Is a Carjacking An “Accident”?

On February 26, 2000, Michael Downer pulled into a Scarborough gas station in his Jeep.  He left the engine on the Jeep running while he sat in the driver’s seat and separated money from his wallet to pay for gas.  When Mr. Downer looked up from his wallet, he saw 3 or four young men around his jeep.  The men began hitting Mr. Downer while pulling him out of the vehicle.  Mr. Downer put the Jeep into reverse to get away from the men.  One of the men tried to force the gear into park while Mr. Downer reversed out of the gas station and then drove off.  A short time later, he became aware that he had suffered injuries in the incident.

Mr. Downer’s insurance company brought a motion to dismiss Mr. Downer’s claim for benefits on the basis that he had not suffered his injuries in an accident.

Was the carjacking an accident?

The Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule defines an accident as “an incident in which the use or operation of an automobile directly causes an impairment.”

In the earlier decision of Amos v. ICBC, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the following two questions will determine whether an incident was an accident:

  1. Did the accident result from the ordinary and well-known activities to which automobiles are put (the “Purpose Test”)
  2. Is there a direct or proximal causal relationship between the use, ownership, or operation of the vehicle and the plaintiff’s injuries, or is the connection only incidental? (the “Causation Test” – as modified for Ontario)

The judge in Mr. Downer’s case considered the Purpose Test first.  He concluded that pulling into a gas station to purchase fuel is an activity to which all vehicles are put.  Therefore, he concluded that the accident resulted from the ordinary and well-known activities to which automobiles are put.

Turning to the Causation Test, the judge noted that the accident only needs to be a direct cause, not necessarily the direct cause.  He noted that Mr. Downer was still using the car when he suffered his injury, and that he was in the car with the engine running when he was assaulted.  He concluded that “the logical and probable inference from the facts is that the assailants were intent on taking possession” of the Jeep.  Therefore, the assault on Mr. Downer arose from his use and operation of his vehicle.

As a result, the judge concluded that Mr. Downer had been involved in an “accident” and was entitled to claim benefits.

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown

Principal Partner

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