Articles & Media

The Definition of "Accident" in Insurance Policies


By Erin Swift, Insurance & Risk Management

In the recent decision of Co-Operators Life Insurance Co. v. Gibbens (“Gibbens”), the Supreme Court of Canada revisited the definition of “accident” in insurance policies. Justice Binnie, held that Insureds that suffer unexpected and grave consequences from a disease do not have valid claims under accident insurance policies. In Gibbens, the Claimant contracted genital herpes, which lead to the inflammation of his spinal cord, a rare, but known complication of herpes. This caused total paralysis in the Claimant from his abdomen down. He claimed compensation under a group insurance policy on the basis that the paralysis resulted “directly and independently of all other causes from bodily injuries occasioned solely through external, violent and accidental means.” The policy did not define “accident” or “accidental means”.

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