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What’s the Difference Between Pecuniary Damages and Non-Pecuniary Damages?


As an injured accident victim who plans on filing a personal injury lawsuit in Ontario, it is very important to understand the damages, or financial compensation, that you may be entitled to recover. This is the only way to ensure that you do not accept an inadequate settlement offer from an insurance company. Start by learning the difference between two of the main types of damages: pecuniary and non-pecuniary.

Compensatory, Nominal and Punitive Damages

Three types of compensation are available in a personal injury lawsuit: compensatory, nominal and punitive. Compensatory damages are the most common type of award. They refer to the compensation meant to make a victim whole again after an accident, or to reimburse a claimant for related losses suffered. This category is further broken down into pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

Nominal damages are a type of non-compensatory damages. This means they are not focused on restoring the plaintiff to his or her original condition but rather on seeking justice for the harm done or wrongdoing committed. Nominal damages can be difficult to calculate and are often a small monetary remedy. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant above and beyond compensatory damages, to send a message and discourage similar behaviour in the future.

What Are Pecuniary Damages?

Pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages are awarded in most personal injury lawsuits in Ontario. Pecuniary damages encompass the quantifiable losses suffered by an accident victim, or the specific losses. They are measured in financial terms and calculated using bills, receipts and other financial statements. Examples of pecuniary damages include:

  • Medical costs. This includes money spent on an ambulance, hospital stay, doctor’s appointments, medications and medical devices. It also includes future care costs for a long-term disability.
  • Income losses. Wages and employment benefits lost because the plaintiff cannot immediately return to work as a result of the accident or injury.
  • Lost future capacity to earn. If the victim suffered a long-term or permanent disability and cannot return to work in the same capacity, he or she can recover a lifetime of estimated lost wages.
  • Property damage. The price to repair any property lost, damaged or destroyed in the accident, such as vehicle damage in an auto accident case.

Any other financial expenditures associated with the accident can also be classed as pecuniary damages, including court costs, legal fees and travel expenses. 

What Are Non-Pecuniary Damages?

Non-pecuniary damages, on the other hand, are losses that cannot be quantified in monetary terms. They are the intangible or general losses suffered by an individual. In general, claims involving serious injuries, permanent disability and loss of life will receive more in non-pecuniary damages than minor accident cases. Examples of these damages include:

  • Physical pain and suffering. The physical pain or chronic pain caused by an injury.
  • Emotional distress. Any psychological trauma, depression, anxiety, inconvenience, mental anguish or other emotional damage caused by the accident or injury.
  • Impairment. Compensation awarded for any impairment of the victim’s physical or mental capabilities, as well as the impairment of relationships with others.

Non-pecuniary damages are not as straightforward or easy to calculate as pecuniary damages. Rather than relying on bills and receipts, the courts will look at how greatly the incident has impacted the victim. The value of these damages will be based on injury severity, any permanent disability, the victim’s age and other factors. 

Find Out How Much Your Case Is Worth

Determining how much your personal injury lawsuit is worth is a critical part of your recovery. An insurance company may try to devalue your claim and offer less in compensatory or other damages than you deserve. You may need a lawyer to negotiate for fair financial compensation on your behalf. Contact the Ottawa injury lawyers at SG Injury Law to discuss the potential value of your case.