Pecuniary damages

The word “pecuniary” means “of, relating to, or consisting of money”, and pecuniary damages are losses which can be quantified in monetary terms:
But where pecuniary damages are at issue, it is the actual pecuniary loss sustained by the plaintiff which governs the amount of the award.
(Ratych v. Bloomer, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 940 at 962-963).
The following are examples of pecuniary losses which may be suffered by motor vehicle accident victims:
  • Vehicle bicycle, repair or replacement costs.
  • Bicycle, clothing, or other property repair or replacement costs
  • Lost wages.
  • Medical expenses.
Pecuniary damages (i.e. those capable of being quantified in monetary terms with accuracy) are distinguished from “non-pecuniary” damages which cannot be accurately quantified in monetary terms. Damages for pain and suffering / loss of enjoyment of life are the primary type of non-pecuniary damages; see discussion below.
The labels used and categorization of damages can be confusing to persons new to assessment of personal injury damages, but key points being made on this page are that:
  1. “pecuniary” means monetary, and “non-pecuniary” damages are those which cannot easily be quantified in monetary terms; and
  2. British Columbia courts do not generally go to the effort of specifically distinguishing between pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages but generally discuss damages under the following categories:
    • Non-pecuniary damages: damages for pain and suffering.
    • Special damages: out of pocket expenses before trial (these are a form of pecuniary damages).
    • Cost of future care: an estimate of future pecuniary damages.
    • Past wage loss: a form of pecuniary damages.
    • Loss of earning capacity: arguably an estimate of future pecuniary damages, but more often considered a measure of a lost capital asset i.e. the ability to earn income.
More information about the above types of damages is provided below.


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