In recent weeks, the Alberta Government enacted amendments to the Minor Injury Regulation, which changes the laws relating to the amount a person can claim for minor injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident. These amendments, which came into effect November 1, 2020, essentially broaden the definition of what qualifies as a “minor injury.” These changes will inevitably have an impact on many Albertans today, and in the future. The Minor Injury Regulation caps the amount of money one can receive for a “minor injury” caused by a motor vehicle accident. If you have been injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident, you may be wondering what this all means for you. You might also have questions like “Will the changes to the Cap affect my existing claim?” or “Can I still make an injury claim after Alberta changed the Cap?”. The purpose of this article is to clear up any confusion, help Albertans understand the current state of the law, and explain how these changes to the cap may affect your personal injury claim.
But first, what is a capped claim?
One of the top questions we get asked at Litwiniuk & Company is, “What is the ‘cap’ on an injury claim?” In 2004, the Alberta government limited or “capped” the amount of money that an injured motor vehicle accident victim can receive for specific minor soft-tissue injuries. One of the main issues that is responsible for a great deal of confusion among the public and within the legal community is the definition of a “minor injury” under the law. In creating the cap, the Alberta Legislature hoped to balance the rights of injury victims with the desire to address rising automobile insurance premiums. The promise was that a cap on the amount of money accident victims could receive for “minor injuries” would reduce costs and therefore lower premiums for Alberta drivers. The cap may have reduced the number of injury claims in Alberta, but the promise of reduced automobile insurance premiums has proven false for nearly all Albertans. The greatest consequence of the cap is that it has denied many legitimately injured Albertans the compensation they would normally be entitled to receive for their injuries. You can find more information on the cap and what qualifies as a “minor injury” here.
Now to the matter at hand: What are the changes to the cap?
In 2004, a “minor injury” was defined as a sprain, strain or whiplash-associated disorder injury that did not cause a serious impairment. The new changes have added that anything associated with those listed injuries, whether physical or psychological in nature, may also be considered a “minor injury”. Notably, this definition now includes minor psychological injuries. Previously, all psychological injuries were entirely outside of the scope of the cap. Therefore, this change has the potential to significantly reduce compensation for motor vehicle accident victims in Alberta. But we have yet to see how this will be interpreted by the courts.
Injuries to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as the jaw joint and associated muscles, were also previously excluded from the cap. With these changes, the Government of Alberta is attempting to bring TMJ injuries under the cap, thereby further reducing the compensation that motor vehicle accident victims can receive for their injuries. In addition, dentists can now also be certified to determine if there is a minor injury involving the TMJ, as opposed to the normal practice of the accident victim attending at a TMJ specialist to assess the injury. This change is meant to lower the cost of the assessment, as TMJ specialist fees tend to be much higher than those of dentists.
These changes are highly favourable to insurance companies. As more kinds of injuries are put under the “minor injury” cap, the less insurance companies have to pay to injured people.
In addition to the existing coverage provided, accident victims will also have access to $1,000.00 for any combination of dentist, psychologist, and occupational therapist treatment. Read more about the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation here.
As a of November 1, 2020, there have been some very small increases in no-fault accident benefits for motor vehicle accident victims. These changes effectively only adjust the 2004 figures to account for inflation up to 2020. Here’s a handy table outlining the new changes:
Coverage Type Old Limit New Limit
Chiropractic services $750 $1,000
Massage Therapy $250 $350
Acupuncture Services $250 $350
Funeral Services $5,000 $6,150
Grief Counselling $400 $500
Max weekly disability benefit $400 $600
The maximum household duties benefit for clients who are over 18, unemployed, and completely incapacitated/unable to do housekeeping:
Old Limit New Limit
$135 for max 26 weeks $200 for max 104 weeks
It’s important to note that if you are currently receiving Section B disability benefits of $400.00 per week, as of November 1, 2020 those benefits could increase up to $600.00 per week. If you are still receiving treatment, the $1,000.00 limit for any combination of dentist, psychologist, and occupational therapist treatment will apply.
These benefits are based on eligibility and a proper application. Without adequate representation by an experienced Alberta Personal Injury lawyer, accident victims may not be receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.
The changes to the cap affect anyone who’s accident was on or after November 1, 2020.
Changes to Section B and protocols are affective immediately, even to existing claims and/or for accidents before November 1, 2020 who start a claim now.
Clearing Up the Confusion
Since the Alberta Legislature first introduced the cap in 2004, there has been a lot of confusion among everyday Albertans as to what it is, what it does, and how it works. Alberta Courts have worked to clear up that confusion, but the information is mostly in the hands of Personal Injury lawyers and insurance companies, and not in the hands of the public. Our hope is to provide clear, useful information to injury victims about the cap. Since its introduction, we have served many clients who were told by insurance companies that their claims were capped when they were not. We have advocated tirelessly for the abolition of the cap, but we believe it is here to stay. As long as the cap exists, Litwiniuk & Company will do everything we can to educate the public.
Advocating for you.
As Calgary’s Personal Injury law firm since 1976, we have seen firsthand the toll that injuries take on a person, and that their suffering is often made worse because of how insurance companies have treated them. We aim to ensure that no Albertan has to endure unfair treatment or settle for less than what they are entitled to, simply because the insurance companies know more about the cap and how it works. That’s an advantage insurance companies simply cannot be allowed to take. Every Albertan we can educate about the cap is one less Albertan insurance companies can take advantage of. By shining a light on the inner workings of the cap, we put power back where it belongs: with the people. If you have questions about the cap, or recent changes to the cap, give us a call or email and we’ll answer your questions – at no cost to you.