Court of Appeal Confirms Minor Injury Cap – NDP to Repeal Cap Law

by John McKiggan

Whirlwind Week for Auto Accident Victims

It’s been quite a week for anyone interested in Nova Scotia’s automobile insurance minor injury cap.

Court of Appeal Decision

On Tuesday Chief Justice MacDonald released the Court of Appeal’s decision in Hartling v. Nova Scotia.

The Plaintiffs filed a constitutional challenge against Nova Scotia’s automobile insurance law which places a monetary cap of $2,500.00 on the compensation that injured car accident victims are entitled to receive for their pain and suffering.

Recap

During the original hearing, Justice Walter Goodfellow ruled that the legislation was not discriminatory and did not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nova Scotia Personal Injury Claims: “Minor Injury” Compensation Cap Constitutional

Justice Goodfellow released a second part to his decision where he determined that, if the legislation was discriminatory, the benefits of the legislation were not sufficient to justify the discrimination.

Benefits of “Minor Injury” Cap Legislation does not Justify Discrimination

Hope For Accident Victims

The decision offered hope to accident victims who felt that the Court of Appeal might give greater weight to the evidence of the adverse effects of the cap legislation.

Court of Appeal Dismisses Accident Victim’s Appeal

This week the Court of Appeal dashed the hopes of accident victims who have been told that the injuries they have suffered are minor and that compensation for pain is caped at $2500.00
Court of Appeal Agrees Legislation is Discriminatory

Chief Justice Smith agreed with the appellants on several issues:

Injured victims whose claims are capped by the legislation are treated differently from other automobile accident victims. Justice MacDonald ruled that this meets the distinction required by Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to establish discrimination.

The distinction is based on one of the prohibited ground of discrimination listed in the Charter. In this particular case accident victims were being discriminated against on the grounds of physical disability.

Chief Justice MacDonald acknowledged that minor injury victims are disadvantaged by the minor injury cap legislation.

Finally, Chief Justice MacDonald agreed that the court had to consider any evidence of prejudice or stereotype regardless of how limited it might be, in considering whether the legislation violates the Charter.

Balancing Act

However, after conducting an analysis of the evidence for each of these points Chief Justice MacDonald determined that the court had to consider whether the legislation’s purpose (controlling increasing auto insurance premiums) out-weighed the discriminatory effects of the legislation.

Minor Injury Cap Doesn’t Eliminate All Right to Recovery

Chief Justice MacDonald distinguished the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Martin v. Nova Scotia (Workers Compensation Board) which found that the way in which Nova Scotia’s workers compensation legislation treated victims of chronic pain was discriminatory. Chief Justice MacDonald stated that, in Martin, claimants were denied all right of recovery whereas under the automobile insurance “minor injury” cap, victims’ right to recover compensation was limited rather than eliminated.

Legislation Doesn’t Discriminate Against Women

Chief Justice MacDonald also dismissed the appellant’s arguments that the legislation unduly discriminates against female accident victims. While acknowledging that women have been historically disadvantaged in the work place Chief Justice MacDonald feels that the root problem of the discrimination and reduction in women’s wages were caused by unrelated social issues, not the minor injury insurance cap.

Minor Injury Cap Upheld

The Court of Appeal has decided that the minor injury cap legislation is discriminatory. However the discrimination is not sufficient to trigger the equality provisions of Section 15 of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, the legislation discriminates. It just doesn’t discriminate enough to violate Canada’s constitution.

So there you have it, in Nova Scotia the minor injury compensation cap is constitutional and all of the limits and restrictions that the legislation places on innocent automobile accident victims are justified in pursuit of lower automobile insurance rates.

Supreme Court Denies Alberta Leave to Appeal

Accident victims in Alberta have been waiting for leave (permission) from the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the decision of Morrow v. Zhang which upheld to constitutionality of Alberta’s minor injury automobile cap.

Minor Injury Cap Reinstated in Alberta

On Thursday morning the Supreme Court of Canada denied the accident victims’ leave to appeal. In other words, the Court wouldn’t even hear the victim’s appeal, let alone consider their arguments.

That means an appeal from Nova Scotia over the Hartling decision is also likely to be denied leave, since the Supreme Court only hears matters that have a national interest.

NDP to Repeal Minor Injury Cap

But not all hope is lost for accident victims.

Yesterday afternoon Premier Darrell Dexter confirmed the NDP government’s commitment to “scrap” the minor injury cap.

Premier Dexter was quoted as saying:

“The $2,500 cap is not fair to people who have suffered serious injury,” he said.”Insurance is a product designed to protect people. If you exclude people from protection through a $2,500 cap, then by definition you’re not delivering the product that has been paid for.”

Contact the Premier

Please contact the Premier to voice your support for the government’s plan to repeal the minor injury cap. You can contact his office here or
Telephone: 902-424-6600 Fax: 902-424-7648 Toll-free Message Line: 1-800-267-1993 E-mail Address: premier@gov.ns.ca
Address:
Office of the Premier PO Box 726 Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2T3.

Further Reading

My colleague David Brannen has posted a more thorough analysis of the hartling decision on his Nova Scotia Car Accident Law Blog. Take a look.

I have been representing victims of serious personal injuries for 18 years. I wrote The Consumers Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia and The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada to help injured victims get fair compensation.

Both books are available for sale on Amazon.

But if you live in Atlantic Canada, you can get a free copy of either the book by contacting me through this blog, visiting my website at www.apmlawyers.com or by calling me toll free in Atlantic Canada at 1-877-891-1664.

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