January 6, 2021 by David Gambrill
Ontario’s Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) has denied accident benefits to a claimant who said she had been injured in an auto collision, finding that the claimant could not prove she was actually in the car when the accident happened.
Maxine Dawkins claimed to have been injured in an auto accident on Dec. 27, 2018. She applied for accident benefits to TD General Insurance Company under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefit Schedule.
On the night of the collision, Dawkins told the tribunal, she was the passenger in the front seat of a vehicle driven by her friend Akeem Pope. The backseat passengers included Destiny Homanchuk and her two children, who were then two and five years old.
The purpose of their journey on that evening was to go pick up food. Hawkins maintained that on their way home from running their errand, they were involved in an accident and she sustained injuries as a result.
TD Insurance argued that Dawkins’ story simply wasn’t credible. The insurer said Dawkins wasn’t entitled to benefits because she wasn’t even in the car at the time. TD noted that Pope did not appear before the tribunal to back up Dawkins’ story despite receiving a summons issued by Dawkins’ counsel. TD also pointed out numerous discrepancies between Dawkins’ version of events and the testimony given by others in examinations under oath.
LAT member Rebecca Hines found in favour of TD.
“I have drawn a negative inference from the fact that [Akeem Pope] was summonsed by the applicant [Dawkins] to testify at the hearing yet he did not attend,” Hines wrote in her decision, released in mid-December. “No explanation was provided by [Dawkins] for his absence.
“In addition, the applicant did not summons [Destiny Homanchuk] (the other occupant in the vehicle) or the police officer who attended the scene of the accident as witnesses. In my opinion, this was a mistake. Since credibility is at the core of this dispute, corroborating evidence is key.”
Among her arguments before the LAT, Dawkins said she must have been in the car at the time, because otherwise it did not make sense for Homanchuk to have been in the back seat with her children while leaving the front passenger seat empty. Hines noted in her decision that it’s entirely conceivable for a mother to ride in the back seat with her small children while leaving the front seat unoccupied.
So where was Dawkins at the time of the collision? The LAT decision does not say. Ultimately, Hines agreed with the TD’s explanation for why Dawkins would have claimed she was in the vehicle when she actually wasn’t.
“I…agree with [TD Insurance] that [Dawkins] had a motive for being dishonest about being an occupant in the vehicle, as in the six months prior to the accident she was unemployed and was receiving Ontario Works,” Hines wrote. “In her [examination under oath], she provided information about her monthly expenses which unfortunately was not covered by the amount of money she was receiving each month. Therefore, I find the applicant had a financial motivation in reporting that she was in an accident as she could claim accident benefits.”
Feature photo courtesy of iStock.ca/Naked King