Motor Vehicle Accidents: Who Can You Sue?

If you or a family member have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, figuring out who you can claim compensation from can be confusing. Below is an overview of the types of compensation a lawyer can help you claim and who you can commence a lawsuit against.

Accident Benefits vs. Third Party Liability

Auto insurance policies in Alberta, like many other provinces, provide for some amount of protection for medical expenses and income loss in the event that the policyholder or a family member is involved in a car accident. This protection is available from your own insurance company regardless of who is at fault for the accident. This compensation is often referred to as “no-fault” benefits, or Section B benefits. In Alberta, income loss benefits are capped at $400 per week, or 80% of weekly pay (whichever is lower). medical expenses are capped at $50,000, though this can be extended for severe or catastrophic injuries.

However, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident at the fault of another party, and section B benefits are insufficient to cover your medical expenses, you may have grounds to recover compensation from the at fault party, either via their insurance policy, or personally, depending on the scenario.

The damages you are entitled to receive for your pain and suffering (and any out-of-pocket expenses or lost wages not covered by your own insurance company) are paid out by the at fault driver’s insurance company upon settlement, whereas your medical treatments are covered by your section B benefits under your own auto insurance policy.
What Parties Can I Recover From and How?

An At Fault Driver

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident involving another vehicle, where the other driver is at least partly at fault, you can commence a third party claim against that driver, in negligence. The driver’s auto insurance policy (assuming that they have one), will cover that driver’s defence in any legal proceedings and pay out any compensation awarded to you either via settlement or trial, up to the limits of the policy.

A Municipality

If you believe that your accident was caused by unsafe road conditions, poorly maintained roads in bad weather, a dangerous construction zone or poor signage, it is worth investigating with a lawyer whether it makes sense to name the city or town as a defendant in your legal action. Municipalities carry liability coverage that covers this type of situation.

A Company and/or An Employee

Often, where a driver is driving as part of his or her employment duties, the appropriate party to sue is the employer, who will often be vicariously liable for the employee’s actions. However, most of the time, to be safe, both the company and the employee will be named in the action. This is because it is sometimes unclear whether the employee’s actions occurred “in the course of employment” or not (for example, where an employee is driving a company vehicle without the employer’s permission, or where the employee is running an errand unassociated with work).

The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program

You may have had the misfortune of being involved in a hit and run accident, where the responsible driver cannot be identified, even with investigation. Or, you may have been involved in an accident with a driver who has been driving without insurance (and, who has insufficient assets to pay the victim’s compensation). In such cases, relief is still available. The province’s Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program retains a fund for victims of such drivers, which can cover compensation for losses up to $200,000 per accident. Unfortunately, if multiple parties are injured in a singular serious accident, and total losses exceed this amount, the funds must be distributed proportionally.

A Homeowner

In certain situations, you may be able to obtain compensation from a homeowner’s policy for losses that occur on someone else’s property. You may have an accident that is caused by the homeowner’s negligence, such as an improperly maintained property or a dog that has run loose, which the homeowner’s insurance policy will respond to. Of course, proving that an accident was caused in this way, or the extent of responsibility attributable to a pet owner, can sometimes be difficult.

Homeowner’s policies may, in some cases, also respond to accident caused by a bicyclist if that bicyclist has a home insurance policy. However, if he or she does not have home insurance, a cyclist who is responsible for an accident can only be claimed against personally.

Examples of Recovery in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

There are plenty examples of persons injured in motor vehicle accidents recovering compensation above and beyond the amount available to them in no-fault medical benefits, which is obtained by bringing legal action against at-fault parties.

Steele v. Burgos, 2010 ABQB 327 (CanLII) is a good example of a case where the plaintiff was able to name multiple parties in a lawsuit and establish liability against each of them. The plaintiff in this case was a child pedestrian who crossed the street outside of school, emerging from between two parked school buses, and was struck by a speeding oncoming vehicle. The accident was caused by a variety of factors: the school bus drivers failing to follow protocol with respect to ensuring the child’s safety; the speeding oncoming vehicle; and the municipality’s failure to implement a “no parking” plan that was contained in the original design for the road where the accident took place.

The total amount of this claim was substantial, and over $4,000,000 was awarded. Had the plaintiff only sued one party, the full amount may not have been recoverable, due to insurance policy limits. Further, the plaintiff’s ability to recover from the municipality and the school bus company (and its drivers) was especially important as the speeding vehicle driver was not carrying insurance.

Mustafi v All-Pitch Roofing Ltd, 2014 ABCA 265 (CanLII) is an example of an employer being held vicariously liable for its employee’s driving activities, even where the employee did not have consent to be driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. This is a complex case, where, at trial, the plaintiff was only able to recover from the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program, rather than the employer (as the employee was, in law, driving uninsured). However, on appeal the Court held that the employer was vicariously liable for the negligent employee’s actions as the employer had generally consented to the vehicle being in the employee’s possession.

Consult Braithwaite Boyle Accident Injury Lawyers

In Edmonton, Red Deer or Calgary, an experienced accident lawyer can meet with you to find out what happened and discuss your case with you in strict confidentiality. Our lawyers can identify who may be found liable in your motor vehicle accident and the laws which apply. For your free no-obligation initial consultation, call us to arrange an appointment at 1-800-661-4902.

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