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 !