In Gray v. Intact Insurance Company, the Ontario Licence Appeal Tribunal made clear that merely seeing or hearing an accident does not make one a participant in that accident.
The case in question involved an incident that occurred on August 14, 2019. While the applicant was inside her home, a car collided with her neighbour's residence. When the applicant and her partner went outside to investigate, they witnessed the aftermath of the collision and saw the car inside the residence. Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and instructed the applicant and other witnesses to vacate the premises. Unfortunately, a natural gas explosion occurred, engulfing the house that was struck by the car and causing damage to neighbouring homes, including the applicant's home.
The applicant claimed that she sustained psychological injuries as a result of the accident and filed a claim for accident benefits with her auto insurer, Intact. However, Intact denied coverage and argued that the natural gas explosion did not satisfy the purpose or causation tests, and that the applicant's psychological impairments were the result of the aftermath of the car accident, not the accident itself.
The Adjudicator examined whether the applicant was an "insured person" in accordance with section 3 of the SABS, and the claimant was required to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that she was involved in an accident. The applicant argued that she was in fact involved in the accident due to the destruction of her residence, property, and vehicle. However, the Adjudicator determined that the applicant was not directly involved in the accident because she was not present during the collision itself, was only present during its aftermath, and did not sustain physical injuries.
Ultimately, the Tribunal determined that the applicant was not involved in the accident and therefore was not entitled to accident benefits for her alleged psychological impairments.
Gray serves as a reminder that the potential for physical harm does not necessarily indicate that a person is involved in an accident. While accidents can have far-reaching consequences, including psychological impairments, being a witness to an accident does not necessarily entitle one to Accident Benefits.
See Gray v Intact Insurance, 2023 CanLII 133 (ON LAT).
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