A person must be involved in an “accident” to be entitled to statutory accident benefits from their motor vehicle insurer. In its everyday use the word accident describes an untoward event which is not expected or designed. This seemingly simple definition takes on a more complex meaning when a person injured in an accident seeks benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (“SABS”).
There are two questions to ask when determining whether an incident is an “accident” under the SABS. First, did an intervening act cause injuries that would not be part of the ordinary use or operation of a vehicle? Second, was the use or operation of the vehicle a direct cause of the injuries?
Recent decisions by courts of various levels have helped define what an accident is, however this area of law can still be confusing. For example, a driver injured in a drive by shooting was found not to have been in an accident because the gun shots, not the car, were deemed to be the direct cause of the impairment. A passenger injured while attempting a headstand against a stripper pole inside a mobile party bus was entitled to benefits because his injuries occurred during the bus’ ordinary use. A driver who escaped an assault by driving his car away was entitled to benefits for the psychological injuries he suffered as a result of believing he drove over his assailant but not for the physical injuries suffered during the attack itself.
It is clear that this is a very fact specific area of law involving outcomes that can be difficult to predict. A personal injury lawyer can help clear up the confusion and help you, or someone you know, who has been in an accident determine whether they are eligible for any of the various benefits available under the SABS.