Michigan attorneys with Canadian clients injured in Michigan car accidents should be aware of recent ruling from Court of Appeals
Want to see a bunch of smart lawyers get confused at the same time? Start talking about the interplay of what happens when visitors from Canada get injured in car accidents in Michigan. I’ve represented a number of people from Canada who travel across the border into Michigan for work, shopping, or a vacation, and become injured in a car accident. When the motor vehicle accident happens on Michigan soil, sometimes lawyers on both sides of the border aren’t sure what happens next.
So today I want to write about an important new case so that attorneys can better represent car accident victims from Canada:
Michigan attorneys representing Canadian citizens who have been injured in a Michigan auto accident need to know about an important “inadequately insured motorist” ruling from the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
In a unanimous three-justice opinion in Roque v. Pilot Insurance Company, the court concluded that a Canadian citizen who was injured by a negligent Michigan driver has 12 months from the date “‘when he has a body of evidence accumulated that would give him a “reasonable chance” of persuading a judge that his claim’” exceeds Michigan’s minimum liability limit, which is $20,000. (See MCL 500.3009(1))
The court was interpreting Section 17 of Canada’s OPCF 44, the Family Protection Endorsement, which provides:
“Every action or proceeding against the insurer for recovery [of inadequately insured motorist benefits] shall be commenced within 12 months of the date that the eligible claimant or his or her representative knew or ought to have known that the quantum of claims with respect to an insured person exceeded the minimum limits for motor vehicle liability insurance in the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred, but this requirement is not a bar to an action which is commenced within 2 years of the date of the accident.”
In handing down its “body of evidence” interpretation of OPCF 44, Section, 17, the Court of Appeal for Ontario rejected the following arguments:
- The court said the limitation period for a Canadian citizen filing an “inadequately insured motorist” claim does not begin to run only after “the plaintiff’s damages have been quantified by settlement or judgment.” The court determined it was possible to determine the “inadequately insured” status of at an at-fault Michigan driver prior to settlement or judgment.
- Knowing with certainty “that the quantum of [the plaintiff’s claim] is greater than the tortfeasor’s insurance coverage” is not required to start the running of the limitations period. Instead, the court emphasized, the legal standard is when a car accident victim “knew or ought to have known” that his or her damages exceeded the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.