A judge overthrows the SAAQ in an unprecedented decision

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A judge overturns the SAAQ in an unprecedented decision

The notion of “use of the automobile” marked out by a delicate decision of the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec.

The notion of “use of automobile” marked by a delicate decision of the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec.

Voluntarily immobilizing your vehicle on the tracks to end your life can be considered a car accident under the law, the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec has just ruled. Such a situation may therefore be eligible for compensation by the Société de l'assurance automobile (SAAQ). Lawyer Marc Bellemare sees it as “a major precedent”.

The decision rendered last September by administrative judge Christine Côté is final and without the possibility of appeal. The magistrate rejected the conclusions of a review carried out in 2019 by the SAAQ, which must now compensate the widow and the five children of a man who died more than four years ago.

< p class="e-p">The case dates back more precisely to the spring of 2018.

One morning, the man in question got behind the wheel of his car and parked not far from a level crossing located in the greater Quebec City region. As a train approached from the driver's side, the man moved his vehicle forward and again stopped, this time directly on the railroad.

A few seconds later, the vehicle was hit by the train, resulting in the death of Mr., can we read in the decision. He died instantly.

In his report, the coroner concluded a violent death by suicide. The voluntary nature of the gesture was not questioned in court.

People who need help should call 911 or call 911. contact the following organizations:

  • Let's Talk Suicide Canada, 1-833-456-4566 (phone), text 4:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET: 45645
  • https://suicide .ca
  • In Quebec: 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553), text message: 1 855 957-5353
  • Youth, I Listen: 1 800 668-6868
  • Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Rather, the notion of automobile use was at the heart of the debate in this case. Twice the SAAQ refused to compensate the relatives of the deceased on the pretext that the event did not meet the criteria of a road accident.

Since the man was driving his car at the time of the events, they nevertheless believed they were entitled to a death benefit under the Automobile Insurance Act. They were dismissed a first time and then at the review stage.

Before the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec, the SAAQ explained that the driver had, according to it, stopped driving. x27;use his car by immobilizing it shortly before impact. The use of the vehicle being interrupted, it could not be an automobile accident within the meaning of the Act.

The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec refused to compensate relatives of the man who took his own life.

According to the SAAQ lawyer, the car was only the physical place of death, unrelated to the fate of its owner. If the gentleman had used a weapon or if he had been standing on the rails, the consequences would have been the same, writes Justice Côté in her summary of the arguments presented by the representatives of the Société.

Still according to the SAAQ, it is not enough for a vehicle to be staged to conclude that it is necessarily an automobile accident within the meaning of the law.

Judge Côté did not accept this interpretation and instead agreed with the plea of ​​Me Marc Bellemare, who represented the family against the SAAQ in this case. According to the former Minister of Justice, the use of the automobile in this case was indisputable, even if the man stopped on the railway tracks and even if it was the train that hit the vehicle.

The judge agrees.

The facts, as reported [by the] witnesses, show that the use of the automobile never ceased before the collision and was therefore still in progress at the time the damage occurred, even if the vehicle was briefly immobilized, she ruled, citing the testimony of the locomotive driver.

“The Tribunal is of the opinion that an interval of one to five seconds between the moment the car stops on the railway and the impact does not interrupt the use of the automobile.

— Excerpt from the decision of Judge Christine Côté

Me Marc Bellemare believes that a major precedent has just been set by the decision handed down by Judge Christine Côté.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Me Bellemare says he has witnessed, during his career, other voluntary actions that have taken place on the road network. Most of the time, the SAAQ will compensate you without any difficulty, he says. At that time, it happens on public roads, the vehicle is in motion, there is no problem.

In events more in gray area, as in the case of a car immobilized on a railway track, the SAAQ tends to conclude that driving behavior does not fall within the expected use of the automobile, or that x27;it is not an accident under the law.

A judge overthrows the SAAQ in an unprecedented decision

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Other cases were denied without challenge from relatives. People don't necessarily have the strength to move on. There are also people who take the SAAQ at its word.

The decision just rendered by Judge Côté, he believes, serves as a precedent and sets out this notion of use. . The link between car use and harm is not fortuitous. There is a plausible, logical and sufficiently close link between the use of the automobile and the death of the gentleman, is it written in the court decision.

“The vehicle doesn't have to be moving for it to be used, that's it which is important to remember. »

— Marc Bellemare, lawyer

Even perpetrators of illegal behavior on the road can be compensated by the SAAQ, recalls Marc Bellemare.

Marc Bellemare recalls in passing that the Automobile Insurance Act, such as drafted, provides no exclusion for willful acts. What the SAAQ did not deny in court.

The Act provides compensation for anyone who is injured as a result of an automobile accident, regardless of fault. The principle is known as no fault.

In addition to suicide while driving, Me Bellemare cites the controversial examples of certain drivers, the car surfing, people who cause criminal acts, attempted murder, criminal negligent driving, eligible for compensation.

Whether the driving behavior is reckless or not, deliberate or accidental, legal or illegal, it does not matter at the present time to obtain compensation, according to Marc Bellemare. What is important is that the victim, at the time of the impact, was using his vehicle.

Whether we are from Agree or not with the decision, Me Bellemare agrees that a broader debate on the Automobile Insurance Act is behind this case.

The question of whether it is normal to compensate regardless of behavior behind the wheel may, according to him, arise.

The only way would be for the government to change the law to provide for exceptional cases which could be these. There is a social debate in this. In the meantime, the compensation scheme must apply rigorously and in the same way for everyone, according to the lawyer.

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