Damages for pain and suffering, also known as non-pecuniary damages, compensates an injured claimant for the injuries suffered in the motor vehicle accident and the impact those injuries have had on his/her enjoyment of life. Trial judges will consider the following factors when deciding the amount to award to an injured claimant for pain and suffering:
- nature of the injury;
- severity and duration of pain;
- emotional suffering; and
- loss or impairment of life;
- impairment of family, marital and social relationships;
- impairment of physical and mental abilities;
- loss of lifestyle; and
- stoicism (as a factor that should not, generally speaking, penalize the injured claimant
One factor that is also taken into consideration is the impact chronic and serious injuries can have on an injured claimant’s plan to have multiple children. Undoubtedly, injuries can have a significant impact on this type of decision making especially where the injured claimant feels incapable of caring for multiple children or any children at all due to pain. The decision to not pursue children or multiple children is devastating and it is a decision that is lifelong and life changing.
Where an injured claimant alters or abandons parenting plans due to motor vehicle accidents injuries, the courts have recognized that this is an aspect of the loss that is appropriately considered in awarding damages for pain and suffering.
In Kringhaug v. Men 2021 BCSC 991, the injured claimant suffered multiple injuries in a motor vehicle accident when she was a pedestrian struck by a vehicle in a quiet residential street. At the time, the injured claimant, a mother, was watching over her children and others between the ages of 2-4 who were playing on the street. When she noticed the defendant’s vehicle enter the street, she called out to the children to move off the street and onto a grass area. They all moved over except for her 2 year-old nephew. She went over to him and barely managed to move him off the street when she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle. As a result of the motor vehicle accident, the medical experts testified that the injured claimant suffered chronic soft tissue injuries and mild post traumatic stress disorder.
The trial judge concluded that the injured claimant showed “considerable stoicism” since the accident. She largely maintained her usual work, home and social life routines. She also devoted considerable time and effort to her rehabilitation despite her busy lifestyle. Despite her efforts, the experts were of the opinion that her injuries were considered permanent and unlikely to resolve even with further treatment.
The injured claimant testified that before the motor vehicle accident she wanted to have a large family with 4 children. Following the collision, she became pregnant with her 3rd child. Due to her ongoing pain from her injuries, she described finding this pregnancy more physically challenging than her other pregnancies. She testified that she decided due to the effects of the accident that expanding her family further is unlikely to happen. The loss of not pursuing her intention of having a large family was taken into consideration by the trial judge when awarding her $100,000.00 in damages for pain and suffering.
The trial judge specifically relied on another court decision (MacLeod v. Whittemore 2018 BCSC 1082) in making this award. In the judgement, the trial judge stated:
“Where a plaintiff alters or abandons parenting plans due to injuries sustained in an accident, the court has recognized this as an aspect of the plaintiff’s loss that is appropriately considered in awarding non-pecuniary damages”