Nova Scotia’s “Cap” for “Minor Injuries” – Hopkins v Graham
8/20/2014 1:41 PM
In the recent Supreme Court of Nova Scotia case of Hopkins v Graham, 2014 NSSC 243, the Court considered the issue of a monetary cap – or maximum – on general damage awards for personal injuries defined as “minor injuries” by Nova Scotia’s Insurance Act.
In 2009, Mr. Hopkins was involved in a head-on motor vehicle collision. Mr. Hopkins stated that, as a result, that he suffered from pain in his back, shoulders and both knees. He also stated that he was left with permanent physical limitations.
The Court held that Mr. Hopkins injuries fit within the definition of “minor injuries” under the Insurance Act and, consequently, Mr. Hopkins’ award for general damages was limited to $2,500 because the Insurance Act and its Automobile Accident Minor Injury Regulations imposed a mandatory cap of $2,500 for the total amount recoverable for general damages for all “minor injuries” suffered in a motor vehicle accident.
In making this determination, the Court considered the test for whether an injury is considered “minor,” which required the Court to determin
i. If the plaintiff suffered a “personal injury”
ii. If the personal injury resulted in a permanent serious disfigurement
iii. If the personal injury resulted in a permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function, and
iv. If the personal injury resolved within the twelve months following the accident.
While it was clear that his injury did not result in disfigurement, Mr. Hopkins claimed that his injuries resulted in a permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function. In particular, Mr. Hopkins argued that his injuries impaired his ability to do household chores, and that he had to stop lobster fishing.
The Court did not agree with Mr. Hopkins, finding that there was no evidence to establish that Mr. Hopkins’ injuries substantially interfered with his usual daily activities. In addition, the Court rejected the argument that Mr. Hopkins stopped lobster fishing as a result of his injuries. This was partly because there was no evidence that Mr. Hopkins decision to stop was based on his injuries as opposed to other reasons (such as the declining market price for lobster and his pre-existing degenerative back condition).
Since the Court found that there was no impairment, Mr. Hopkins’ injuries fit the definition of “minor injuries” to which the maximum award for general damages was $2,500.
The full text of Hopkins v Graham can be found at http://canlii.ca/t/g7xkn. If you have questions or would like to discuss this topic further, please contact Sandra L. McCulloch at Patterson Law at 1-888-897-2001.
Please note that this article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to confer legal advice or opinion. Please note as well that many of the statements are general principles which may vary on a case by case basis. If you have any further questions, please consult a lawyer.