Persons injured in accidents often suffer different types of damages that can depend on their occupation, whether they are employed outside the home and whether they are the person in charge of performing household tasks at their home. In many cases, it is not only a person’s loss of earning capacity that drives the value of his or her personal injury claim but also other tasks at home that the injured person was responsible for, whether that is for things such as housekeeping, child care or similar tasks.
Recovery for damages for the inability to care for children and household tasks is an element of damages known as loss of housekeeping capacity. This component of damages can be very important in terms of making an injured party whole for all damages sustained. British Columbia law provides for a few different ways in which injured parties can be compensated for loss of housekeeping capacity when they suffer a personal injury.
This includes both compensation under tort law and also pursuant to Part VII of the ICBC Insurance system as an additional means of recovery. Which options are available to a particular injured party will depend on whether or not proof of fault for the accident can be made. A discussion of these options is included below.
Under British Columbia Tort law, an injured plaintiff is entitled to an award for loss of housekeeping capacity, so long as he or she can establish such a loss with adequate proof. Campbell v. Banman, 2009 BCCA 484. This can include such items as providing child care and performing other household tasks. An injured party has the right to claim both a loss for past and future housekeeping capacity. The concept behind loss of housekeeping capacity damages is that there is value to work for which a person doesn’t get paid to both to that person and the others who benefit from it. Hence, Loss of Housekeeping Capacity is a very important element of damage to consider.
In general, a person causing injury to another is liable for the full extent of an injured party’s damages, so long as the wrongful conduct contributed to the plaintiff’s loss. While there is a case law providing that a court should be conservative in making award for loss of housekeeping capacity (Kroeker v. Jansen, 1995 CanLII 761(BC CA)), the idea is that a plaintiff should still be made whole for all of his or her injuries caused by the other party’s wrongful conduct.
In a recent case entitled Kim v. Lin, 2016 BCSC 2405, the court awarded the plaintiff $418,000 for loss of past and future housekeeping capacity.
In this particular case, the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident and suffered severe psychiatric and psychological problems that were deemed to have a substantial connection to the motor vehicle accident. There was extensive evidence provided to document the condition of the plaintiff both before and after the accident and the impact the losses in the area of the ability to care for her children and household had on her family. This clearly hits home the point the impact of an injury is often much broader than a loss of earning capacity or medical expenses.
These cases show how important it is for injured persons to take into consideration not just standard damages for items like loss of earning capacity but also items like loss of housekeeping capacity. Without full compensation in all of those areas, a plaintiff is not truly made whole for the consequences of an injury suffered.
All citizens of British Columbia who purchase ICBC insurance are also purchasing coverage for items such as medical expenses, rehabilitation expenses, death benefits and wage loss benefits. This is included as part of the coverage of Part VII of the Regulations to the Insurance Vehicle Act. The benefits available under this part of the act are available regardless of who may be at fault for a particular accident. Thus, these are generally referred to as “no fault” benefits”. Part VII benefits are designed to provide a basic level of benefits recovery for injured parties. When proof of responsibility for an accident is difficult, Part VII provides another means for an injured party to recover some damages as a result of an accident. While under Part VII the injured party does not need to prove who is at fault for the accident, the benefits recoverable are substantially limited compared with what might be recovered in a traditional tort claim if an injured party is successful.
In general, Part VII provides for disability benefits payable to for reasonable expenses incurred by the injured party to hire a person to perform household tasks on the insured’s behalf subject to a maximum amount per week as set out in the applicable schedules. These benefits are also time limited to either the period of disability or 104 consecutive weeks, whichever is shorter. Thus, in cases where a permanent disability results from an injury, the Part VII benefits generally do not fully compensate an injured party for the entirety of the period of their injury.
Parties injured in accidents have different options available to them in recovering damages for the injuries suffered, including damages for loss of housekeeping capacity which is a critical component for many injured parties. In order to be fully compensated for damages suffered as a result of an accident, including loss of housekeeping capacity, an injured party will most likely have to pursue a tort claim with the assistance of a competent lawyer. In the end, this process is most likely to provide an injured party with a full recovery for damages suffered, including loss of housekeeping capacity.