Motor Vehicle Accident with an Expired Licence – What Happens?

What happens if you’re in a motor vehicle accident and your driver’s licence has expired? Does your automobile insurance coverage apply to your situation or not?

  • When it comes to the courts, the answer is a mixed bag; it depends on the facts of each case.

In one recent case, a judge sided with a woman who had failed to renew her driver’s licence because the renewal notice came in the same envelope as the one reminding her to renew her plate sticker. The judge awarded her a court order forcing her insurance company to provide the coverage they’d denied.

Where the Responsibility Lies

In general, the court recognizes that the Ministry of Transportation will mail notice of your licence renewal with advance notice. However, mistakes and omissions do sometimes occur. There are many instances where a claim stemming from an automobile accident where the party was driving with an expired licence and coverage is automatically denied. Insurers, in other words, generally take the view that final responsibility rests with the insured person/licence holder.

In a 2006 decision (Lévis (City) v Tétrault, 2006 SCC 12), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it “depends on the circumstances surrounding the relevant offence. That is, an individual can make out this defence if he or she can show a reasonable misapprehension of facts or reasonable care with respect to the offence with which he or she is charged” (Kozel at para 21).

Imperfect Compliance or Non-Compliance with a Condition Precedent?

Basically, in denying such a claim, the insurance company is claiming that you are not in compliance with one of the conditions of the insurance contract, namely being an eligible driver. The legal principle involves the concepts of ‘imperfect compliance’ vs ‘non-compliance with a condition precedent’.

What’s the distinction? Basically, it’s the seriousness of the breach. If it’s something that happened incidentally rather than intentionally, then it’s viewed as constituting imperfect compliance, and therefore the contract is deemed to be still valid. In a 1998 case, the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that, “While the provision is a condition in name, the appellant pointed to no language in the contract stressing that the insurance coverage was conditioned on the claimant being authorized to drive.”

Let Us Help

When decisions are made on a case by case basis, it’s clear you need expert legal advice. When you’ve been in an accident, you’ve got a lot on your mind – let us help you sort through the issues.

  • Contact the experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers at Petrillo Law today for a free consultation.

We Focus On Car & Motor Vehicle Accidents

Petrillo Law has been providing competent, caring legal advice to car accident victims in Mississauga, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and across Ontario for over 20 years. We can evaluate a case to determine whether it meets the provincial threshold required to start a lawsuit as well as represent injured people who have been denied accident benefits by their own insurance company.

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