Peace of Mind for Accident Victims: How Much is Your Pain and Suffering Worth?

Nova Scotia personal injury lawyer John McKiggan helps clients throughout Nova Scotia who have suffered serious injuries get peace of mind by helping ensure they get fair compensation for their injuries and compensation to pay for their ongoing medical care and lost income.

What is pain worth?

Frequently clients ask how the courts calculate the amount of compensation they are entitled to receive for their “pain and suffering”.

This is a challenging area for any injury lawyer. There is no such thing as a “pain-o-meter”. We can’t hook you up to a machine that provides a dollar value for your pain.

Pain and suffering awards fall under what is known as “non-pecuniary” damages. That means damages or losses that cannot be precisely calculated or do not result in a financial (pecuniary) out-of-pocket loss or expense.

A non-pecuniary award for pain and suffering depends on the individual facts and circumstances of each particular injured person. In other words, pain and suffering awards are different in every single case.

But the courts have provided some direction to help injury lawyers and accident victims understand the maximum amount of compensation that an injury victim may be entitled to recover for their pain and suffering.

Supreme Court of Canada Capped Awards for Pain

In 1978, in a case known as Teno v. Arnold, the Supreme Court of Canada created a barrier to recovery for innocent victims who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.

In that case, the court ruled that no matter how seriously injured you are, the maximum recovery you can obtain for what is commonly referred to as “pain and suffering” is one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00).


This cap has been adjusted (increased) to account for inflation every year.

The maximum award is slightly different in every province since the cost of living is different in each province. Currently the $100,000.00 cap is considered to be slightly more than three hundred twenty-eight thousand dollars ($328,000.00) in Nova Scotia.

However, that amount is only paid to the most catastrophically injured (quadriplegia, paraplegia, severe brain damage and similar injuries).

So people who have suffered serious, but less catastrophic injuries, frequently face arguments from insurance companies or defence counsel that the compensation they are entitled to receive should be less than the cap because they are not hurt bad enough, or the injury isn’t serious enough, to merit the maximum award for pain and suffering.

How much is enough?

No amount of money can change the past. Money can’t heal a person who has been seriously injured. The problem is that some insurers appear to take the view that if money can’t help, then why award compensation at all?

Financial compensation is a poor substitute for a missing limb and certainly cannot heal scars or repair a brain injury. But it is the only means the courts have to recognize that a plaintiff has been injured and that a defendants conduct is to blame. One purpose of the cap on compensation is to provide predictable results when courts across the country are considering compensation different but equally serious injuries.

Experience counts

Not every injured person is entitled to receive the maximum award for “pain and suffering”. But an experienced Nova Scotia personal injury lawyer will help you determine what evidence you need to provide to the court to ensure you maximize the recovery you are entitled to for non-pecuniary damages.

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