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What’s the Difference Between a Minor, Major and Catastrophic Injury?


Any type and degree of injury is distressing as the victim of an accident. Some injuries, however, are classified differently in the eyes of the law in Ontario. It is important to understand whether your injury is viewed as minor, major or catastrophic so that you can fully grasp your legal rights and options. If you have recently suffered any type of injury in a preventable accident in Ottawa, contact the Ottawa personal injury lawyers at SG Injury Law for counsel. We can guide you through the personal injury law process from start to finish.

What’s the Difference?

In Ontario, the insurance system includes three distinct levels of injury: minor, non-catastrophic (major) and catastrophic. A minor injury is one that does not seriously or permanently impact an accident victim. It is an injury from which the victim is expected to make a full recovery, with no lasting symptoms or disabilities. Examples of minor injuries are muscle strains, scrapes and abrasions, and contusions.

“Non-catastrophic injuries” technically are not mentioned in Ontario law. However, this phrase is used to describe major injuries, or injuries that fall somewhere in between minor and catastrophic. Major injuries can still be life-changing, such as lacerations that cause scarring and disfigurement. Yet they are not as devastating on a physical and mental level as catastrophic injuries.

Catastrophic injuries in Ontario refer to harm suffered by an individual to a degree that will have life-altering and permanent consequences for the victim. Catastrophic injuries include paraplegia and tetraplegia (types of paralysis), limb amputation, loss of vision in both eyes, traumatic brain injuries, and mental or behavioural disorders. They are the most severe types of injuries that can be suffered by an accident victim.

Statutory Accident Benefits in Ontario 

The distinction between minor, major and catastrophic injuries is important because of Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). This is a law that sets guidelines on how insurance companies and policyholders should deal with auto insurance claims. The SABS is what gives definitions for the three injury categories. It places limits on the amount of insurance benefits available based on the class of injury:

  • Minor injuries (covered by the Minor Injury Guideline): victims with minor injuries are eligible for a maximum of $3,500 in medical and rehabilitation benefits.
  • Major injuries: victims with major or non-catastrophic injuries are eligible for up to $65,000 for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care costs. This coverage will also pay for income replacement benefits, caregiver benefits and home maintenance.
  • Catastrophic injuries: victims with injuries that are classified as catastrophic can receive up to $1 million in statutory accident benefits to cover medical care, rehabilitation, attendant care, income replacement and other costs.

The jump in coverage is significant from minor to major injuries, as well as from major injuries to catastrophic. This is why determining your level of injury is important before you file a claim or accept a settlement. Many injury classifications are not black and white, however. They depend on the unique patient and circumstances. Before you accept an insurance settlement in Ottawa, contact a SABS lawyer to understand the details of your case. 

How to Get Fair Insurance Benefits in Ottawa

After a harmful accident, go to a hospital or medical facility right away. This is a critical step for having your injuries diagnosed and your condition assessed. If you delay medical care, an insurance company could use this against you. Then, file an insurance claim with the correct company – either yours or the at-fault party’s insurer, depending on the circumstances. 

Before you accept a settlement, contact SG Injury Law to request a free consultation. Our lawyers will carefully review your case, determine your injury classification, help you file your claim or a personal injury lawsuit, and go up against the defendant in pursuit of maximum financial compensation on your behalf.