Is an All-Terrain Vehicle an “Automobile”?

Anyone initiating a motor vehicle accident claim under the Ontario Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (“SABS”) must satisfy at least two initial requirements: there must be an “automobile”, and it must have been involved in an “accident”.

The decision called Unifund Assurance Company v Security National Insurance Company considers the first of these elements: specifically whether an All-Terrain Vehicle (“ATV”) constituted an “automobile” under a policy, for the purposes of making an SABS claim.

A woman had been injured on private property while operating an ATV owned by her boyfriend. She had only a general automobile insurance policy from Unifund, but her boyfriend had a policy from another insurer that specifically covered ATVs and other recreational vehicles.

After the woman made an accident claim for her injuries through Unifund, an arbitrator concluded that since the ATV met the definition of “automobile” in the boyfriend’s policy, the woman was entitled to take advantage of certain policy-priority provisions under the provincial Insurance Act, which determined which of the two SABS-eligible policies should govern the claim.

On a subsequent appeal by Unifund, the court disagreed, and reversed the arbitrator’s decision.

The woman’s Unifund policy only provided access to the SABS regime if there was an “accident” involving an “automobile”. The ATV did not qualify under that general automobile policy; only the boyfriend’s policy covered such recreational vehicles. It was not open to the arbitrator to conclude that it was sufficient if the ATV met the “automobile” definition in the boyfriend’s policy, rather than the woman’s own. Essentially, the arbitrator had improperly imported accident coverage from the boyfriend’s policy to benefit the woman, and had erroneously allowed her access to the SABS-based remedy on that basis.

Since the ATV did not constitute an “automobile” under the woman’s own Unifund policy, her access to SABS scheme was foreclosed, and there was no need to trigger the priority provisions in the Act. Her SABS claim was denied.

If you have a question about your motor vehicle accident claim, contact Van Dyke Law Office for a free consultation.