Why Emotional Injuries Are Very Real & How to Recover Damages For Them

September 12th, 2020
Nancy Sarmento Barkhordari
JD Barrister & Solicitor
Gosai Law

Along with the physical pain that can come with being injured in an accident, many victims also suffer psychological injuries. It can affect their ability to enjoy life as much as a broken bone or aching neck and back would impair their day-to-day activities.

Fortunately, as awareness of mental health issues increases, the law is adapting and it is possible to recover damages as a result. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that symptoms and their effects are all that is needed to determine the harm caused by the symptoms.

So, a specific diagnosis isn’t needed, which often is difficult to do with emotional or psychological damage. All that an injured person has to do is demonstrate the level of harm they suffered as a result of an injury. What this means is that an injured person only has to demonstrate that their emotional distress is the result of more than mere “ordinary annoyances, anxiety or fear” and that the defendant who caused the injury was negligent.

Ranges of Emotional Damages

Even though the injury may have resulted from an inadvertent act by a defendant, the law allows a victim to recover damages from things such as emotional distress, sexual assault, defamation, or even breach of contract. In fact, family members can sue for emotional damages resulting from the death of a parent, spouse, or child if the death was the result of either negligence or a deliberate act.

There are “low,” “medium,” and “high” range awards for pain and suffering, depending on the severity of the damages. Temporary and minor emotional upset fall into the low range category while serious psychological injuries for psychiatric and mental disorders or depression typically receive higher awards.

High Range – There are several types of injuries that fall into the high range of emotional damage: Sexual assault and chronic, lasting pain are the most common. In the case of sexual assault, if there are ways that a plaintiff can prove that they suffered shame, guilt, humiliation, and degradation and thus the assault affected their ability to work and make decisions. When this occurs, courts will allow a higher range of damages. This can rise to nearly $300,000 in addition to being awarded actual damages.

Middle Range – The middle range is for issues arising from non-catastrophic incidents. For example, a motor vehicle accident resulted in the victim suffering not just chronic shoulder, neck, and back pain but also anxiety and social withdrawal. A court agreed with their contention that emotional distress as a result of the accident and awarded almost $100,000 for the psychological injury damages the victim suffered.

Low Range – Awards in this range typically are the result of a plaintiff becoming distressed when the inadvertent loss of something was caused by the defendant’s negligence. For example, in one case, a person’s dog died and another was found comatose after an airline transported them in a baggage hold. The company’s negligence was found to be the cause and the pet owner was awarded $500. In another situation, when the urns carrying remains of a loved one were irretrievably lost, a court found that while there was emotional harm, it wasn’t devastating and awarded $1,000.

Capping Emotional Damages

Many of us have read newspaper accounts of the multi-million-dollar damage awards people in the United States have received for their distress after being injured for relatively minor incidents.

Someone in Texas once was awarded millions for being burned by what was claimed as having been served coffee in a restaurant that was “too hot.” Another person got a seven-figure check after being hurt in a San Francisco cable car accident which, they said, turned them into a “sex addict.” That simply doesn’t happen in Ontario. Even within the range of damages for pain and suffering, there is a cap on how much an injured person can recover for psychological injuries.

The principle was established back in the 1970s by the Supreme Court of Canada. As a result, while courts recognize the validity of “pain and suffering,” there are limits within the ranges. This is why someone who has been injured in an accident, a workplace incident, or a traumatic event such as sexual assault needs to speak with a Gosai Law personal injury lawyer in Brampton. Every day, we work with people like you who have been not just physically injured but are suffering varying degrees of emotional distress as a result.

What’s Next For Your Injury?

We can refer you to psychologists or psychiatrists who can help assess your emotional injury which then becomes a part of your action to recover damages. If you have been injured in any sort of incident, feel free to call one of our personal injury lawyers at 905.595.2225. We help victims in Brampton, across the Greater Toronto Area, and around Ontario.

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