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01 Mar 2020

Insurers dispute priority of coverage when car strikes man climbing into his vehicle.

by Admin
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Liberty Mutual Insurance v. Intact Insurance, 2019 NLCA 76

On April 13, 2017, Mervin Bridle was standing behind his employer's vehicle, a large SUV, loading equipment into the trunk.  Mr. Bridle heard another vehicle moving behind him and turned to see a Chevrolet Silverado coming towards him in reverse.  In a desperate attempt to avoid being struck, Mr. Bridle tried to jump into the trunk of his employer’s vehicle.  Tragically, Mr. Bridle’s legs were crushed between the two vehicles, resulting in amputation of both of his legs above the knee.

Both the employer’s vehicle and the Chevrolet Silverado carried Section B no fault insurance benefits.  Intact Insurance insured Mr. Bridle’s employer’s vehicle and Liberty Mutual Insurance insured the Chevrolet Silverado.    

Intact and Liberty applied to the Court for a determination as to which insurance policy was responsible to pay Mr. Bridle’s Section B benefits.  Pursuant to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Automobile Insurance Act, when the occupant of a vehicle is injured, that vehicle’s insurer is primarily responsible to pay the injured person’s Section B benefits.  Alternatively, if the injured person is a pedestrian, the insurer of the vehicle that struck him is primarily responsible to pay the Section B benefits.  The applications judge determined Mr. Bridle was not an occupant of his employer's vehicle at the time of the accident.  Mr. Bridle was loading the vehicle’s trunk at the time, he was not entering or getting into the vehicle.  Therefore, Liberty was primarily responsible to pay Mr. Bridle’s Section B benefits. 

Liberty appealed.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.  The applications judge failed to consider Mr. Bridle's testimony regarding his actions immediately prior to the collision.  Directly before the collision, Mr. Bridle said he was trying to jump into the vehicle.  Because Mr. Bridle was injured while trying to enter the vehicle, he was an “occupant” under the Act.  Thus, Intact was primarily responsible to pay Mr. Bridle’s Section B benefits.

You can read Liberty Mutual Insurance v. Intact Insurance, 2019 NLCA 76 here.