The Value of Tragedy

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The Value of Tragedy

Feb 1, 2016

How do we quantify suffering? The question seems even stranger – almost inhuman – when we ask how we calculate the value of a life that has been taken from us. I’m probably safe in assuming that only insurance companies go around asking this sort of question. Most normal people would give anything and everything, sometimes even their own lives, to have their spouse or child brought back to life after a tragic accident.

In sharp contrast, personal injury lawsuits are, for better or worse, about how much money is required to make a person whole again after an accident. How can such a question be answered in the context of fatalities? The answer may surprise you.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that the loss is “capped” at $100,000.00. With inflation, the current highest award in Canada is $135,000.00. This doesn’t mean you’ll get $135,000.00; the award is routinely much lower.

The highest awards are in fact reserved for those who suffer catastrophic, quadriplegic injuries. Your lifetime of grief and anger is typically worth less on the whole than most other cases. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a more devastating loss.

So where does that leave us? If the Civil Courts cannot find ways to adequately compensate people for the loss of a loved one, where else can people turn? Criminal penalties for at-fault motorists, though rarely given or deserved, might temporarily satisfy a thirst for revenge, but they cannot help a person move forward with their lives. Only a civil award can, for example, enable people to obtain funding for much-needed psychological treatment and counseling. As things stand, we’re a long way from realizing the true value of tragedy.

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