Why Personal Injury Settlements Can Vary
If you have just been in an accident, you may be wondering about the range of damages to which you are entitled. However, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question since there are many reasons why a personal injury action may settle.
As explained by the Barrie lawyers at Littlejohn Barristers, damage awards depend on many factors, including the value of your injuries, your loss of income, treatment, care, loss of housekeeping, and the specific circumstances surrounding the accident, among other factors described below.
One of the most significant factors a court will assess to determine damages is whether you were earning income at the time of the accident, the level of income you were earning and the effect of the accident on your ability to earn income. For example, a fifty-year-old with limited skills may be awarded less in damages than a twenty year old with many working years ahead of them.
In Tennant v. Fariba, 2013 ONSC 1676 (CanLII), the plaintiff was a business owner, carrying many responsibilities and obligations. After sustaining injuries in an accident, the court found that he would be disadvantaged in the marketplace if he decided to give up his business and work as an employee. The court awarded him $50,000 for loss of future earning capacity.
By contrast, the court did not award any damages for loss of future income in Akeelah v. Clow, 2018 ONSC 3410 (CanLII). In this case, an elderly plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident, but later suffered from a stroke. The court found that it was the effects of the stroke that impaired his substantial future loss of earnings and not the car accident.
A judge will look into the specific role you had prior to the accident and whether you are able to resume that role or if you must change careers to accommodate your injuries. As such, a truck driver with foot injuries, for example, may be awarded more in damages than a receptionist with foot injuries, due to the direct impact of his injuries on his type of work.
Type of Injuries
Several factors are considered when a court assesses damages in respect of accident injuries. To start, a court will assess how severe the injuries were and how long it will take you to recover (and whether you will ever recover fully at all). The more severe the injuries, the higher the compensation that will be awarded.
A court will also look at your lifestyle prior to the accident and assess your ability to fully return to it after the accident. Higher compensation for a leg injury, for example, would be awarded to a professional athlete than someone with an office job.
Similarly, a court will review how the injury affected your plans for your life and your ability to accomplish your goals. For example, higher compensation would be awarded to a post-secondary student whose graduation is delayed due to needing painkillers daily for several months after an accident than a high school graduate working in retail.
Moreover, a court will look at the specific bodily parts that were injured, how the injuries impact your life and your ability to return to your pre-accident activities. The quantum of damages for the complete loss of a limb will be much greater, for example, than for bruising and swelling of a limb.
In Williams v. Mendez, 2003 CanLII 11931 (ON SC), the plaintiff was awarded a sum of $120,000 in damages after she sustained serious, chronic pain in her right arm as the result of an accident. The medical expert testified that her pain would be permanent and her prognosis to return to enjoy her usual amenities of life was gloomy.
Conversely, in Ksiazek v. Newport Leasing Ltd., 2006 CanLII 36958 (ON SC), the plaintiff received only 75% of the compensation that would have been awarded because she was considered to have contributed to her injuries. The accident entailed severe injuries to the plaintiff’s fingers and back, but she avoided physiotherapy and thereby delayed her own rehabilitation. Instead of $60,000, she was awarded $45,000 for her behaviour in delaying recovery.
Care and Treatment
After an accident, you may have one or more family members who take time off work to care for you and help you recover. These family members potentially have claims for care, guidance and companionship.
In motor vehicle accidents specifically, a court will pay close attention to who was at fault when deciding damages. If you are somewhat at fault for the accident, in whole or in part, then the proportion of your fault can greatly affect the compensation you receive. For example, a person who runs a red light, gets hit by another vehicle and is severely injured will be apportioned some and possibly most of the liability.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
If there are aggravating circumstances, such as being hit by an impaired driver, a judge may award greater damages. If there are mitigating circumstances, such as unreasonable failure to obtain treatment what would have reduced your injuries, a court may award lesser damages.
Representation & Delays
Another factor in determining the damages awarded is if and how effectively you were represented during your trial. A court may be more forgiving of an unrepresented party who missed deadlines or gave improper documentation, especially if there are exacerbating circumstances, such as language or cultural barriers and few resources to learn how to navigate the legal system. At the same time, an experienced lawyer who argues well will help to get you more compensation.
Contact a Barrie Personal Injury Lawyer at Littlejohn Barristers
Ultimately, there is no simple answer on the amount of damages to which you may be entitled. It is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you have had an accident. The personal injury lawyers at Littlejohn Barristers are experienced in such cases and will have a better handle on what you might expect. Whether you simply have questions or are seeking representation, our team is happy to speak with you. Contact a personal injury lawyer in Barrie at 705-725-7355.