Spring has arrived – and as the weather warms up, many of you are probably thinking about heading to the cottage and hopping on your ATVs. But what happens when an off-road jaunt results in an unexpected accident?

While claims relating to ATVs are usually handled similarly to “typical” motor vehicle accident claims, there are exceptions and technicalities relating to how and where ATVs can be used that can impact your claim. If you are the victim of an ATV accident, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine what benefits you are entitled to and whether you have a valid claim.

What is an ATV?

What qualifies as an ATV in Ontario? According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, ATVs have “four wheels, steering handlebars, a seat that is straddled by the driver and is designed for a driver only and no passenger.” Similar vehicles include side-by-side off road vehicles or two-up ATVs (which include a passenger seat directly behind the driver). These vehicles are collectively referred to as off-road vehicles, or “ORVs”.

To be covered in the event of an accident, ATVs must display a rear licence plate and be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy if they are being operated on public property or roadways under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act of Ontario (though some exceptions apply).

In addition to these licensing rules, drivers must be 12 years of age (or supervised by an adult), carry the ATV’s registration permit, and wear a motorcycle helmet while operating the vehicle.

Where Can I Drive My ATV in Ontario?

You also need to be mindful of where you’re driving your ATV. ATVs are typically not allowed on “highways” in Ontario. According to Ontario’s Off-Road Vehicle Act, a highway includes “a common and public highway, street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines thereof”.

There are exceptions, though. Providing you meet certain requirements, you can operate an ATV on Highways 500 to 899, and many other low-traffic highways. You can view a complete list of the highways you can and cannot travel on via ATV in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act Regulation 316/03, Schedules A and B.

ATV Accidents in Ontario

Unfortunately, ATV accidents are not uncommon in Ontario. Failing to follow the rules outlined above can have significant impacts on your claim or prevent you from bringing a claim altogether if you are injured.

Provided that you have the appropriate insurance coverage and were following the rules, you will be entitled to accident benefits if an accident occurs (for instance, if you are involved in a single-vehicle accident). If another person is at-fault for the accident (whether they were operating a car or an ATV), you can likely bring a personal injury claim against them.

If you are only operating your ATV on your own private property, you are not required to purchase an insurance policy, but be warned that if you are involved in an accident, you will not be entitled to accident benefits.

ATV Safety Tips

As always, the best thing you can do is avoid getting into an accident in the first place. Before hopping on your ATV this spring, read up on ATV safety and consider the following:

  • Take an ORV/ATV safety course
  • Ensure you have the proper insurance coverage for your ATV
  • Wear protective gear – beyond a helmet, you should wear protective footwear, eye protection, and appropriate clothing
  • Follow your ATV manufacturer’s recommendations on load and passenger limits
  • Let others know where you’re planning to go (especially if you expect to be out of service areas)
  • Exercise extreme caution when crossing or otherwise operating an ATV on public roads

Finally, this should go without saying, but do not operate any vehicle – be it an ATV, ORV, or car – while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other harmful substances!

The “Smart Ride Safe Ride” guide, published by the Government of Ontario, is an excellent resource and can be viewed here.

Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers have the knowledge to handle a variety of personal injury claims, regardless of how the accident happened. Non-traditional motor vehicle accidents, such as ATV accidents, can involve special legal issues that require the attention of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have the skills and resources necessary to tackle these complicated issues so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.


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