A recent decision in the case of Economical Mutual Insurance Company v Caughy provides interesting insight into how courts may treat accident benefits for persons injured by vehicles not in active operation.
Insurer Attempts To Deny Accident Benefits
The incident occurred in Bothwell, Ontario, around midnight on August of 2012 during a country music festival. Patrick Caughy, an attendee, had parked his trailer with a number of others in horseshoe formation, with a pathway created in between his trailer and another.
At some point, fellow attendees parked two motorcycles in the pathway. While playing tag with his daughter, Caughy, intoxicated at the time, tripped over the parked motorcycles and crashed into his truck. Caughy suffered serious spinal injuries as a result.
Two weeks later, Caughy sought accident benefits, but his insurer, Economical, turned down the application. Now, almost four years and two court cases later, Caughy has been awarded up to $2 million for medical and rehabilitative treatment and attendant care, along with amounts for income replacement and housekeeping.
The Decision And Its Rationale
When the case was first taken to court, Economical argued that the incident did not fit into legislated parameters that an accident involves an impairment directly caused by the operation of an automobile. The lower court disagreed and ruled in Caughy's favour.
The Ontario Court of Appeal subsequently upheld the decision. Although the motorcycles were not in motion or active operation at the time of the incident, Justice William Hourigan wrote that "... most vehicles are parked most of the time" and that "parking a vehicle is an ordinary and well-known activity to which vehicles are put."
The case has positive implications for persons who may suffer injuries from parked vehicles or in other incidents where the definition of "accident" requires interpretation.
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