Auto Insurance as Social Contract: Solving Automobile Insurance Coverage Disputes Through a Public Regulatory Framework


  • Erik S. Knutsen



Automobile insurance in Canada is a product with a decidedly public purpose, a social contract. The provincial governments are heavily involved in the creation, regulation, drafting, and operation of the automobile insurance regime in any particular province. This public flavour to Canadian automobile insurance necessarily should affect the way one assesses the availability of insurance coverage in accident situations involving injuries or death. Understanding the limits of automobile insurance coverage for injuries or death in any given accident situation in Canada should be an exercise of interpretation akin to discerning the meaning of a public regulatory instrument with a public purpose, like a statute. This article proposes a novel interpretive framework for Canadian automobile insurance coverage disputes, one which accounts for the public purpose of such insurance and which searches for the true intent behind the language in the coveragegranting instruments. The framework also prompts an assessment of coverage decision consequences in a public compensatory regime and, in instances of coverage ambiguity, solves those ambiguities through basic tools of consumer protection.

Author Biography

Erik S. Knutsen

LL.M. (Harvard), Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University. The author would like to sincerely thank Craig Brown, Jeff Stempel, and two anonymous reviewers for ideas and insights, as well as Natalia Rodriguez, Law '10 and Jerri Phillips, Law '12 for their superb research assistance.