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January 16, 2013

Definition of "Accident" Under the SABS

How far can the definition of "accident" under the SABS be stretched?

In Dominion of Canada v. Prest, 2013 ONSC 92 (S.C.J.), the insured was washing his car and tripped over a curb sticking out from the wall of his parking garage.  He claimed that his right hand was touching the car as he fell, and therefore he was entitled to accident benefits.  Dominion sought a determination as to whether the incident met the definition of an "accident" within s. 3(1) of the SABS, which defines "accident" as "an incident in which the use or operation of an automobile directly causes an impairment."

Justice McNamara held that the incident was not an "accident".  He used the two part test set out by the Court of Appeal in Chisholm v. Liberty Mutual (2002), O.R. (3d) 776 (C.A.) and Greenhalgh v. ING (2004), CanLii 21045 (C.A.):

(a)  Did the incident arise out of the use or operation of an automobile (the “purpose test”); and
(b)  Did such use or operation of an automobile directly cause the impairment (the “causation test”).

Justice McNamara held that the vehicle was not being used or operated at the time of the incident and was not a direct cause of the impairment.  The use of the car had ended without injury being suffered and tripping over the curb was a new intervening act. The insured was not entitled to accident benefits, showing that there is indeed a limit to how far the definition can be stretched.

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