On July 11, 2014, the Ontario Court of Appeal released a decision of great interest to the farming community, as it relates to All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).
In Matheson v Lewis, 2014 ONCA 542 (http://canlii.ca/t/g80hl), the Court ruled that unmodified ATVs used in the context of farming must be insured if driven on public roadways. Farm ATVs—often used as a speedy way of surveying large swaths of land—do not fall within the “self-propelled implement of husbandry” exception of the Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8 [HTA], which otherwise encompasses farm machinery.
The story behind this case is quite sad. Arthur Matheson, a farmer from Perth, gated sheep on a parcel of land at the most westerly part of his 900-acre property. To get to this parcel, he could either walk or ride his ATV on a public concession road, the latter being a much faster way to travel. As he drove his ATV down the road, a pickup truck struck him from the rear and left him with severe cognitive and physical injuries.
Insurance and the Highway Traffic Act
Did you know that in Ontario, the law requires all motor vehicles to have insurance. It is mandatory. Uninsured motorists may be denied claims when involved in an accident and uninsured. See section 267.6(1) of the Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c. I.8 ; section 2(1) of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c. C.25; and section 31(1)(a) of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, O/Reg 34/10), for instance.
There is, however, an exception for farm equipment and machinery; under the Highway Traffic Act, “self-propelled implements of husbandry” are not considered as motor vehicles. They are therefore not required to have insurance.
Consequently, Mr. Matheson could only claim for damages for his injuries if his ATV was caught under this exception. A self-propelled implement of husbandry is “a self-propelled vehicle manufactured, designed, redesigned, converted or reconstructed for a specific use in farming” according to section 1 of the HTA. The motion judge (1st instance) found that ATVs were now popularly used in farms across Ontario for a variety of farm tasks, in situations where previously, a farmer might have used a large tractor.
The Court of Appeal decided otherwise. It found that ATVs were already governed by the Off Road Vehicles Act Regulation 863 under the term “off-road vehicle”. Section 15 of this Regulation prohibits using ATVs outside of the owner’s land when the ATV is uninsured. Moreover, off-road vehicles require insurance when on public roadways according to Highway Traffic Act Regulation 316/03.
In conclusion, if you are a farmer and own an ATV, you are required to have insurance if you drive the ATV on any public road. An injured driver of an ATV who is uninsured is likely unable to claim monetary and other damages for injuries sustained. Our Ottawa ATV, motorcycle, truck, car, personal injury and accident lawyers are specifically trained to handle all motor vehicle accident claims. If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for a free consultation. We work on a no-fee-until-you-win basis. Call us at 613-315-4878.