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“Automobiles” and Foreign Accidents in the SABS Context

In Benson v. Belair Insurance Company Inc., 2019 ONCA 840, the Court of Appeal examined whether two Ontario insurers had to provide statutory accident benefits (“SABS”) in regards to accidents that occurred outside of Ontario involving an ATV and a dirt bike.

One accident occurred in British Columbia. The claimant was the named insured on an Ontario automobile policy. He was injured while a passenger on an ATV.

The other accident occurred in Georgia. The claimant was a resident of Ontario and was a named insured under an Ontario automobile insurance policy. He was injured while riding a dirt bike.

The issue was whether the ATV and the dirt bike fell within the definition of “automobile” in section 224(1) of the Insurance Act. The definition of “automobile” includes a motor vehicle required under any Act to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy.

In British Columbia, an ATV does not need to be insured. In Georgia, a dirt bike does not need to be insured. Therefore, if the law of the place where the accident occurred applied, there would be no SABS coverage since the accidents did not involve an “automobile”.

However, the Court of Appeal stated that the word “Act” in section 224(1) of the Insurance Act refers to an Ontario Act, based on the Legislation Act, 2006.

Therefore, it was an error to examine the insurance requirements in the other jurisdictions. The applicable Ontario Act requires off-road vehicles to be insured, except in limited circumstances.

As a result, the ATV and the dirt bike fell within the definition of “automobile”, and both claimants were found to be entitled to SABS from their Ontario insurers.

The Court of Appeal stated that this is consistent with the provisions of the Insurance Act, the SABS Regulation, and the contract language, which all state that SABS will be provided when an incident occurs anywhere in Canada, the USA, or other designated jurisdictions.

In conclusion, in determining whether an accident involves an “automobile”, Ontario law must be examined regardless of where the accident took place.