Insurance Companies are always looking for reasons to deny insurance coverage to their own clients or to reduce the amount that they have to pay out.
An Ontario judge recently resolved an interesting case (O’Connell v The Personal). Kristopher was 23 years old when his girlfriend Jessica, who was also 23 years old, asked Kristopher if she could borrow his car. Kristopher said yes.
Jessica got into an accident with Kristopher’s car on highway 417. Kristopher’s insurance company refused to pay. Why? Because every insurance policy in Ontario states that the owner of a car, in this case Kristopher, has no insurance coverage if he permits another person to operate his vehicle when that person, in this case Kristopher’s girlfriend Jessica, is not authorized by law to operate the vehicle.
The problem was that Jessica was not fully licensed – she had a G1 licence and she was driving alone and on a 400 series highway. With a G1 licence in Ontario Jessica was not allowed to drive on a 400 series highway and was not permitted to drive without a fully licenced driver beside her.
Kristopher knew that his girlfriend Jessica had a driver’s license but he didn’t know it was a G1. – both the G1 and a regular Ontario license look the same. Jessica was embarrassed that she was 23 years old and still was not fully licensed and so never told Kristopher that her license was only a G1. They had only been dating for 5 months.
The judge decided that Kristopher was entitled to rely on and trust his girlfriend and that Kristopher believed that his girlfriend was fully licenced and that Kristopher’s belief was based upon reasonable grounds. Kristopher had seen his girlfriend drive and he had seen her produce a driver’s license for identification when she was entering clubs.
This is a very useful decision and it tells us that we should be very careful about who we allow to borrow our car. The law of Ontario is that the owner of the vechicle is responsible for the the conduct of the driver – unless of course the car is taken without the consent of the owner – in which case there is no responsibility – and also no insurance coverage for the actions of the driver.