Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Occupant Definition:

A person holding, in control or inside a thing such as a motor vehicle or rented premises.

Related Terms: Occupiers' Liability, Occupation

A term of law germane to motor vehicles, residential tenancy, insurance law and tort law (occupier's liability).

For vehicles, the scope of the term will often depend on the relevant statute or insurance policy.

In Orr v Orr, Justice Power of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench noted this standard insurance policy definition:

"Occupant means a person driving, being carried in or upon or getting on to or alighting from an automobile."

Compare, for example, these two statements of the law:

"(A)n insured is not held to be an occupant in the terms of alighting from the vehicle if he has completed all acts normally performed under similar circumstances and has embarked upon an entirely distinct course of conduct.

"Correlatively, if the insured has not completed all acts that could reasonably be expected from one in a similar situation and has not embarked on a course of conduct entirely different from that reasonably necessary to make an exit from his car, he is construed to be still in the process of alighting from the car." (Stoddard v. AID Insurance Company, Supreme Court of Idaho)

... and,

"As a matter of law, under the no-fault statute, the definition of occupant does not extend to situations involving vehicle-oriented conduct outside the vehicle, such as entering or leaving the vehicle."(Walsh v. Durkin Brothers, United States District Court)

In State v. McDuff, Justice Elridge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia wrote:

"A child riding in the open bed of a pickup truck is no less an occupant of the vehicle than the child who is riding in the cab."

In the context of residential tenancy law or occupier's liability, an occupant would include one who is authorized by a tenant to be on the premises of rented property.1


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