Every year at this time, as the weather gets warmer, we hear more and more about accidents and insurance claims involving an ATV accident or All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and off-road vehicles. A day out enjoying nature is always fun. Operating a motor vehicle without the proper insurance and equipment may lead to serious injuries, broken bones and sometimes worse.
Last year, more than half of all -road vehicle accidents in Ontario were cause by drug and alcohol impairment. Accidents are worse when riders who were injured when they were not wearing a helmet. Of the 22 riders who died in ATV accidents last year, nine were not wearing a helmet. (Ontario Provincial Police). On-road or off-road, there are laws and regulations in place to keep riders, their passengers and other trail users out of harm’s way.
What you can do to help avoid an ATV accident …
· Riders must wear an approved motorcycle helmet
· Riders must have at least a valid G2 or M2 driver’s licence to operate on-road and must have a valid driver’s licence (i.e. minimum G1) to directly cross a road.
· All ATVs must also be insured when operated off of the vehicle owner’s private property
· ATVs operating on-road must have the same insurance as a passenger car.
· It is against the law to drive an off-road vehicle when impaired by alcohol or drugs.
· If the ATV is permitted on-road, riders must operate on the shoulder of the road in the same direction as traffic. If the shoulder is unsafe or impassable or not wide enough, an ATV can be driven on the travelled portion of the road.
When it comes to insurance and ATVs, riders are often unclear of the rules. An ATV is considered a motorized vehicle. Insurance laws and compensation are available to ATV riders in the same way they are to other motorized vehicles. For that reason, all off-road vehicles must be insured by a valid insurance policy. Like a motor vehicle, purchasing insurance and opting for additional insurance
coverage is always a good idea. In the event of an accident, you and your family will be much better covered and cared for. In most cases a separate insurance policy is not even required and your off-road vehicle can be added to your existing car insurance policy. Ontario accident benefits can be accessed to cover you for things such as medical rehabilitation, home care, caregiving, income replacement and house keeping among other things.
If you or a loved one are injured in an ATV accident and are unclear as to your entitlement for compensation and coverage, call my office at (613) 978-9549.
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?
ATV accidents and personal injury compensation
As many make their way to the cottage for the long weekend, I wanted to touch on the use of off-road vehicles . Every spring I’m contacted as an injury lawyer and asked about ATV insurance claims. You would be shocked by the number of All-Terrain Vehicle and off-road vehicle accidents that occur each year. In most cases, the ATV flips and typically the accident results in serious injuries such as head injuries, broken bones and in some cases fatalities. Most ATV riders are excellent drivers and know how to ride their vehicles but something simply went wrong. Sometimes it’s an unexpected branch, a wire that crossed a path that they didn’t see, the ATV gained too much momentum or simply a fluke accident.
Are ATVs considered to be off-road vehicles?
What is clear is that ATV accidents happen, what’s unclear to some is if are they considered to be a motor vehicle and therefore subject to insurance laws and compensation as would be an accident involving a motor vehicle. I have had some off-road cases go all the way to the Ontario Court of Appeal to determine the definition of what is a motor vehicle. In one case, my client was on an uninsured dirt bike and we were successful in proving that he was entitled to maximum compensation. More and more ATVs are used for mainly recreational purposes and sometimes for work on farming lands. Now that summer is here, there will be more and more ATV vehicles out and many of the drivers are considered to be minors.
The Off-Road Vehicles Act describes the rules and laws surrounding ownership and operation of off-road vehicles including ATVs. It also describes what insurance is covered. The Act states:
For legislation purposes, an “off-road vehicle” is considered to be:
1. Dune buggies.
2. All-terrain vehicles with steering handlebars and a seat that are designed to be straddled by a driver.
3. Vehicles designed for utility applications or uses on all terrains that have 4 or more wheels and a seat that is not designed to be straddled by the driver.
Should your ATV have its own insurance policy?
The laws surrounding who can drive off-road vehicles are clearly laid out in the Act. Children are permitted to drive off-road vehicles, with certain conditions. Children under the age of 12 can drive an off-road vehicle if they are on the land owned by the owner of the vehicle, and under the close supervision of an adult. This means that no child under the age of 12 can drive an off-road vehicle off the property of the owner of the off-road vehicle. Children under the age of 16 can drive an off-road vehicle off of private property with a valid G2 or M2 license.
All off-road vehicles must have licence plates, and drivers must have an issued permit, by the Ministry of Transportation. Off-road vehicles may not be driven on highways, unless the driver has a valid driver’s licence. All off-road vehicles must also be insured by a valid insurance policy. Like when you are driving a car, evidence of insurance and ownership must be made available when using the vehicle. Failure to provide proof of insurance or ownership may result in a warning, fine or order to produce within a certain time frame. The only time this is not required is when the vehicle is being driven on private property owned or operated by the owner of the off-road vehicle. In other words, you and your family don’t need insurance or licence if you are driving your vehicle on your own cottage or farm property. The second your off-road vehicles leaves your property, it must be insured.
Like a motor vehicle, purchasing insurance and opting for additional insurance coverage is always a good idea. In the event of an accident, you and your family will be much better covered and cared for. In most cases a separate insurance policy is not even required and your off-road vehicle can be added to your existing car insurance policy. Ontario accident benefits can then be accessed to cover you for things such as medical rehabilitation, home care, caregiving, income replacement, house keeping etc…
Basic rules for off-road vehicles
- drivers must observe a speed lower than posted limits.
- Passengers are not permitted.
- Are allowed to tow trailers.
- Must not have obstructed views.
- Never drive an off-road vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- Must wear a helmet
As the owner of an off-road vehicle, who are you responsible for?
As the owner of an off-road vehicle, you are responsible and liable for any negligence of drivers of your vehicle if you have given them consent. In other words, if you give permission to say a friend to use your off-road vehicle and they get in an accident and injure someone, you will be liable in that lawsuit and your insurance company may need to compensated the injured party.
The rules and laws surrounding the use of off-road vehicles are complicated. Most important is that everyone drives their vehicles in the safest manner possible. ATV vehicles are particularly tippy and children need to be closely supervised. In the event of an accident where someone is injured, it’s important to contact an injury lawyer to determine your rights and compensation. I have had many ATV accident cases where my clients were unaware of the compensation and supports available to them. Securing maximum compensation and support is key. As an Ottawa injury lawyer, I urge you to absolutely insure your off-road vehicles and opt for any additional benefits that you may be entitled to. In the event you or a loved one is injured, you will never regret having made this decision. Safe riding !