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Automobiles vs Recreational Off-Road Vehicles: Are You Covered by Insurance?

While riding off-road vehicles such as ATVs, dune buggies, and quads can be lots of fun, they can also lead to serious accidents and injuries.  It is important to know your insurance obligations and to know whether or not you are covered by insurance if an accident occurs while riding an off-road vehicle.

What is an automobile?

The law makes a distinction between ‘automobiles’ and ‘off-road vehicles’. If your vehicle is considered an automobile, then you are required by law to purchase automobile insurance.

The law has set out 3 part inquiry to make this determination:

  1. Is the vehicle in question generally regarded as being an automobile?
  2. Is the vehicle defined as an automobile in the insurance policy?
  3. Is the vehicle considered an automobile as set out by a regulation?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then the vehicle in question is considered an “automobile” and in order to operate it, you must have a valid automobile insurance policy.  This means your insurance will cover you for accident benefits if you are injured as a result of the accident, and it will cover any third-party liability if you injure someone else as a result of the accident.  Also, if the accident is your fault and someone is injured, your automobile insurer will pay for your defence, which consist of your lawyer’s legal fees.

The Insurance Act defines an “automobile” as a motor vehicle required under any Act to be insured under an automobile insurance policy, and a vehicle prescribed by regulation to be an automobile. But how do you know if a vehicle is required to have insurance?

According to the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act and the Highway Traffic Act, a “motor vehicle” includes an:

“automobile, a motorcycle, a motor-assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine.”

What is an off-road vehicle?

According to the Off-Road Vehicle Act (ORVA), an off-road vehicle is “a vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power or wind and designed to travel, (a) on not more than three wheels, or (b) on more than three wheels and being of a prescribed class of vehicle.”

This definition includes dune buggies, ATVs, 4-wheelers, and quads. There are a few exceptions. Golf carts, wheelchairs and some farm equipment are not considered off-road vehicles.

Does an off-road vehicle require insurance?

According to ORVA, off-road vehicles do require insurance, unless they are being used solely on the owner’s property.  This means if the owner of the ATV and the owner of the property are the same person and that ATV is being driven solely on the property of that owner, then no insurance is required.  However, if the vehicle is ever used to go off of the owner’s property, even just to cross a street, insurance is required.

It is always best to ensure that your ATV or off-road vehicle is separately insured even if it is exclusively used on your own property.  If for instance you give friends permission to use the vehicle and if he or she becomes injured, you could be liable for their injuries and should have insurance to cover their injuries and damages.  Be certain to purchase insurance which includes liability coverage in the event that you are legally liable for bodily injury or property damage caused by the use or operation of your ATV.  You should also be sure that it includes Accident Benefits coverage for medical expenses and loss of income if you are injured on that ATV.

The law surrounding off-road vehicles and automobiles is complex. If you find yourself or a loved one asking any of these questions, you should consult a specialised lawyer to ensure you are protected. Call Louis J. DelSignore Jr at 519-660-7820 for a free consultation.