In Ontario, an insured charged with one of the driving offences enumerated in the legislation is not entitled to statutory accident benefits. Paradoxically, upon conviction of that offence the insured is entitled to statutory accident benefits.

14. November 2003 0

Beattie v. National Frontier Insurance Co., [2003] O.J. No. 4258, Ontario Court of Appeal

Mr. Beattie was charged with dangerous driving while involved in a single motor vehicle accident in which he was severely injured. Approximately 16 months after Mr. Beattie was charged, he was convicted of dangerous driving. At the time of the accident, Mr. Beattie was insured with a standard automobile insurance policy. Mr. Beattie applied for statutory accident benefits for both the period of time that he was charged but had not been convicted of dangerous driving, and for the period of time after he was convicted for dangerous driving. Mr. Beattie’s insurer denied his claim, and Mr. Beattie commenced an action for payment. The facts were agreed upon and the matter was heard in Chambers as a special case. The chambers judge determined that section 30(4) of Ontario Regulation 403/96 (Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule made under the Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.I.8) stated that Mr. Beattie was not entitled to statutory accident benefits once he had been charged, but prior to being convicted of dangerous driving. However, section 30(4) of Ontario Regulation 403/96 clearly excludes the insurer from its obligation to pay statutory accident benefits to a person convicted of a criminal offence only for the period from when the person is charged until he or she is convicted; with the result that such a person is entitled to payment of statutory accident benefits subsequent to conviction.

The automobile insurer appealed this decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal which upheld the ruling of the chambers judge, despite the fact that the ruling ran contrary to the apparent legislative purpose of Ontario Regulation 403/96 which is to exclude an insured person injured in an automobile accident from entitlement to statutory accident benefits when the accident results from the circumstances stipulated in the regulations. The insurance company argued that the chambers judge’s interpretation of the regulation created an absurd result that could not have been intended by the legislature where an insured was not entitled to benefits when charged with a criminal offence, but would become entitled to benefits when convicted of the offence. The Court of Appeal noted that legislation is presumed to be accurate and well-drafted, thus if the words in legislation are clear they must be followed even though they may lead to a manifest absurdity. The Ontario Court of Appeal relied upon R. v. McIntosh, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 686 at 704, and upheld the chambers judge’s decision. In the result, Mr. Beattie was excluded from statutory accident benefits from the period of time that he was charged up to the period of time that he was convicted of a criminal offence. Once he had been convicted of the criminal offence, he was entitled to statutory accident benefits.

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