Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyers and the Ontario Court of Appeal – Farmers insuring ATVs
By: Brent Meadows
The Ontario Court of Appeal had to decide whether an unmodified all-terrain vehicle (ATV) owned and used by a farmer for day-to-day farming operations was a “self-propelled implement of husbandry” (ie. vehicle for farming). If an ATV is considered as such, then it would not be subject to Ontario’s mandatory vehicle insurance regime. In other words, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be insured under said regime.
Mr. Matheson, the plaintiff, owns approximately 900 acres of farm land that abuts onto a highway. On the day of the accident he used his ATV to get from one part of his land to the other using the highway. He only intended to drive his uninsured ATV on the highway for a short period of time. Sadly, while driving on the highway he was struck by Mr. Lewis and suffered catastrophic injuries.
The plaintiffs brought, inter alia, a Rule 21 motion (ie. determination of an issue before trial) to determine whether their claim was statute barred by operation of s.267.6(1) of the Insurance Act which provides that a person is not entitled to damages for injuries that occur while operating an uninsured vehicle.
The motion judge held that the ATV was excluded from Ontario’s mandatory insurance regime as it was a self-propelled implement of husbandry. The ONCA however reversed this decision and held that the ATV was NOT a self-propelled implement of husbandry.
The court arrived at this decision by reviewing Ontario insurance regime and its intended purpose. The court then referred to R v. Van Berlo where it was held that a vehicle must be ‘manufactured’ or ‘designed’ for a specific use in farming in order to be considered a self-propelled implement of husbandry. While the plaintiff exclusively used the ATV for farming, it could not be said that the ATV was ‘manufactured’ or ‘designed’ for a specific use in farming.
Most importantly, with respect to Ontario’s automobile insurance regime, the ONCA held that an ATV cannot be both an off-road vehicle requiring insurance and a self-propelled implement of husbandry excluded from the insurance regime. Moreover, reg. 893 explicitly provides that an ATV is an off-road vehicle and not a self-propelled implement of husbandry.
The Court of Appeal ultimately decided that the plaintiff’s claim was statute-barred by s.267.6(1) of the Insurance Act as he was uninsured, and his claim for statutory accident benefits was barred by s.30(1)(a) of the SABS.
ATV accidents and insurance
This is undoubtedly an important decision for insurers in Ontario. Now more than ever it would be prudent for farmers to obtain insurance for their ATVs. One question comes to mind: If Honda were to manufacture and design an ATV for a specific use in farming, could it be exempt from the Ontario’s mandatory vehicle insurance regime?