Car accident injuries range in severity from fatalities and catastrophic injuries to injuries of a less serious nature. Regardless of the severity of the injury, sustaining an injury in a car accident is always, at a minimum, an unpleasant experience that impacts the life of the person involved.

Alberta has a capped claims system for injuries caused by accidents arising from the use of automobiles that are classified as minor injuries under the Minor Injury Regulation. This article looks at what counts as a minor injury and the impact of the Regulation on personal injury claims regarding these injuries.

When does the Minor Injury Regulation apply?

The Minor Injury Regulation only applies to injuries sustained as a result of an accident arising from the use or operation of an automobile. In addition to injuries sustained in car accidents, this includes injuries sustained in other types of automobile accidents but does not include accidents caused by some types of vehicles, such as watercraft, aircraft or railway rolling stock.

What is classified as a minor injury under the Minor Injury Regulation?

According to section 1(1) of the Minor Injury Regulation, a minor injury is:

(i)    a sprain,
(ii)   a strain, or
(iii)  a WAD injury

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 the sprain, strain or WAD injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, caused by the accident that do not result in a serious impairment”.

A WAD injury is a whiplash-associated disorder in the absence of clinically defined neurological signs and a spinal fracture or dislocation.

As a result of this definition, minor injuries are soft-tissue injuries to tendons, ligaments or muscles, or whiplash that falls at the minor end of the WAD classification scale. Minor injuries do not result in a serious impairment, defined as a substantial inability to perform the essential tasks of employment, education or normal activities, which has been ongoing since the accident and is expected not to improve substantially.

As a result of changes to the Minor Injury Regulation, minor injuries also include physical or psychological conditions resulting from the sprain, strain or WAD injury that do not result in a serious impairment. An injury to the temporomandibular joint (jaw) is now also a minor injury unless it involves damage to bone, teeth or the articular disc.

What types of injuries do not count as minor injuries?

Many types of injuries do not fall under the definition of minor injury contained in the Minor Injury Regulation, such as those that result in a serious impairment. Injuries that fall outside the category of sprains, strains, and WAD injuries (and sequelae of these injuries), such as fractures, broken bones, injuries to the spinal cord, and traumatic brain injuries, are also normally not included.

The person injured and the defendant, which may include the responsible party’s insurance company, may disagree as to whether the injury falls within the definition of a minor injury. If this happens, a certified examiner can be appointed to provide an opinion. This opinion constitutes evidence of whether the injury is or is not a minor injury.

What type of damages are capped for minor injuries?

The Minor Injury Regulation caps the compensation payable for non-pecuniary loss. This refers to compensation for things like the impact of the injury on the person’s ability to undertake activities and for pain and suffering caused by the injury.

The cap amount was $4,000 when the regulation first took effect in 2004. It is adjusted in line with inflation and is now $5,817 for motor vehicle accidents in 2023.

Does the Minor Injury Regulation affect the payment of other types of compensation?

Importantly, the Minor Injury Regulation does not impact the defendant’s liability regarding types of compensation, not for non-pecuniary loss. In other words, the cap in the regulation does not apply to a motor vehicle injury victim’s claim for other types of compensation, such as for income lost as a result of the injury, the costs of future care and out-of-pocket expenses.

What can you do if the insurance company approaches you for a quick settlement?

The insurance company might tell you that your injury is capped under the Minor Injury Regulation and that it is in your interests to accept the settlement they offer you quickly. There may be certain risks involved with doing this. Suppose you have been injured in a motor vehicle due to someone else’s negligence. In that case, obtaining advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer is important to understand your options to maximize your compensation.

The first thing to note is that an insurance company’s claim that your minor injury may not be correct. If the injury does not resolve within a reasonable amount of time, it may not be minor, as it could be causing serious impairment. An injury that seems to be minor may not remain minor if it fails to resolve within about a year. 

Secondly, an accident victim has a two-year limitation period from the accident date to make a claim or bring a lawsuit for damages. As such, you may not need to accept a settlement as quickly as the insurance company would lead you to believe. Nonetheless, given the limitation period, please consult with a lawyer as soon as possible so you don’t miss out on the opportunity for compensation.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Advice on Motor Vehicle Accident Claims

The personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary represent those that have suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents caused by someone else. We will deal with your legal claim so that you can focus on your recovery. Please phone us at 403-571-0555 or contact us online to book an appointment for a consultation.