable cost can be attached.

What Are Non-Pecuniary Damages in Canada?

While pecuniary damages are generally a relatively straightforward matter in personal injury claims, it’s critical that they are well represented in order to ensure that your full range of losses is covered and that your ability to reach your most complete recovery is well supported. This, however, is not the end of the matter. There are also your non-pecuniary damages to consider, which are those losses that cannot be readily quantified in terms of financial value but that, nevertheless, impede your recovery. Non-pecuniary damages examples include all the following:

  • The pain and suffering you endure as a result of being injured by someone else’s wrongdoing
  • the emotional distress you experience, which can include increased anxiety, depression, problems sleeping, and beyond
  • Any long-term impairment to the quality of your life
  • Any deterioration in your relationships with close friends, family members, loved ones, or colleagues
  • Any impairment of your mental capacities, including your ability to control your moods and to function effectively in your life
  • Any impairment of your ability to physically function in the world

When it comes to what is the difference between pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, the dividing line is the one that separates the losses that you incur and pay a financial price for and the losses that cause you harm but that do not have a direct cost.

Non-Pecuniary Damages Are More Challenging to Calculate

The non-pecuniary losses you experience as a result of someone else’s negligence are considerably more difficult to calculate. The severity of the loss, the extent that it haunts you into your future, and the degree to which it directly affects your life will all play a role in the calculation process. It’s important to understand that unless your non-pecuniary damages are carefully assessed and well-represented, reaching your fullest recovery may be beyond your reach.

Factors that Canada’s courts take into careful consideration when placing a value on non-pecuniary damages include:

  • The Severity of Your Injuries – The more serious your injuries, the longer your recovery is likely to take and the more directly your overall life is likely to be affected. As a result, non-pecuniary damages generally correlate with the severity of the injuries incurred.
  • Physical or Mental Disability – If you suffer a permanent physical or mental disability, its profound effect on your life is likely to increase your non-pecuniary losses considerably.
  • Your Age – The younger you are, the longer you’ll have to cope with the negative effects of the other party’s negligence, which generally correlates with higher non-pecuniary damages.

It’s important to recognize that these are generalizations and that your claim will be unique to the specific circumstances involved.

What Is the Cap on Non-Pecuniary Damages in Canada?

The Supreme Court of Canada heard a so-called trilogy of cases involving grave bodily injury back in the late 1970s, and the corresponding judgments, which were all rendered on the same day, set what amounts to a cap for non-pecuniary damages that continues to hold to this day. The cases include Arnold v. Teno, Thornton v. School Dist. No. 57, and Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd. The upshot is the Court determined that the value of few – if any – personal injuries could exceed the top amount set by those cases, which was $100,000. Since then, the amount has been indexed to account for inflation over the years, which leaves it currently at about $412,000. This amount is a de facto cap on non-pecuniary losses related to bodily damages or injuries only – as opposed to moral or material damages.

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Nova Scotia Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing, the losses you experience, including your non-pecuniary losses such as pain and suffering, can be immense. Without the compensation to which you are entitled, your recovery will be that much more challenging. The seasoned personal injury lawyers at Wagners in Nova Scotia recognize the gravity of your situation and have more than four decades of impressive experience skilfully advocating for the rights of clients like you. We are committed to helping our clients obtain the full value of their legal claims.  We are on your side, so please do not wait to reach out to schedule your consultation with a lawyer. Call or contact our office today.

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