Winter 2012 issue of the Expert Witness newsletter (volume 16, issue 1)

In every personal injury or fatal accident case in which the plaintiff’s loss continues into the future, it is necessary to calculate the rate of interest at which the damages will be invested. This interest rate is commonly called the discount rate. In this issue of the Expert Witness, we provide two articles concerning the determination of this rate.

The Discount Rate Simplified

  • In the first, which was written collaboratively by Christopher Bruce, Laura Weir, Kelly Rathje, and Derek Aldridge, we begin by setting out a number of criteria that we believe should be met when selecting the discount rate. We ultimately conclude that a portfolio of Government of Canada bonds of varying maturity dates meets our criteria. We then argue that forecasts of Government of Canada bond rates that are based on historical statistics are unreliable for many reasons. Finally, we argue that the rates of return that are currently available on government bonds represent reliable predictions of future rates. Short-term interest rates can perform this role because they represent rates that are actually available currently; and long-term rates reflect the forecasts that have been made by sophisticated financial institutions that have substantial investments in the market.

Implied Rates of Return on Structured Settlements

  • In the second article, Derek Aldridge and Christopher Bruce contrast our recommended discount rates with those used by one important set of sophisticated investors, the insurance companies who write structured settlements. They find that our recommended rates are greater than those being offered by these companies, suggesting that our rates may be too high.