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Pain And Suffering/Wrongful Death Damages: Differences In American And Canadian Law

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Even if you hire a lawyer licensed to litigate personal injury lawsuits in both the United States and Canada, how much you or your beneficiaries can recover in non-pecuniary (pain and suffering) damages depends on which side of the border you live on. Despite similarities in their laws, each country has some differences in the kinds of damages you can claim and the amount a court can award for pain and suffering or wrongful death.

Awards for Pain and Suffering

Personal Injury Claims in the US

In the US, it's possible to win significant monetary compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress you experience because of an injury you suffered due to another person's negligence or act of omission. A judge or jury bases the award on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident, physical evidence, medical evidence proving severe injury, witnesses, and credibility of the evidence and witnesses.

Besides physical pain or a physical impairment that interferes with your ability to work, damages for pain and suffering may include anxiety, fear, worry, depression, or other emotional stress your injury causes in your life. Even if your injury isn't permanent, a jury can award damages for future pain and suffering if you can prove your pain is real and your suffering will continue for a long time after the incident. Your pain and suffering must be related to the accident or circumstances responsible for your injury.

Personal Injury Claims in Canada

Unlike US courts where a jury often bases the amount of an award on how much the disabilities or limitations you suffer because of another person's negligence have changed your life, in Canada, the dollar amount of an award takes into account the type of injury. Canadian courts also place a cap on the amount of judgments and settlements for personal injury claims suing for non-pecuniary damages. While the court generally awards severe injuries amounts in the upper range of the cap, less serious injuries are awarded lesser amounts.

The reason for putting a cap on general damages -- those such as pain and suffering which aren't easy to measure -- is so similar cases are awarded similar amounts. Unlike in the US where pain and suffering damages can vary widely, the cap the Supreme Court of Canada established on general damages prevents excessive damage awards.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The US and Canada also differ in the amount of damages a decedent's estate can recover in wrongful death suits. In the US, if you die because of another person's negligence, not only can your estate recover damages for your pain and suffering prior to death, but also damages for loss of earnings over your lifetime. But because the dollar will be worth less in the future than it is now, calculating the amount takes into account economic factors such as interest rates and inflation, which reduces the award to present value.

In Canada, the amount of money a decedent's beneficiaries can recover in a wrongful death suit is limited to how much you would have contributed to the household for living expenses. Your family would not be compensated for your pain or suffering before death or the loss of your entire future earnings.

If you have questions about the compensation you are entitled to, then contact a lawyer from a firm like Heritage Law Group.