If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in Alberta, the Minor Injury Regulation (MIR) may affect your claim. This regulation, informally known as The Cap, came into force in 2004 and, among other things, defines what minor injuries are, how they are determined and pain and suffering damages limits. The Cap itself is a $4000 amount imposed in 2004 that changes every year with the inflation rate.
While the outcome of each injury case is different, if you suffered soft tissue injuries in a motor vehicle accident, an insurance company could attempt to use the MIR to deny your claim on the basis that your injury is minor. If this happens to you, you might not recover the money you are entitled to. A skilled car accident lawyer can protect your right to challenge this determination and seek an appropriate award for your injuries.
How the MIR Defines a Minor Injury
The Minor Injury Regulation defines a minor injury as a:
- Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD)
caused by the accident that does not result in a serious impairment and includes, in respect of a sprain, strain or WAD injury that occurs on or after November 1, 2020, any clinically associated sequelae of the sprain, strain or WAD injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, caused by the accident that do not result in a serious impairment.
When the MIR Cap Does Not Apply
If it applies, the MIR only limits your pain and suffering damages. It does not limit your other damages such as out of pocket expenses, medical expenses, income loss, loss of housekeeping, cost of future care and other damages from an accident. However, if an injury is deemed minor, there is a risk that some of these damages will be negatively impacted. So, it is important to speak to an accident injury lawyer to understand your rights.
The MIR considers some conditions to be ‘minor’ if they do not lead to serious impairments.
The MIR defines serious impairment as a soft tissue injury that:
- Limits a claimant’s ability to work and carry out their daily activities
- Continues over a specific period (e.g., several months)
- Is not expected to improve
It also must be clear that a motor vehicle accident caused the injury.
Minor Injury Damage Caps Change Annually
Each year, the damages cap changes yearly and takes effect on January 1st.
Here is what you need to know:
- When Alberta lawmakers officially approved the MIR, its cap was initially $4,000. The law went into effect on October 1, 2004.
- Currently, the MIR cap is $5,365, per the Superintendent of Insurance Interpretation Bulletin. According to the bulletin, this amount applies to automobile accidents in Alberta that occurred on or after January 1, 2021.
With time, Alberta lawmakers may institute other changes and procedures.
Certified Examiners May Review Injuries to Determine Their Status
Motor vehicle accident claimants should have medical professionals examine their conditions within 10 business days of getting hurt. If they receive a diagnosis, they must start medical treatment and follow their doctor’s orders in full. If they do not, they risk lowering their claim’s overall value.
Under the MIR, when there is a disagreement over whether injuries are minor or not, a medical professional, known as a ‘certified examiner,’ may be retained to review all injuries one by one to determine whether they are minor or not. The regulation requires a certified examiner to prepare an official opinion that determines the injuries’ condition in writing. Each person must receive a copy of this opinion.
If the certified examiner confirms that your injury is a minor sprain, strain, or WAD, you will need to demonstrate the condition’s severity to overcome that opinion. This is where an accident injury lawyer plays an important role in guiding auto accident victims.
A Medical Evaluation Must Note the Injury’s Severity
The certified examiner must consult the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation while examining your injuries. These protocols instruct them on what to look for, according to the injury they diagnose and treat.
Per the MIR, they must have qualifications to diagnose:
- Pain syndrome
- A TMJ disorder
- WAD injuries
If they determine a patient has a sprain, strain, or WAD injury, they must note the severity of those injuries. If the certified examiner needs more time to evaluate a patient, they must submit a formal opinion in writing.
Part 3 of the MIR addresses the certified examiner’s roles and responsibilities. Guidance from the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation also requires healthcare professionals to advise patients on how to care for their injuries properly.
According to the Government of Alberta, individuals hurt in motor vehicle accidents should receive a prompt diagnosis and treatment. The regulation also allows seemingly non-injured individuals to receive further medical examinations.
What Makes the MIR Controversial
Alberta lawmakers created the MIR to address insurers’ concerns about the rising costs of providing insurance. At the same time, the government set out to weaken injured parties’ rights to receive compensatory damages, even for ‘minor’ injuries.
There are concerns that while the Cap has reduced insurers’ costs, it has come at injured victims’ expense. There is also concern that the regulation denies injured people the compensation they are due. When they do not receive compensation, they might have to use their own benefits to cover their costs. This relieves the negligent party of accountability.
People Contest That Recovery Times Should Affect Their Compensatory Options
Determining what makes an injury minor and how time factors into this definition are also points of contention. In some cases, what starts as a minor injury can become serious the longer it persists. This is especially true for a person who experiences chronic pain. This is why the term ‘minor injury’ may not fully or accurately describe a person’s condition.
If you suffered an auto accident injury that is ‘minor,’ but it causes you chronic pain, affects your earning ability, and negatively affects your life, you have the right to a lawyer. They can represent your case and fight for the settlement you need.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Your Minor Injury Regulation Case in Alberta
It can be overwhelming to understand how the Minor Injury Regulation could affect your pain and suffering claim. This can be especially challenging if you are recovering from an accident. A lawyer can explain how the MIR affects your case and other relevant details. This guidance can give you the clarity you need to map out your next steps.
