Insuring and Ownership of Vehicles

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When involved in a vehicular accident, there are many issues to be assessed. It is a difficult and taxing period for both the victims and their families. All details are important and sometimes the battle over liability can be a lengthy and frustrating one.

Case example

Here, we look at a case where the ownership of a vehicle involved in an accident was being challenged in order to determine the degree of liability between insurance companies.

In June of 2005, the plaintiff Michael Due was sitting on the tailgate of a moving pickup truck when he fell off and suffered serious injuries. The driver at the time, Russell Waters was uninsured and not the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle at the time of the accident was registered to a Daniel Curtin.

The plaintiff sought legal action against Waters and Curtin and in addition filed suit against both his and Curtin's insurance companies respectively for the uninsured coverage.

The case was settled a few years later, and though none of the parties disputed the main facts around the incident, what was in question is whether or not Daniel Curtin was legally the driver at the time of the accident; as the settlement was to be split between the two insurance companies.

According to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), the pickup and licence plates were registered to Curtin before the accident took place. Apparently he and Waters decided to exchange vehicles some time before the accident. It was an oral agreement, and both individuals considered that they owned their respective traded vehicles after the swap.

Waters however had yet to register the vehicle in his name and Curtin had yet to transfer the ownership, but it was agreed that the pickup would not be driven.

Curtin, just a few weeks after the accident, requested in writing that his insurer cancel his policy since the vehicle had been sold. He was unaware of the accident that had taken place and had only requested the cancellation because it would be expiring that month.

The motion for proving ownership of the vehicle was brought forth by Due's insurance company, and having provided the evidence, it was now up to Curtin's insurance company to respond.

Citing the facts surrounding the physical exchange of the vehicles and the intention on both parties to legally finalize the transaction, Curtin's insurance company believes that the vehicle was clearly no longer under his control or in his possession. He accepted that Waters would not drive the vehicle until the necessary documentation was organized.

The Judge agreed up to a certain point with the rebuttal but also saw that Curtin was in direct violation with the guidelines contained in the Highway Traffic Act. He did not retrieve his licence plates which is a simple enough task and his negligence to do so allowed the vehicle to be driven on the road.

While the intention was always to allow the transferral, it unfortunately did not happen in time. Having failed to comply with the simple task of retaining a number plate, the Judge ruled that Curtin and his insurance company would be held vicariously liable for the accident. It is very important to follow the necessary steps when transferring a vehicle.

Motor vehicle accidents are the source of many personal injury claims and ensuring that you are covered is an essential part to not being held liable for circumstances that are out of your control.

At Gluckstein Lawyers, our goal is to represent our clients with compassion and experience, doing all we can to ensure that they receive their rightful compensation for their injuries and pain.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in an accident, call us today for a free initial consultation.


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