In every personal injury claim one of the heads of damages which can be claimed by the innocent victim is the inability, due to injury, to perform the household chores completed prior to the collision. In a fatal accident case it is the complete loss of housekeeping support of a spouse which must be quantified.
Assessing Loss of Housekeeping Capacity
In order to quantify this loss, the first step is determining what exactly the injury victim or the deceased spouse did in the house and comparing that to the surviving family members to arrive at a fair and reasonable estimate of the chores performed and the number of hours per week the injury victim or the deceased partner performed.
Often Statistics Canada is consulted with respect to the number of hours of housekeeping chores the average person performs in the age bracket of the victim and the educational standard and the income level of the victim.
However, the other side of the coin where there is debate with the auto insurance companies is even if we agree on the number of hours the victim performed pre-accident, there is still the question of how much per hour should be used as a loss of housekeeping rate to make the calculation?
Again, Statistics Canada is consulted and Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census/2011 National Household survey, Job Bank, and the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary survey of 2011, both for the Province of Alberta, reveal an average housekeeping rate of $18.75 per hour.
The Case of Jones v. Stepanenko 2016
To give a recent example the case of Jones v. Stepanenko 2016 ABQB 295, in which the court found the trauma from the collision caused Fibromyalgia, the court awarded a total of $15,000 for the head of damages of loss of housekeeping capacity divided $5,000 for past loss and $10,000 for future loss. The total award just for a frame of reference was:
Pain and suffering: $80,000
Past loss of income: $18,403.79
Loss of earning capacity: $125,000
Loss of housekeeping capacity: $15,000
Cost of future care: $36,500
Special damages: $7,779.86
The total award was $282,683.65. In addition, she was awarded pre-judgement interest based on the Judgement Interest Act and its regulations on the pain and suffering, past loss of income, past housekeeping, and the special damages awards.
At the time of the 2009 motor-vehicle collision the plaintiff was a 19-year-old nursing student about to enter her second year at Mount Royal University. The plaintiff claimed $25,000 for loss of housekeeping capacity claim but only received $15,000. This was because the judge found that at the time of the collision the plaintiff was still living in her parents’ basement and did not move out until 2013, so four years later, and then she moved into a small apartment with her friend, and then in 2014 she bought a house and moved in with her boyfriend. Thus, the court found that in the beginning years the plaintiff’s loss of housekeeping capacity, even absent the accident, would have been minimal given she was living in her parents’ basement until 2013.
Nevertheless, Justice Eidsvik stated that there still was an economic loss over the seven years since the incident and that, “the defendant should pay for the economic loss because of the plaintiff’s inability to do the heavier housework.” However, the court went on to state that, “the plaintiff’s responsibilities were not very great, so her housekeeping losses were also not very accurate until, perhaps, the last year or so.” The foregoing sentence underlines the subjective nature of many judges on the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench approach to loss of housekeeping rather than sticking to the more accurate process of looking at the quantum of number of hours lost multiplied by the hourly rate indicated above. Instead Alberta courts tend to downplay the significance of the importance of housekeeping and award a global general amount with respect to the housekeeping damages, said number often being significantly less than the calculation if it was performed on a pure mathematical basis. This is another example of how Alberta courts routinely undercompensate innocent victims, to the benefit of the profits of multinational for-profit, private auto insurance companies who act for the party who committed the wrong.
Brent L. Handel Q.C.