Dirt biker entitled to accident benefits from auto insurer where bike is not exempt from insurance requirements

10. January 2023 0

Insurance law – Automobile insurance – Automobile, definition – Statutory provisions [interpretation] – Appeals

Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Co. of Canada, [2022] O.J. No. 5102, 2022 ONCA 806, Ontario Court of Appeal, November 23, 2022, E.E. Gillese, B. Miller and S.A. Coroza JJ.A.

The insured was riding a dirt bike in a closed course competition in 2017 in Ontario when he was catastrophically injured in a single vehicle incident. The competition was not sponsored by a motorcycle association. He was denied accident benefits by his automobile insurer and the Licence Appeal Tribunal but was successful in having that decision overturned.

The insured had an auto insurance policy with Travelers but his dirt bike was not listed as an insured vehicle. He applied for statutory accident benefits but was denied on the basis the incident was not an accident as defined in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule – Effective September 1, 2010, O. Reg. 34/10 (the “SABS”) because the dirt bike was not an automobile as required to be within the meaning of s. 224(1) of the Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. I.8 and s. 3(1) of the SABS.

The insured applied to an adjudicator of the License Appeal Tribunal and argued that he was involved in an accident as defined in the SABS section 3(1), involving the use or operation of an automobile, because the Off-Road Vehicles Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.4 (“ORVA”) and section 2(1)5 of the General Regulation, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 863 (“Regulation 863”) required him to insure his dirt bike. The adjudicator held that the ORVA exempted dirt bikes driven on closed course competitions from the requirement to be insured, and therefore the insured’s bike was not an automobile. The adjudicator’s decision was set aside on reconsideration by the Associate Chair because the exemption only applied if a motorcycle association sponsored the competition. The decision of the Associate Chair was appealed, and the Divisional Court affirmed the reconsideration decision.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the insurer’s appeal because the insured’s dirt bike was not exempt from an insurance requirement of the ORVA pursuant to s. 2(1)5 of Regulation 863. Sponsorship by a motorcycle association was required for the insurance exemption to apply to closed course competition, because to hold otherwise was inconsistent with the purposes of the ORVA, which is part of the overall legislative scheme for automobile insurance. One of the purposes of automobile insurance is to provide some measure of protection for users of vehicles, and sponsorship of a competition serves the same purpose.

This case was digested by Mark A. McPhee, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Insurance Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Insurance Law Newsletter. If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Mark A. McPhee at [email protected].

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