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Individuals Injured on Public Transit Vehicles Take Note – You May Not Be Entitled to Accident Benefits
Those injured on public transit vehicles need to be aware of Ontario’s Bill 173, Better Tomorrow for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2011. On May 12, 2011, Bill 173 came into force, bringing with it sections 224(1), 267.5(6.1), and 268(1.1) of the Insurance Act. These sections greatly change how injuries sustained on public transit vehicles are dealt with.
A public transit vehicle includes any vehicle which is used to transport members of the public where there is a charge for the transportation and where the transportation is done on behalf of a municipality or local board. School buses, ambulances, and transportation dedicated to disabled individuals are not considered public transit.
Often referred to as “no crash, no cash,” these new sections deny accident victims access to accident benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule if they are injured on a public transit vehicle which did not collide with another vehicle or object. Access to accident benefits by these individuals is terminated by s. 268(1.1). Essentially, individuals injured as a result of slip and falls and individuals who are injured when a public transit vehicle makes a sudden start or stop are no longer entitled to make a claim for accident benefits.
Without access to accident benefits, the only recourse for these individuals is to bring a tort action against the driver and owner of the public transit vehicle to recover damages. This means that these accident victims are no longer able to immediately access funds to assist with immediate medical needs through an accident benefits insurer, and are now required to engage in the slower, more costly process of litigation. However, in addition to removing access to accident benefits for these accident victims, Bill 173 also removed some of the barriers faced by these individuals in bringing a tort action against the owner and driver of a public transit vehicle.
Under s. 267(6.1), the owner and driver of a public transit vehicle are removed from the “protected defendant” category. This is a positive change for these accident victims and means that an individual injured under these circumstances is no longer required to meet the threshold of having sustained a “permanent serious disfigurement; or permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental, or psychological function” to recover damages for pain and suffering and health care expenses.  In addition, the deductible of $30,000.00 which is generally applied to damages for pain and suffering awards under $100,000.00 is not applicable to these claims.
Whether or not these changes prove to ultimately benefit or harm accident victims who sustain injuries involving public transit vehicles is yet to be seen.
 Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. I.8, s. 224(1).
 Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. I.8, s. 267.5(3) and (5).