During the past three decades, I have investigated a number of claims many that I will never forget. This is one of those stories. I was specifically chosen by the auto insurer of a couple who lost their five year old daughter in a motor vehicle collision to meet with them to discuss the first party benefits available under the Ontario Automobile Policy; in this case, Funeral and Death Benefits.
My instructions were to inform them of the Funeral Benefits available to them but the primary reason for my meeting was to diplomatically explore which parent their daughter was “principally dependent on” as defined in the Ontario SABS for the purpose of determining which parent was entitled to Death Benefits.
After arriving and being greeted by the father, I was escorted into their kitchen. As I entered the kitchen, I observed a number of photographs of the two young sisters on the refrigerator. The mother came out at this point and we discussed the photos briefly before sitting down to begin my interview. This wasn’t an easy task. We gradually began the conversation about the tragic fatal collision. It is the circumstances of the loss, not the claim itself, that stands out in my mind.
This family of four who attend church in their small Ontario town every Sunday had just exited the church with the rest of the congregation following the service as they did every weekend. It was a beautiful spring day. Minutes before the collision, they had walked down the front steps of their church and were standing on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps. This sidewalk parallels a busy road.
Suddenly, the five year old daughter who it was later discovered had seen someone across the street she knew, ran out between two parked cars, into the street, and was instantly struck and killed by a pickup truck that was passing by at that exact moment. There was nothing the driver could have done to avoid the collision and police determined he was not at fault and the family agreed, having witnessed the collision first hand. One cannot help but think if only there was a minute or two difference in the timing of the events that lead up to the tragedy. What if the driver had left a minute or two later before departing his home? What if the family stopped to talk to one of the other parishioners a minute or two longer before leaving the church?
It breaks my heart to this day to think how a young girl could be killed right in front of her family, right in front of their church. After my investigation was complete, and I had explained what benefits were available to the parents under their policy and how to apply for them, they both walked me to the door. And then the mother said something I will never forget: I don’t know how you do your job but thank you very much for coming.