Impact on Automotive Accident Benefits

By: Samantha L. Posluns, Associate Lawyer, Falconeri Munro Tucci LLP

On October 17, 2018, Canada’s federal Cannabis Act came into force, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis throughout the country. While many consider this a legal triumph, it is important to understand that legalization is not equivalent to an unlimited right.

While the use and possession of cannabis in general is not criminally sanctioned, each province has enacted rules and regulations that place strict parameters on the circumstances surrounding recreational use. This series of articles will examine how the province of Ontario has sought to regulate recreational cannabis use and will highlight the impact of new legislation on the legal rights of individuals, particularly in the realm of motor vehicle usage.

One of the most crucial aspects of a lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident is the ability of an injured party to access accident benefits through their insurance provider. It is important for recreational cannabis users to understand that these benefits may be limited to them as the result of new legislation under the federal Criminal Code and regulatory provincial legislation such as the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. The majority of these laws center on the detection and prosecution of individuals for impaired driving due to cannabis use.

In Ontario, automobile insurance is mandatory. As such, the provincial government has mandated standard policy terms that each insurance plan must include. This standard mandatory policy is known as the Ontario Automobile Policy (“OAP 1”). The OAP 1 strictly denies an insured person’s entitlement to income replacement benefits, non-earner benefits and other expenses if that person has been convicted of a criminal offense involving the operation of a motor vehicle. Additionally, if an injured individual brings a claim against a driver who was found to be impaired at the time of the accident, that driver’s insurer may limit policy coverage on the basis that the impaired driver was in breach of their policy conditions. Currently, there is no formal section in the OAP 1 that mentions cannabis use, however, it is clearly stated that insurers will not pay for any loss or damage sustained while an insured was under the influence of an “intoxicating substance”.

For someone that has been critically injured in a motor vehicle accident, accident benefits are imperative for funding care and rehabilitation. Access to benefits often determines future quality of life for the individual and their family. Given this, it is important for all recreational cannabis users to understand the significance of these new laws and regulations and to employ their best judgment before getting behind the wheel.

When legislation such as the OAP 1 is read in tandem with the new impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code and the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, it is clear that authorities consider high driving to be a serious offense. In our next article, this legislation will be examined in depth, as well as how cannabis intoxication will be monitored by authorities on the roads.