What is the cap for soft tissue injury compensation claims in Alberta?
The Superintendent of Insurance, Sherri Wilson has announced the 2020 soft tissue (minor injury) cap amount. Since 2004, minor soft tissue injuries, including minor sprains and strains, have been limited by the government. In 2004 the minor injury cap was $4,000 and that has moved up due to inflation to $5,365 in 2021, a 1.3% increase from 2020.
Before 2004 a less severe injury that lasted 3- 6 months may have been worth anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000 for the pain and suffering. Since that time, the minor injury cap puts a limit on these less severe injuries and is set each year by the government. In 2018, the government introduced regulations to add TMJ injuries to the minor category, and on November 1, 2020, Bill 41 defined minor injury as follows:
a sprain, strain or 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”
Here is the historical soft tissue minor injury cap amount, as released by the Alberta Treasury Board and Finance:
|Effective Date Range||Minor Injury Amount|
|October 1, 2004 – December 31, 2006||$4,000|
|January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2007||$4,144|
|January 1, 2008 – December 31, 2008||$4,339|
|January 1, 2009 – December 31, 2009||$4,504|
|January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010||$4,518|
|January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011||$4,559|
|January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012||$4,641|
|January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013||$4,725|
|January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2014||$4,777|
|January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015||$4,892|
|January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016||$4,956|
|January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017||$5,020|
|January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018||$5,080|
|January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019||$5,202|
|January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020||$5,296|
|January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021||$5,365|
A major battle occurred in the early 2000’s when insurance companies lobbied the government and pled poverty over settlements that were negotiated between insurance companies and injured victims in Motor Vehicle Accidents. At the time, insurers wanted a no-fault system implemented that would have effectively taken away the rights of accident victims to be fully indemnified for their losses after an accident. The idea of a soft tissue minor injury cap on non-pecuniary general damages (pain and suffering) was a compromise by the government, who in general believed in the rights of individuals to be made whole when they are wronged.
Why was a cap placed on soft tissue injuries in Alberta?
Since that time, insurance company profits have gone up and a current review of the system is badly needed. Until it is completed, the annual inflation increase keeps the soft tissue minor injury cap amount slowly moving up.
What is considered soft tissue injury?
A soft tissue injury – minor injury – is damage to the tissue, ligaments, muscles and tendons of the human body that do not cause long-term problems with work, leisure or other regular activities. There then may be a limit to the pain and suffering portion of the damages. The minor injury cap does not limit other heads of damages such as loss of income, cost of care, loss of housekeeping capacity or out of pocket expenses. Whether an injury is considered “minor” and caught by the cap depends on the evidence related to the injury. An injury that at first appears to be minor, may turn out to cause long term problems. Understanding whether your injuries fall within the cap is one of many good reasons to talk to a personal injury lawyer about your case. When it comes to your well being and your rights, getting full information about your options is always a wise move.