On February 8, 2008, Associate Chief Justice Neil Wittmann concluded that the Alberta Minor Injury Regulation (a regulation which imposed a $4,000 cap on auto-accident victims who sustained soft tissue injuries) is unconstitutional.
Justice Wittmann concluded that the cap on damages for soft tissue injuries”sacrifices the dignity of Minor Injury victims at the altar of reducing insurance premiums.”
In striking down the legislation Justice Wittmann held that the Minor Injury Regulation is discriminatory against victims who sustained soft tissue injuries and that this violated Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This is a great decision as it restores the rights of victims of Alberta auto accidents who sustained soft tissue injuries to seek fair compensation for their losses from the courts. The decison has been hailed a success by the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association who have urged the government to accept the decision.
The government, however, has announced that they will indeed appeal the decision. Justice Wittmann’s reasoning appears sound and hopefully will withstand appeal. However, nothing in the judgement prevents Alberta’s legislature from introducting new legislation which would limit the compensation available for pain and suffering for auto accident victims.
Only time will tell whether Alberta’s legislature will institute revised legislation capping damages for ‘minor injuries’ in a way that is not inconsistent with Justice Wittman’s interpretation of Section 15 of the Charter or if the government will allow Alberta auto accident victims with soft tissue injuries to have unfettered access to the courts for fair compensation. In the meantime, however, many plaintiff’s may now have access to the courts to receive fair compensation for their soft tissue injuries.