Clarification of “Cap” Injuries in Alberta Motor Vehicle Accidents

For the first time since the Minor Injury Regulation (MIR) came into force in 2004 there has been a change to the definition of what constitutes a minor injury.

On May 17, 2018, the Government of Alberta amended the MIR to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of which minor injuries are covered by the MIR. In addition, technical amendments were made to the Automobile Insurance Premiums Regulation (AIPR) and Automobile Accident Insurance Benefits Regulation (AAIBR).

Some people will remember the 2012 Alberta Court of King's Bench decision in Sparrowhawk v. Zaplontinsky wherein Justice Shelley determined that injury to a person’s jaw and teeth, arising from a motor vehicle accident, were injuries that fell outside the cap on soft tissue damages.

The Government of Alberta’s changes to the MIR are an amendment to clarify injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident.

The MIR, as of June 1, 2018, now states that temporomandibular joint injuries, as well as physical or psychological conditions or symptoms arising from sprains, strains and whiplash injuries and that resolve with those injuries, are considered minor injuries under the MIR and should be treated as such. The exception is if there is an injury to the bone or to teeth, or damage to or displacement of the articular disc.

The MIR previously had expiry dates prior to which the Government would regularly review the legislation. Those expiry dates have now been removed and when changes are necessary the Government will review and revise as required.

There appear to be mixed feelings from stakeholders about these MIR changes. While some feel this adds more clarity to those injuries that are “minor” others feel that this is a further attempt to limit the recovery that accident victims are entitled to. How these changes are interpreted and implemented by lawyers and the Courts remains to be seen.