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Court of Appeal Lays Down the Law on ATVs

Date Posted:

July 22, 2014

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    The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that an ATV is not a farm implement within the meaning of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act and therefore has to be insured if used on a public road.

    A Perth cattle farmer, Arthur Matheson, used his Honda ATV to travel from one part of his farm to another. The ATV was not insured under an automobile insurance policy.  Mr. Matheson was rear-ended by another vehicle and suffered very serious injuries.  He sued the at-fault driver for his damages.  The insurer for the at-fault driver relied on a section of the Insurance Act (267.6(1)) which says that an onwer of vehicle cannot sue for damages if his vehicle was uninsured at the time of the accident.  The harsh penalty is intended to pressure everyone to make sure they have insurance before they head out on the road.  Mr. Matheson’s lawyers took the position that there is an exception for farm vehicles if they are designed or converted for a “specific farm use”.  They argued that almost every farmer in Ontario has an ATV and that the designers of the ATVs have a number of farm uses in mind.  A judge of the Superior Court agreed with Mr. Matheson’s lawyers.  The Court of Appeal did not.  The Court of Appeal found that the ATV was an off-road vehicle and was not a “self-propelled implement of husbandry”.

    The decision produces a very harsh result for Mr. Matheson and his family, who cannot get compensation for his injuries, but it is a clear message to everyone to ensure their vehicles are properly insured before travelling on a public road.  As we have said here before, if you have any doubt about whether you need insurance, contact an experienced insurance agent.

    The full decision can be read here: Matheson v. Lewis, 2014 ONCA 542

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