December 5, 2018

The 2006 census by Statistics Canada confirmed that 20.1% of commuters in the Ottawa-Gatineau region use public transit to get to work. Knowing that a significant percentage of the population uses public transportation on a daily basis, it is important for individuals to know what happens if they are ever injured while using public transit.

In 2011, important changes were made to the Insurance Act with respect to claims made by passengers who are injured in public transit vehicle accidents. Firstly, a passenger injured in a public transit vehicle that has not collided with an automobile or other object is no longer entitled to claim accident benefits under their automobile insurance policies.  Moreover, the owner and driver of the public transit vehicle will no longer be considered “protected defendants” under section 267.5 of the Act which provides certain protections to the defendant in terms of a potential law suit against them.

Therefore, when there is no collision or crash, any claims for injuries against a public transit authority would be covered and addressed within the tort system through a lawsuit. The plaintiff will not need to establish a threshold injury and there will be no damages deductible as with other motor vehicle accident claims.  On the other hand, when a passenger is injured on public transit due to a collision, the accident will be treated as a typical motor vehicle accident.

These two situations can be illustrated with a simple fact pattern. For example, an individual is on a bus waiting to get off at the next stop, the bus slams on the breaks due to a car changing lanes, and the individual falls causing injuries. If there is no contact with the other vehicle, the individual would not be entitled to claim accident benefits as a result of the incident. The individual would need to proceed to bring a claim against the bus driver/bus owner for any damages. Comparatively, if there is contact with the other vehicle, the individual would be able to claim accident benefits, and potentially then bring a claim against the bus driver/bus owner in certain circumstances.

The 2011 changes to the Insurance Act were most likely made to prevent public transit passengers from making applications for accident benefits in situations where there is sudden breaking but no collision with another vehicle or object. The new scheme will likely save transit authorities and insurers a significant amount of money each year by preventing accident benefits payouts in circumstances that do not involve a collision.

For more information on our personal injury services and practice area, please contact Caroline Failes, Partner, Head of the Personal Injury Law Group at [email protected] or 613-566-2849. You can also visit