Case Summary: It’s the same wherever you go
An ATV and a dirt bike involved in accidents outside of Ontario were considered automobiles within the meaning of the provisions for statutory accident benefits under Ontario legislation.
Insurance law – Automobile insurance – Statutory Accident Benefits – Uninsured motorist – Automobile, definition – Interprovincial issues – Practice – Appeals
Benson v. Belair Insurance Co.,  O.J. No. 5437, 2019 ONCA 840, Ontario Court of Appeal, October 25, 2019, K.N. Feldman, J.C. MacPherson and J.M. Simmons JJ.A.
Two vehicular accident cases were heard together. In both cases, the insurers had denied coverage for vehicular accidents which occurred outside of Ontario, where the insurance policies were entered into. In the first case, the insured was injured in British Columbia in an ATV accident. The ATV was owned and operated by a British Columbia resident and under the laws of British Columbia, the ATV was not required to be insured. The insured claimed statutory accident benefits under his own Ontario vehicle’s insurance policy with Belair. In the second case, the insured purchased a dirt bike in Ontario and was injured when riding it on a closed track at a sports resort in Georgia. The insured claimed statutory accident benefits under his Ontario vehicle’s insurance policy with Echelon. Coverage was denied in both cases by the insurers on the basis that the vehicles on which the accidents happened were not “automobiles” for the purpose of the statutory accident benefits provisions as they were not required by law in British Columbia and Georgia respectively to be insured.
The statutory accident benefits provided by legislation in Ontario are provided for an “accident” and an “accident” only arises out of the use or operation of an “automobile”. The question was whether the vehicles in question were “automobiles” for the purpose of the statutory accident benefits provisions. A three part-test had been adopted previously by the court: 1) Is the vehicle an automobile in ordinary parlance? 2) If not, is it defined as an automobile in the wording of the insurance policy? 3) If not, does the vehicle fall within any enlarged definition of automobile in a relevant statute? It was accepted that neither a dirt bike nor an ATV is considered to be an automobile in ordinary parlance. It was also not argued that a dirt bike or ATV were defined as an automobile in the wording of the two respective policies. The only issue was whether the dirt bike and ATV fell within any enlarged definition of automobile in a relevant statute.
The Insurance Act defines an automobile to include a motor vehicle required under any Act to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy. It was agreed that both the dirt bike and the ATV were off-road vehicles governed by the Off-Road Vehicles Act, which mandates that an off-road vehicle must not be driven without insurance in accordance with the Insurance Act, unless it is driven on land occupied by the owner of the vehicle or at a closed course competition or rally sponsored by a motorcycle association. It was accepted that neither of these exceptions applied. The court held that as the dirt bike and ATV would require insurance in Ontario, they were therefore automobiles. Ontario law governed and the provisions that dictate the result for Ontario incidents dictated the same result for incidents that took place outside Ontario that were covered under the automobile insurance policy.
This case was digested by Dionne H. Liu, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Insurance Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Insurance Law Newsletter. If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Dionne H. Liu at firstname.lastname@example.org.