A recent announcement by the Superintendent of Insurance has confirmed that the minor injury maximum amount for 2021 has been set at $5.365. This is an increase of 1.3% from last year’s amount of $5,296. The minor injury cap applies to automobile accidents that occurred in Alberta on or after January 1, 2021.
Under the Minor Injury Regulation, the minor injury amount cap should be adjusted each year in accordance with the annual changes in the Alberta Consumer Price Index. The annual maximum minor injury amounts have been set by the Alberta government since 2004. The historical yearly adjustments can be viewed here.
WHAT IS THE MINOR INJURY CAP?
In Alberta, the Minor Injury Regulation was first introduced by the Alberta Government to limit compensation for less severe injuries arising out of motor vehicle accidents. In doing so, the government was attempting to balance the rights of injury victims with the increasing costs of insurance. The goal was to lower premiums for Alberta drivers. The regulation places a “cap” on how much an injured person with minor injuries can potentially recover in general damages.
The Minor Injury Regulation only places a cap on pain and suffering damages for those with certain minor soft-tissue injuries. It does not place a cap on compensation for income loss, medical expenses, loss of housekeeping capacity, cost of care or future treatment costs.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED A MINOR INJURY?
A minor injury, as defined by the legislation, is a sprain, strain or a whiplash associated disorder (WAD) caused by a motor vehicle accident that does not result in a serious impairment.
The definition of minor injury was recently amended pursuant to Order in Council 333/2020 and came into effect on November 1, 2020. These amendments expanded the definition of minor injury.
The minor injury definition has been broadened and now includes the words:
caused by the accident that does not result in a serious impairment and includes, in respect of a sprain, strain or WAD injury that occurs on or after November 1, 2020, any clinically associated sequelae of sprain, strain, or WAD injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, caused by the accident that do not result in a serious impairment.
The changes to the definition now include anything associated with those listed injuries, whether physical or psychological in nature, may be considered a minor injury. Therefore, this definition now includes minor psychological injuries whereas all psychological injuries were once excluded under the term “minor injuries”.
Injuries to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and associated muscles were once considered outside of the scope of the minor injury cap. The new definition attempts to bring TMJ injuries under the cap. Dentists have also been given the green light to determine if there is a minor injury involving the TMJ. Previously, the accident victim would visit a TMJ specialist to assess the injury. This is an attempt to lower the costs of assessments as dentists’ fees are much lower than those of TMJ specialists.
IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS RELATED TO THE TERM ‘MINOR INJURY’
The term ‘minor injury’ as found in the Minor Injury Regulation is a vague, complex and confusing concept. We will attempt to breakdown and define a few of the medical terms found within the term ‘minor injury’.
A sprain is defined as a stretching or tearing of ligaments, the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together in your joints. A strain is defined as a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon (fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones).
WAD injuries are injuries to the neck caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration, typically seen in motor vehicle accidents. There are five grades of WAD. Alberta’s cap on minor injury damages applies to WAD I and WAD 2 only.
WAD I is defined as neck pain with normal range of motion and strength, no swelling, and no muscle spasm.
WAD II is defined as neck pain with limited range of motion, spasm or swelling, with tenderness in the neck and shoulders, possibly related to sprained ligaments or muscle tears causing internal bleeding and swelling.
A “serious impairment” is defined as an impairment of a physical or cognitive function that:
- Results in a substantial inability to perform the essential tasks of employment, schooling, or normal activities of daily living;
- Has been ongoing since the accident; and
- That is not expected to improve substantially.
IS MY MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT CLAIM CAPPED?
In order to determine whether your accident claim for general damages is capped, a review of your injuries, your medical history and the opinion of your medical providers is required.
There is not always a simple answer to whether your claim is capped, therefore it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in order to protect your rights and obtain the compensation that you are entitled to.
The knowledgeable and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP can help educate you with respect to minor injury caps and help you navigate the insurance system.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Cuming & Gillespie LLP today for a free initial consultation and speak to one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to get the help and advice you need. Please contact our office online or by calling 403-571-0555 to make an appointment for a free case evaluation. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.