Imagine the following situation: You are an Ontario resident making a road trip to Michigan. While you are on the road in Michigan, you encounter an unruly driver – let’s refer to him as Driver A. Another nearby car, driven by Driver B, swerves to avoid the dangerous driver, but instead he crashes into you. Now, you are taking legal action against Driver B in order to pay for the rehabilitation costs you incurred in Ontario following the accident. This is the first part of your claim. It becomes complex when Driver B claims that the accident was the fault of Driver A, who remains unidentifiable. As a result, according to the unidentified motorist provisions in your insurance policy, you must also take action against your own insurer. This is the second part of your claim, and it must be heard in Ontario. The question is: should the first part of your claim be heard in the Ontario courts or the Michigan courts?
If you think the answer is not straightforward, you are correct. This situation presented itself in May 2009, when a woman from Hamilton visited Michigan. In her case, the Supreme Court ruled that the action should be heard in Michigan, since more witnesses were in Michigan. The decision was later overruled in the Court of Appeal, which pointed out that the verdicts could contradict if each part of the claim was heard in a different country.
Ultimately, however, the location of the hearing made no difference. This is because of the combination of the Insurance Act and Ontario’s Statutory Accidents Benefits Schedule. According to the Act, an insurer is liable up to the minimum limit set by the province, state, or jurisdiction of the accident if those limits are higher than the limits in the policy. Meanwhile, according to the Benefits Schedule, the insurer must pay accident benefits properly payable if the accident occurred in another province, state or jurisdiction within Canada or the USA. So all in all, we can see that the location of the accident makes no difference, as long as it is within the borders of the USA or Canada!