2023 Minor Injury Guidelines in Alberta
Some car accidents cause people to sustain injuries that are drastic, life-changing, and permanent. Catastrophic injuries can substantially reduce a motor vehicle accident survivor’s overall quality of life, causing them to suffer both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic (or, “pecuniary”) damages refer to the hard costs associated with their injuries. These quantifiable, easily calculable expenses can be tallied by tracking all injury-related financial losses an accident survivor has incurred and by estimating their anticipated future costs. For example, if an accident survivor’s injuries force them to miss work, the wages they have already lost may be included in their total economic damages. If their prognosis suggests that the injuries they sustained in their motor vehicle collision will make it impossible for the injured accident survivor to ever work again, the wages they could have reasonably anticipated earning over the course of their future career could also be included in their economic damages.
Non-economic (or, “non-pecuniary”) damages are more difficult to quantify. These damages refer to the intangible costs associated with accident-related injuries. It is impossible to put a price tag on concepts like emotional distress or pain and suffering. However, if an accident survivor’s injuries are so severe that they are unable to continue performing the activities they enjoyed before their collision, they may be entitled to non-economic damages.
But what about people whose injuries are less severe?
Even mild or moderate injuries can disrupt the everyday life of a motor vehicle accident survivor. These injuries can cause extreme pain and discomfort, make it difficult to carry out the tasks associated with one’s job, and even lead to psychological distress.
Anyone who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Alberta should be entitled to Section B benefits to cover the costs of reasonable medical and rehabilitative expenses and other financial losses arising from their injuries. However, accident survivors who have sustained minor injuries are subject to an additional payment cap.
The Minor Injury Regulation
The total amount of non-pecuniary damages available to accident survivors who have sustained minor injuries is capped each year. This payment cap is legislated by the provincial government’s Minor Injury Regulation (MIR).
The payment cap for non-economic damages was established in 2004 and is adjusted each year for inflation. In 2023, the maximum amount of non-pecuniary damages available to motor vehicle accident survivors who sustained minor injuries is $5,817.00.
In order to qualify for this compensation, the minor injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident must be assessed in accordance with the diagnostic protocols mandated within the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation. The minor injuries must also be the primary contributing factors to their impairment.
In addition to imposing the cap on the maximum amount of non-pecuniary damages an accident survivor with minor injuries can receive, the MIR provides a definition of what constitutes a “minor” injury.
What Are Considered “Minor” Injuries?
In accordance with the MIR, the term “minor injuries” refers to a number of soft tissue injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents that do not lead to serious impairment. These injuries include:
- Whiplash-associated disorders
While soft tissue injuries may be considered “minor,” their effects are often long-lasting and disruptive, forcing motor vehicle accident survivors to cope with painful and uncomfortable symptoms for weeks, months, and even years in some cases. Whiplash, in particular, can cause a number of burdensome symptoms that could make it difficult to engage in recreational activities, perform the duties of one’s job, and even maintain close social relationships.
Common symptoms of whiplash often include:
- Stiffness in the back and neck
- Pain, numbness, or tingling in extremities (arms, hands, legs, and feet)
- Jaw pains
- Mood swings, irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- And more
Even though soft tissue injuries are considered to be minor injuries, the effects they have on a car accident victim’s life can be profound. In a study examining the mental health impacts of accident-related soft tissue injuries, it became demonstrably clear that whiplash after traffic accidents can lead to depression.
Furthermore, the costs of medical treatments and rehabilitation can be significant. Depending on the number of sessions required, the costs of necessary medical care can have adverse impacts on an injured motor vehicle accident survivor.
Fortunately, the minor injury payment cap only applies to non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. Injured survivors of motor vehicle collisions should be entitled to additional accident benefits to cover their medical and rehabilitation costs.
What Other Coverage Could Be Available?
No matter who was responsible for causing a motor vehicle collision, anyone who has been injured as a result should be entitled to Section B benefits. These no-fault accident benefits are included in all auto insurance plans throughout the province and are intended to help injured motor vehicle collision survivors recover reasonable, necessary costs associated with their injuries.
Even people who have sustained only minor injuries should be entitled to accident benefits. If a person wishes to be diagnosed and treated for the soft tissue injury they sustained in a motor vehicle collision, the Diagnostic Treatment Protocol Regulation applies.
Depending on the type of soft tissue injury sustained by a motor vehicle accident survivor, they could be entitled to receive a set number of rehabilitative therapy sessions in accordance with the treatment protocols included in the provincial regulation. The maximum amount of sessions available to car accident survivors who have sustained minor injuries are as follows:
- 10 visits – for people diagnosed with a strain/sprain 1 or 2, or people diagnosed with a whiplash-associated disorder 1
- 21 visits – for people diagnosed a strain/sprain 3, or people diagnosed with a whiplash-associated disorder 2
These visits should be paid in full by the accident survivor’s insurance provider. They must be completed within 90 days of the accident in order for the insurance coverage to apply.
How an Alberta Car Accident Lawyer May Be Able to Help
Despite sustaining only minor injuries, you may feel the physical, psychological, and financial impacts of your car accident for years to follow. Sustaining any type of injury in an unexpected collision can have long-term, unanticipated consequences that continue to affect the lives of car accident survivors and their families well into the future.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision, it is important to understand your rights and know about the different options for financial compensation that might be available to you. By taking advantage of a free initial consultation with our Alberta car accident lawyers, you could learn about the courses of action you may be able to take to protect your best interests and get the compensation you are rightfully owed. To schedule a free initial consultation with our car accident lawyers serving Alberta, contact us today.