While many personal injury cases settle out of court, a small percentage do proceed to trial. Generally, there are three categories of damages available to personal injury claimants.
General damages refer to the compensation an injured party receives for sustaining intangible injuries such as pain and suffering, disability, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of expectation of life. In 1978, the Supreme Court of Canada limited the amount of money recoverable for pain and suffering at $100,000, with the upper limit usually only available for the most catastrophic injuries. This amount was indexed to inflation so that today, the amount is approximately $330,000.
Special damages refer to the compensation an injured party receives for incurring financial costs as a result of the injury or accident. Special damages refer to past and future financial costs and can be backed up by invoices, bills of sale and expert evidence. Special damages include compensation for past and future income loss, loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace, compensation for future medical and rehabilitation services, housekeeping services, and out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
Punitive damages are also awarded to personal injury claimants, although this is less frequent. When a claim is made to an insurance company, the insurance company has the right to investigate that claim by looking into the accident and its surrounding circumstances. The insurance company must conduct itself fairly and honestly. When an insurance company breaches this duty and acts in bad faith, a court may award punitive damages to the injured party. Punitive damages are only awarded when there has been highly reprehensible misconduct.