As mentioned in one of our previous blog posts, victims of motor vehicle accidents can apply for statutory accident benefits through Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund if they suffer injuries or property damage and none of the parties involved in the motor vehicle accident had motor vehicle liability insurance. This situation can arise cases where, for example, an individual is the victim of a hit-and-run accident. In a recent case, however, the court considered whether a taxi company’s SPF 6 policy of insurance (which covered claims against the company for vicarious liability of their drivers) would cover the statutory accident benefits for the victim of a hit-and-run for damages even though the taxi company did not own any of the vehicles in their fleet.
Pedestrian Alleges They Were Hit by Taxi That Fled the Scene
A pedestrian was struck by a Beck Taxi that allegedly fled the scene of the accident. While the victim reported a cab number, Beck Taxi provided evidence demonstrating that the associated taxi was not in the vicinity of the accident at the relevant time.
Statutory Accident Benefits and Damages, Distinguished
Victims of motor vehicle accidents have recourse for “statutory accident benefits” through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund for certain kinds of motor vehicle accidents, including hit-and-runs, and may pursue damages up to $200,000 through the same fund. However, in this case, Beck Taxi had SPF 6 insurance coverage; a type of commercial coverage for vehicles that a company does not own or operate. This coverage protects companies that may be held vicariously liable for losses caused by motor vehicle accidents that are not owned by the company.
It is important to distinguish between “statutory accident benefits” (specific coverage for certain benefits that victims of motor vehicle accidents are entitled to, such as medical and rehabilitation benefits and caregiver benefits) and damages (the amount of money that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit). A victim’s entitlement to both statutory accident benefits and damages depends on the unique circumstances of each case and the insurance policies at play, and victims should always consult a skilled motor vehicle accident lawyer to determine what benefits they are entitled to and what damages might be available in their claim.
The question in this case was straightforward: who pays for the victim’s statutory accident benefits? Should it be Beck Taxi (by way of their SPF 6 insurance) or the Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund?
Court Confirms SPF 6 Policy is Not a Motor Vehicle Liability Policy
The matter was first heard by an arbitrator, who determined that the victim’s statutory accident benefits would be paid by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund because the SPF 6 policy was not a “motor vehicle liability policy” as defined in the Insurance Act. Specifically, the applicable definition refers to policies held by persons, rather than corporations. Since Beck Taxi is not a “person”, the arbitrator reasoned, the SPF 6 policy did not meet the definition of a motor vehicle liability policy. The Minister of Government and Consumer Services (which oversees the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund) appealed the arbitrator’s decision, claiming that the arbitrator made an error in finding that the SPF 6 policy was not a motor vehicle liability policy.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently dismissed the appeal, confirming that an SPF 6 policy is not a “motor vehicle liability policy”. The court went on to note that SPF 6 coverage “does not cover the car, its owner, or its driver. Its purpose is to protect an insured from liability that might be imposed on its for another reason – like taxi dispatching for example” and thus did not fit the definition of a motor vehicle liability policy.
What This Decision Means for Motor Vehicle Injury Claimants
While Beck Taxi’s SPF 6 coverage did not fall within the definition of a “motor vehicle liability policy” such that it would cover the victim’s statutory accident benefits, this decision is a reminder for motor vehicle accident claimants, defendants, and lawyers alike to leave no avenue of recourse unconsidered in a motor vehicle accident claim. Understanding the unique insurance circumstances at play can make all the difference when pursuing claims against different parties in a motor vehicle accident action. If you do not fully explore the facts surrounding your claim, you might name the wrong defendant and lose recourse to particular benefits or policies. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, be sure to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer, who will provide needed guidance on the proper claim strategy.
Experienced Motor Vehicle Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers fight tirelessly to pursue all avenues of recovery for your car or truck accident claim. By following developments in our ever-changing legal landscape, we remain up-to-date on liability coverage and legal strategies to ensure you obtain the best possible outcome.
Our lawyers recognize that no two injury claims are the same, which is why we give each claim the personalized attention needed to protect your rights and ensure you have sufficient coverage for your expenses following an accident. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.