Women awarded less for pain and suffering than men

October 26, 2020 | By Julius Melnitzer

A recent study of general damage awards in Canadian courts reveals that men receive an average of $5,674 more for their pain and suffering than women do for similar injuries.

The study, conducted by Painworth, an online site that helps individuals calculate the potential value of their personal injury claims, also shows that the median pain and suffering award for men is $4,680 more than for women.

The study examined all the personal injury judgments between 2004 and 2018 that had been digitized.

“The data is not reflective of settlements or arrangements that occurred outside the court system, or obscure cases that had not been digitized within our time range,” says Bryan Saunders, the Edmonton-based data-driven marketing consultant who authored the study.

What the study doesn’t tell us is why the gender gap exists.

“It’s hard to speculate,” says Michael Zouhri of Edmonton, Painworth’s creator. “But what we do know is that it does exist, it’s measurable and it’s a problem.”

Barbara Legate

As Barbara Legate of Legate Personal Injury Lawyers in London, Ontario, points out, the study shows a connection but does not establish causality.

“It raises a lot of interesting questions but answers none,” she says.

If there’s gender bias, it could arise from several sources.

“You could blame the lawyers because maybe they’re not asking as much for women, or maybe the bias is on the other side of the bench,” Legate says. “If there’s been an award for housekeeping or home maintenance, there may be a prejudice arising from a feeling that the woman has already been compensated for unpaid employment.”

Gender stereotyping may also come into play.

“Men are perceived as tough, women as more sensitive,” Zouhri notes. “That leads to the cultural cliché that if a man is complaining, he must really be suffering.”

However all this may be, the study’s results don’t necessarily surprise Legate.

“Decades ago, a similar study showed that sentences for sexual assault were more severe when the victim was male,” she says.

OTHER FINDINGS

Other interesting, albeit less controversial, findings about personal injury litigation in Canada permeate the study. They include:

  • The median value for pain and suffering awards in Canada, adjusted for inflation into 2020 values, was $77,100;
  • 99.97 percent of personal injury cases end in settlements, are abandoned, or aren’t the subject of a claim.
  • Cases that go to trial take an average of 5.2 years, with a median of 5.0 years, to get to judgment; and
  • The longest it’s ever taken a personal injury case to get to judgment is 23 years.

In a separate study, Painworth broke down the most common causes of personal injury lawsuits in Canada. The leading causes were car accidents (37.7 percent); slip and fall, and miscellaneous accidents (10.1 each); assault and battery claims, and medical malpractice (9.4 each).

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Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs journalist, writing coach and media trainer for law firms and legal departments. Readers can reach him at julius@legalwriter.net

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