Definition of "Struck by" or "Hit by" in Auto Insurance

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has decided that coverage under one's own policy for being "struck by" or "hit by" an unidentified automobile includes walking into an unnoticed steel pole protruding from a parked truck. Lewis v. Economical Insurance Group, [2010] O.J. No. 3158 (C.A.).

The facts are described as follows: "On a spring day in 2003, Bonnie Lewis walked out of a variety store and struck her head on a steel pole protruding from a truck parked the wrong way on the street in front of the store. The pole was unmarked, grey and nearly invisible. Ms. Lewis did not see the pole until she hit it. The pole struck her above her right eye near her temple. She fell to the ground, unconscious. She suffered a serious head injury, which has left her cognitively impaired."

Since the truck could not be identified, Ms. Lewis sued her own insurance company for damages for personal injuries. Both her automobile policy and the OPCF Family Protection Endorsement, which was additional insurance she had purchased, provided coverage for personal injuries resulting from an accident involving an unidentified or uninsured automobile. As Ms. Lewis was not an occupant of an automobile when she was injured, she was entitled to coverage only if she was "struck by" or "hit by" an unidentified automobile.

A motions judge concluded that Ms. Lewis was not "struck" or "hit by" the truck, or the pole that protruded from it, because the truck was not moving at the time. Instead, it was Ms. Lewis who struck or hit the pole.

The Court of Appeal concluded otherwise and finds that she is entitled to coverage.

Laskin J.A. added that "my interpretation of these words [struck or hit by] would not open the floodgates to injury claims by persons who walk into unidentified parked cars. This is a case about coverage, not liability or negligence. If the owner or driver of a parked car was not negligent, the claimant would have no legal entitlement to damages."

Whether the plaintiff is now entitled to damages "depends on her being able to prove that the unidentified owner or driver of the truck was negligent."

It seems that the Court is saying that if the plaintiff is not entitled to damages then it should be determined on the issue of negligence and not coverage. Coverage should be interpreted broadly whereas negligence must be proven strictly.

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