Does Company Car Insurance Provide Coverage Before Employee Arrives At Work?

Access to company cars can be a great work perk for some, providing employees with access to a vehicle for doing their job, and in some cases, driving places outside of work. But that is not the only benefit of a work vehicle. As seen in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, work vehicles, and more specifically the insurance policies that come with them, can provide benefits beyond just access to a vehicle.

The accident

The plaintiff was a pedestrian, and was struck by a car driven by the defendant on the morning of September 25, 2014. The plaintiff suffered severe physical injuries as a result of the accident. It occurred because the defendant had stolen the car and was being pursued by the police. He struck the plaintiff while trying to avoid capture.

At the time of the action, the plaintiff’s husband worked for a flower company as a delivery van driver. He was the company’s sole driver and the van was available to him for deliveries on a daily basis while working. The company’s automobile insurance policy included third party liability of $1,000,000 and a OPCF 44R Family Protection Change Form, which included a provision providing coverage for both the employee and the spouse if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident even if they are not in the (or any) vehicle at the time of the accident. The provision was written as follows,

“1.6 “insured person” means…

(b) if the named insured is a corporation, an unincorporated association, partnership, sole proprietorship or other entity, any officer, employee or partner of the named insured for whose regular use the described automobile is provided and his or her spouse and any dependent relative of either, while…

(iii) not an occupant of an automobile, who is struck by an automobile…”

Did the insurance cover the plaintiff at the time of the accident?

The court explained that under both points in the policy,

“the crucial question in determining whether (the plaintiff) is an ‘insured’ under the Policy is whether (the employer) had made its delivery van available to (the plaintiff’s husband) for his regular use at the time that (the plaintiff) was struck by the car driven by (the defendant). If so, (the insurer’s) coverage applies under the terms of the Policy and OPCF 44R form to the injuries sustained by (the plaintiff) in the accident; if not, the Policy does not provide coverage for (the plaintiff’s) injuries.”

The employer opened for business at 9:00 am the day of the accident. While the plaintiff’s husband had a flexible schedule, it was understood he would be at work by 9:30. During business hours, the husband was not expected to seek permission from anyone to take the keys for the van and use it.

While the precise time of the accident was not known, the court found it was likely sometime around 9:30. The plaintiff’s husband recalled receiving a phone call about the accident after he had arrived at work. The insurer used this evidence to argue that the accident had therefore occurred before the plaintiff’s husband was at work.

The court pointed out that a number of work vehicle-related decisions found that employees driving work vehicles after signing off for the day were being driven on non-employment time. However, in this case the accident did occur during business hours. While the plaintiff’s husband was not at work yet, the employer had opened for the day. The van was therefore available to him at the time of the accident, and he could have arrived for work at 9:00. The court explained that while the plaintiff’s husband “did not use the van for personal use, or sleep in it, or drive it outside of work hours, he had full, discretionary access to the van when the employer’s shop was open for business. In this sense, the insured vehicle was being provided for his use at the time that Ms. Murphy was struck, even though he was not in it and was a few minutes away from work.”

As a result the court found that the insurance did cover the accident.

The personal injury lawyers at Derfel Injury Law can help you or your loved ones in the event that you or them have been injured in a motor vehicle accident (or other type of accident). We strive to achieve the best possible resolution to our clients’ issues, including those relating to coverage disputes. Call us at 416.847.3580 or contact us online to schedule a visit at the individual office closest to you.