When you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, your life can be upended in all sorts of ways. It can interfere with your ability to work and participate in recreational activities and often impacts your personal life greatly. You may also incur various expenses related to medical care or even changes to your living arrangements.
Fortunately, most harms and losses caused by someone’s negligent actions are compensable. For this reason, it is important to seek legal advice when you have been involved in an accident. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, you can usually claim compensation for the damage caused by motor vehicle accidents.
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, they may be fully liable for damage to your car or other property. It is important to ensure that any property damage caused by the accident is immediately and fully documented in the police report. This will help you obtain the necessary compensation — either through the insurance company or in court — to get your property repaired or replaced.
Even if you walk away from the accident with what seem to be minor or no injuries, it is crucial to get a full medical assessment. You may have suffered physical or mental injuries with no apparent symptoms. Sometimes, the onset of health problems may be delayed by hours, days or even longer.
If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, you will likely incur medical expenses as part of your treatment and rehabilitation. Related expenses might include ambulance or consultation fees. You may need to pay for ongoing physical therapy, hospital or in-home treatments, and related equipment or supplies. You can also claim compensation for travel costs associated with attending medical appointments. Other types of damages may include permanent disabilities or disfigurement.
Pain and Suffering
Car crashes are both physically and mentally traumatic. You might experience ongoing pain and suffering as a result, which can have a delayed onset. Common psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress and anxiety can even lead to mental disorders. Ongoing physical pain may preclude you from participating in activities you previously enjoyed and otherwise lead to loss of enjoyment of life. Even though there may be no direct monetary cost to such losses, compensation may still be available.
Loss of Consortium Through Injury
In some circumstances, the injured party’s spouse can make an independent claim for damages from an accident.
The Alberta Tort-Feasors Act provides for actions for damages due to the loss of the “society and comfort” of a spouse who has been injured or killed by someone else’s negligent actions. This is known as the loss of consortium. In essence, it means you may be able to claim damages if your spouse is injured to the extent that they can no longer provide the same types of companionship they did previously — this can include pastimes such as travel, recreational activities and sex.
Loss of consortium may also encompass changes in the character of the relationship. For example, physical and mental injuries may cause behavioural changes such as depression, panic attacks or mood swings, as can be the case with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Damages may be available if it can be shown that the spouse’s injuries have caused the nature of the relationship to shift from mutual companionship to caregiver/taker.
The quantum of damages available for loss of consortium will vary based on the duration and severity of the impacts on the injured person’s ability to provide “society and comfort” to their spouse.
Loss of Income
You can claim damages for loss of income if you are injured in a car accident to the extent that you cannot do your job. This doesn’t need to be permanent — you can claim damages for wages lost due to any amount of time taken off work because of your injuries.
If your ability to work has been permanently impaired, and your earning capacity therefore reduced, damages may also be awarded for loss of future income. To make a successful claim, you will need medical reports or letters from your doctor proving that you cannot work and for how long. To calculate the amount of income lost, the court will also require evidence of how much money you make, such as letters from your employer, paycheques or tax returns.
You may still be able to claim loss of future income if you aren’t currently employed. For example, in Chisholm v. Lindsay, the Alberta Court of Appeal awarded a car accident victim $125,000 for loss of future income even though she wasn’t working at the time of the accident. The plaintiff had been a teacher but had taken time off work to care for her two young children. In this case, the court distinguished between the loss of a specific income stream and the loss of earning capacity.
The distinction between lost wages and lost earning capacity creates a challenging evidentiary burden: Rather than proving the loss of existing, quantified income, the plaintiff must convince the court that they planned to return to work, when that would occur, and what wages they would then earn.
When a stay-at-home parent’s ability to work is impaired, an argument for compensation may still be possible even if they have no plans to return to the workforce. If their injuries preclude them from performing domestic tasks such that outside help is required, it could be argued that the cost of these services should be compensated.
The aftermath of a car accident may result in various incidental ‘out of pocket’ expenses, such as towing fees and the cost of taxis, rental cars or hotel rooms. All such expenses should be documented and included in any ensuing personal injury claim.
Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident
If you or a loved one has experienced injury or losses due to a car accident, contact Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary for advice on your legal rights. Our experienced personal injury lawyers will explain what compensation is possible and assist you in gathering the evidence required for a successful claim. Contact us online or by phone at (403) 571-0555 for an initial consultation.