Reasons for judgment were released today in the case of Sharma v. MacDonald 2017 BCSC 2121. This case involved the claim of a female plaintiff who had been injured in a car accident three years prior to trial when she was 23 years old.  There was a dispute relating to the nature and extent of the injuries as well as causation for the injuries.  The trial judge found that the motor vehicle accident caused neck, back and arm symptoms, including thoracic outlet syndrome.  The judge also found that the car accident caused driving anxiety.  The judge noted that prior to the accident the plaintiff enjoyed a full life and had no issues with respect to her back, arm or neck.  The trial judge found that the plaintiff had been steadily improving and that she now was able to enjoy playing basketball and working without significant limitations.  She however remained limited from returning to a number of her pre accident activities.  After reviewing relevant similar decisions the plaintiff was awarded $100,000 for non pecuniary damages.

In this decision, the judge also took the opportunity to summarize the rational for awards of damages for pain and suffering, or non pecuniary damages.  That rationale was set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta Ltd., [1978] 2 S.C.R. 229.  In that decision the court noted that the money awarded as non pecuniary damages is there “because it will serve a useful function of making up for what has been lost in the only way possible, accepting that what has been lost is incapable of being replaced in a direct way.”

in British Columbia, the Court in Milina v. Bartsch [1985] B.C.J. No. 2762 discussed the purpose of non-pecuniary damages, stating as follows:

Damages for pain, suffering, loss of amenities and other non-pecuniary losses are awarded for the purpose of providing substitute pleasures and amenities to make the life of the injured person more bearable.  In assessing such damages the court must consider the individual situation of the plaintiff and the extent to which money can provide solace, as well as the limitations established by the Supreme Court of Canada…”

This description of the purposes of non-pecuniary damages assists in understanding the compensation that is being provided.  The purpose of compensation in a personal injury case is to return an individual to the position that they were in prior to being injured.  When it comes to financial losses that is easy enough to do.  But the losses suffered do not end there.  Anyone who has been injured will suffer pain, inconvenience, restriction and suffering.  While those losses are not calculable, our law makes clear that they still have a value and that they should be compensated.