Can You Receive Compensation for Caring for an Injured Family Member?

When someone is seriously injured in a car accident, it is common for that person to require household and personal care. The standard ICBC insurance policy provides some coverage for private household services. For example, if you are unable to clean your house due to your injuries, ICBC will sometimes cover these costs for you. Similarly, if you are unable to personally care for yourself (bathing, etc.). ICBC will often pay for services/coverage to make sure you have appropriate care.

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However, the most common form of care provided to injured people comes from their only family members. A husband or wife may care for their injured spouse by taking on all of the household chores. A son or daughter may also tend to the basic personal needs of their mother or father by helping them with dressing and bathing if they cannot do so because of injuries. Many family members even take time off work to care for someone injured in their family. In such cases, the following question arises: can the family member who provided this love and care be compensated for their time and services?  

Courts do award compensation to family members if they provide services that are over and above what would be expected from the ordinary family relationship. For example, in the case of Knight v Knight (2014 BCSC 1478), a young woman suffered a major traumatic brain injury, leaving her unable to read, drive and walk without walking into objects. These injuries occurred when the vehicle she was riding in struck a moose.

Rather than opting for a private care company, the family decided to take care of Mrs. Knight themselves. The family took care of all of her basic personal care needs. At trial, Justice Sewell awarded $60,000 “in trust” to Ms. Knight’s family members who cared for her. In making this decision, the judge looked at how much it would have cost to hire a private service, and then compared that cost to the estimated number of hours the family members helped Mrs. Knight. In other words, the judge valued the family members’ time similar to what the same service would have cost if others had been hired.

It is important to note, however, that not all care by family members will be awarded compensation. For example, judges are very reluctant to award money to family members for simply being by their injured family’s side and spending time with them while they are injured. Similarly, judges usually won’t give an award to a family member who visited them at the hospital and/or brought them gifts while they were hurt. In other words, the Courts will not usually award money for activities which ordinary family members are expected to do for their loved ones in times of need. When Courts award money for family care, this usually relates to activities that go above and beyond the normal family relationship, such as feeding the injured person, or changing their bedding and bathing them. In other words, activities that are normally done by a nurse or rehab professional can be compensated if carried out by a family member.  

If a loved one is seriously injured in an accident, and you choose to care for them, it will be important for you to document a) the number of hours you spend caring for them and b) the type of activities you do for caring i.e. cleaning, bathing, etc. If you do not keep track of these items, it will be difficult for you to obtain compensation at a later date. Also, it is important to remember that most people in BC have access to insurance through ICBC. This insurance can provide coverage for services that will allow your loved one to get access to professional care/nursing services if needed.

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