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Yonge St. van attack Iawsuits face hurdles with insurance claims

If a drunk driver veered onto a sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 16, his auto insurance policy would typically pay damages awarded to the injured parties in a lawsuit.

But if the driver was found to have driven into the pedestrians intentionally — as Alek Minassian is alleged to have done with a rented van in April 2018 — the insurance providers could argue that no payout is required. Alternatively, they might offer a reduced payout of as little as $200,000 — the statutory minimum for coverage — no matter how much the driver was insured for, and that amount would be shared among the many victims.

With the first of several expected lawsuits against Minassian and the van rental company now filed with the court, experts say the victims of the Yonge St. rampage may be denied the benefits they would have received in a typical collision case.

 “While insurance policies cover most vehicular conduct, if you intentionally injure someone with your car it does not provide coverage because insurance is not intended to cover intentional criminal wrongdoing,” said personal injury lawyer Darcy Merkur.

Merkur has filed a $6-million dollar lawsuit against Minassian and the rental van company on behalf of Amir Kiumarsi, who was severely and permanently injured in the incident.

The lawsuit alleges Minassian deliberately drove into Kiumarsi and the other pedestrians, or that his negligence resulted in him driving into the pedestrians. It also alleges the rental company, Ryder Rental Truck Canada Ltd., was negligent in allowing Minassian to rent and drive the van.

Who is Alek Minassian, the man accused in the van rampage?

‘I was like, how did he get a van?’ Inside the life of Alek Minassian, the Toronto van rampage suspect no one thought capable of murder

None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been tested in court and no statements of defence have been filed. Minassian’s lawyer in the civil case did not respond to a request for comment. Minassian’s criminal case is ongoing and a trial has not yet been scheduled.

In a written statement, Ryder spokesperson Amy Federman said the company’s position — which has not been tested in court — is that Minassian used a “properly rented Ryder van” to commit “premeditated and intentional” acts.

 

Federman said Ryder follows the industry best practices for security and has cooperated with the investigation into an incident it views as “unforeseeable and senseless.”

“Ultimately, the question is, who pays for my innocent client’s damages, if anyone?” said Merkur.

Kiumarsi’s own insurance provider is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit because, if the other insurance providers only end up paying a fraction of what Kiumarsi is awarded, his own insurance could cover the rest, Merkur said.

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