Article by Laura Emmett
On April 10, 2018, the Divisional Court released an important decision regarding ATV incidents outside of Ontario. Specifically, in Benson v. Belair Insurance Co. Inc., the Divisional Court considered whether the Claimant was entitled to statutory accident benefits arising from an incident while in British Columbia.
Mr. Benson was a resident of Ontario who had been living in British Columbia. He was injured after he fell from an ATV that was being driven on a public trail owned and occupied by the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality. The ATV was owned by a resident of British Columbia. Since there was no requirement that the ATV be insured in British Columbia, it was not.
At the time of the accident, Mr. Benson had his own insurance policy with Belair in Ontario. The policy was a standard OAP-1 that did not include coverage for any ATVs.
The Claimant applied under his own insurance policy for accident benefits. The Insurer denied coverage because the ATV was not an “automobile” within the meaning of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule – Effective September 1, 2010. The Claimant filed a dispute with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. The Arbitrator found that the ATV was not an automobile. While the Claimant appealed the finding, the Director’s Delegate dismissed the appeal.
On Judicial Review, the Divisional Court noted that the question to be determined was whether an ATV that was owned, registered and operated in British Columbia was an automobile covered by the Ontario SABS.
The Divisional Court held that the appropriate legislation to be applied was the legislation in British Columbia. The ATV was operated and the accident happened in British Columbia. The decision to have, or not to have, insurance for this vehicle was made in British Columbia. As a result, British Columbia legislation must determine whether there is entitlement to benefits resulting from the accident.
Reference was made to the Court of Appeal’s decision in Adams v. Pineland Amusement Ltd. (2007 ONCA 844) which found that in determining a case of liability insurance, “the proper question is whether the vehicle [involved in the accident] required motor vehicle insurance at the time and in the circumstances of the incident.” Applying this question in the present case, at the time and in the circumstances of this accident, the ATV was not insured.
The Divisional Court also held that there was no basis to claim that Mr. Benson had a legitimate expectation that Belair would cover an accident involving ATVs as there were no ATVs listed on the subject insurance policy.
The last issue considered by the Divisional Court was the Ontario Off-Road Vehicle Act which stated that “no person shall drive an off-road vehicle unless it is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy” under the Ontario Insurance Act. The Divisional Court concluded that it was reasonable to assume that the provision only required this of ATVs in Ontario, not ATVs in British Columbia.
This decision is of assistance to insurers who are presented with claims outside of Ontario. It is clear that in determining whether the vehicle is an “automobile” within the meaning of the SABS, the trier of fact will consider the applicable law in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred; not the law in Ontario. A word of caution, however, the Divisional Court has left the door open for another party to argue that there was an expectation that the vehicle they were operating was an “automobile” under the SABS. This limited exception is only where a similar vehicle was listed on their own Ontario insurance policy.
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