A personal injury lawyer can explain the steps required to pursue a case to which the MIR may apply. They may also:
Determine if the MIR Applies to Your Personal Injury Case
Motor vehicle accident victims often want to know if claim caps apply to their cases. The MIR is difficult to understand––especially if insurance companies consider your injuries minor while you do not feel they are. An accident injury lawyer can explain the complexities around the MIR so that you understand them. They will also address any concerns you have regarding whether you strain, sprain or WAD injury falls under the MIR.
Help You Understand Recent Changes to the MIR
The MIR has evolved since its initial conception in 2004. This is yet another reason to consider legal guidance. For example, lawmakers updated the November 2020 measure to broaden its definition of soft tissue injuries.
The new definition applies to accidents that occurred on or after November 1, 2020. Getting legal advice from an accident injury lawyer can help you understand Alberta’s evolving minor injury laws and how they affect your situation.
Review Your Medical Needs to Understand Your Injuries
You do not have to prove your injury’s severity without help. An accident injury lawyer can:
- Gather and review the evidence (such as your medical records) to build your case
- Evaluate medical tests to confirm your injuries’ impact
- Advise you on what it means to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI)
- Provide advice on how the MIR may apply to your claim
Evidence plays a major role in establishing your case. Document all your medical expenses and keep all invoices, receipts, pay stubs, tax forms, and other paperwork that demonstrates your injuries’ effect on your life.
You can also take photos or videos to support your claim.
Consult With Experts Regarding Certain Aspects of Your Case
An accident injury lawyer could also interview professionals and use their testimony to strengthen your case.
They may consult with:
- A medical professional who can confirm the full extent of your injury, any permanent impairments and any functional disability, restrictions and limitations
- An accident reconstruction specialist who can explain how your accident happened and how it harmed you
- A mental health expert who can attest to how your injuries affect your emotional well-being
- An economist who could weigh in about the past and future income loss you face
Assign a Value on Your Pain and Suffering Damages
Placing a dollar value on pain and suffering damages can be difficult. These losses fall under the category of non-pecuniary damages, which means invoices, receipts, and billing statements do not determine their values.
You should consider consult an injury lawyer for help with this important task. An accident injury lawyer can identify and assess your case’s non-pecuniary damages and explain whether the MIR would impact those damages.
Examples of recoverable non-pecuniary damages include:
- Emotional suffering
- Lifelong disability
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
Negotiate With an Insurance Company on Your Behalf
You have the right to hire an accident injury lawyer who can challenge an insurance company that contests the severity of your injuries or of the existence of any serious impairments while relying on the MIR. It helps to have a lawyer who can explain your legal options before the insurance company tells you that your injuries are minor.
An accident injury lawyer will fight for appropriate compensation and to overcome any argument that your claim is capped by the MIR when they aren’t.
Protect You From Bad Faith Insurance Practices
It is an unfortunate reality that many insurers do not have claimants’ best interests at heart. Their interests are to protect their bottom line. The MIR is legislation geared toward protecting the insurance industry’s bottom line. An accident injury lawyer with experience knows how to deal with insurance providers focused on protecting their bottom line. They can challenge any disputes using your case’s evidence, your testimony, and your medical records. You have legal rights as an injured claimant in Alberta. Your lawyer can do everything possible to uphold and protect those rights.
File a Lawsuit to Recover Damages
If negotiations do not yield compensation for you, a lawyer could seek an award at trial or mediation. Litigation is usually a last resort, but if talks do not result in a settlement agreement, then it is an option. Mediation is another way to resolve a dispute without getting the court involved.
Address Your Case-Related Concerns
You may have many questions about the legal process, including how much you can seek and how Alberta’s laws apply to your case. For instance, you may wonder how Section B benefits and the MIR apply to your case.
Your accident injury lawyer will work to ensure you understand everything about your options moving forward, so you can make decisions right for you.
Represent You on a Contingency-Fee Basis
In the personal injury world, many lawyers offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. So, while you recover from your condition, your lawyer can start your case at no charge. You do not pay retainers or hourly rates. Payment for your lawyer’s help comes from the funds they secure for you.
Consider Your Legal Options in a MIR Case
After a car accident, you may not understand the severity of your condition nor can you predict how it will affect you in the future. It can be hard to know how severe motor vehicle accident injuries are when they first happen. In many cases, time reveals how serious a person’s injuries are–– even if they seemingly started small.
If you suffered harm in an accident and want to know how the Minor Injury Regulation (MIR) affects your claim, or if you feel an insurance company unjustly denied your claim, you should consult a personal injury lawyer. They can review your case and advise you further. Time is limited regarding how long you have to file a lawsuit, so consider your options sooner rather than later.