Hurt in a car crash or other accident caused by someone else’s fault? You could get money compensation. This typically includes money for “special damages” (in addition to compensation for wage loss, pain and suffering, etc.).
In legal lingo, “special damages” in this kind of case means your out-of-pocket costs before the trial. Some examples include:
• medication costs
• medical and some other treatment costs
• taxi or mileage reimbursement to drive to doctors’ appointments
• repair costs of damaged property (like getting a damaged car fixed)
Of course, the expenses have to be as a result of the accident that caused your injuries.
The particular item must be an amount that can be exactly calculated. But it usually isn’t in dispute if documented (be sure to keep receipts). Still, there are limits on what expenses you can recover as special damages.
In a recent 2013 case, the B.C. Supreme Court had to deal with a large claim for special damages by Lucinda, a social worker, who was rear-ended by another vehicle. She suffered soft tissue injuries (e.g., sore back and neck) and more than three years later, still had some pain, stiffness and discomfort. She was also diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome.
By the time of the court hearing, Lucinda, 41, had received numerous treatments. They included over $46,500 worth of massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, physiotherapy, kinesiology, reflexology and naturopathic treatments. But she had gone for more treatment sessions than medically supported. She had also taken some treatments she felt would be beneficial, but which weren’t based on medical recommendation.
The court explained that, in general, whether you can get reimbursement for your “special damages” depends on whether they were “reasonable.” One factor in assessing whether treatment expenses are reasonable is to see if they were medically justified. You may be entitled to a very high standard of care, i.e., reasonable care may equate with very high care. But you’re not allowed carte blanche to undertake any and all therapies which you believe will make you feel good.
Lucinda therefore could recover compensation for only some of her massage therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture sessions. She also got reimbursed the cost of some other treatments like kinesiology, physiotherapy treatments and Pilates sessions, since they were in line with medical advice. But she wasn’t able to recover expenses for things like naturopathic treatments and reflexology, since they weren’t proven to be reasonable in this instance.
Now, if you’re hurt in a car crash in B.C. and are insured by ICBC, you can also get limited “no-fault” benefits (so-called Part 7 benefits) directly from ICBC. These are paid out over time; you don’t have to wait until your lawsuit is resolved or goes to trial to get these payments.
Be sure to promptly seek good legal assistance if you’re hurt through someone else’s fault or negligence. There may be a short, limited time period to take certain steps in your circumstances – and special damages is just one small piece of the overall puzzle.
Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Gertsoyg & Company at (604) 602-3066 for a free legal consultation concerning your particular case.