Ontario Policy Change Forms (OPCF) allow a person purchasing a car insurance policy to change, add, or reduce the amount of coverage. A common policy endorsement Ontarian’s consider is the Family Protection Coverage contemplated on the OPCF-44R. This coverage protects you or a “dependent relative” to the same limits as your third-party liability coverage if you or a “dependent relative” are involved in an accident caused by someone else who carries less insurance, no insurance, or is unidentified.
Who constitutes a “dependent relative?” The relevant section of the OPCF-44R endorsements states:
1.2 “dependent relative” means
(a) a person who is principally dependent for financial support upon the named insured or his or her spouse, and who is
(i) under the age of 18 years;
(ii) 18 years or over and is mentally or physically incapacitated;
(iii) 18 years or over and in full time attendance at a school, college or university;
(b) a relative of the named insured or of his or her spouse, who is principally dependent on the named insured or his or her spouse for financial support;
(c) a relative of the named insured or of his or her spouse, who resides in the same dwelling premises as the named insured; and
(d) a relative of the named insured or of his or her spouse, while an occupant of the described automobile, a newly acquired automobile, or a temporary substitute automobile, as defined in the Policy.
There have been many discussions at the courts with regard to the interpretation of this definition. Section 1.2(a) and Section 1.2(b) require the relative to be “principally dependent” on the named insured for financial support, whereas Section 1.2(c) seemingly does not have that same restriction. Section 1.2(c) only asks that the relative of the named insured reside “in the same dwelling premises” to be eligible for liability coverage.
This interpretation is affirmed in Gardiner v. MacDonald Estate (2015), ONSC 227. In this case, Ben Gardiner was a passenger in the backseat of an SUV when a tragic car accident occurs. The driver and other passengers die. Ben’s mother has an auto insurance policy that includes the OPCF-44R endorsement. Ben brings the proceedings against the insurer for coverage under the OPCF-44R.
Ben was an adult living at home with his mother for the majority of time following his graduation from high school. During his second year of university at Carleton University, he shared a two-bedroom apartment off campus with other students and visited his mother’s residence about twice a month. He did not pay room or board to his mother and was financially subsidized by her.
The Superior Court interpreted s.1.2(c) to mean that coverage is provided “to relatives residing with the named insured without proof of financial dependency. Provided a relative can prove that he or she is residing with the named insured and otherwise meets the requirements of the provisions, no inquiry into financial dependence is necessary.”
This means that, even if you are not financially dependent on a relative who has the OPCF-44R endorsement, you may still be eligible for access to their liability coverage if you live with them.
There may still be circumstances where you are not entitled to liability coverage despite being a dependent relative. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact our team at JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LL.P for a free consultation.