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Snowmobile & ATV Accidents

The lure of exploring the great outdoors is strong in Ontario. The province’s natural beauty and extensive trail network appeal to people who are looking for places to experience off-road vehicle adventures.

Part of the thrill of operating snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is the hint of danger that comes with riding them. While the basic design of these vehicles poses some inherent risks for riders, these dangers are magnified when riders encounter hazards or treacherous conditions off-road.

Unfortunately, serious accidents involving snowmobiles and ATVs are very common. Recent statistics suggest that there are more than 10,000 hospital visits and more than 1,200 admissions each year due to injuries from these vehicles. Young riders are disproportionately likely to be involved in injury-causing accidents. Sadly, deaths from these accidents also appear to be on the rise.  

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a snowmobile or ATV, you may be eligible to claim accident benefits. If another person’s negligence caused or contributed to the accident, you may also be able to file a tort claim for damages and receive the compensation you deserve.

The snowmobile and ATV accidents team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers have the experience, knowledge and skill to help you with these challenging cases.

What is considered a snowmobile or ATV?

Defining terms.

According to the Off-Road Vehicles Act, an off-road vehicle is one that is “propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power or wind and designed to travel on not more than three wheels, or on more than three wheels and being of a prescribed class of vehicle.” Examples of off-road vehicles include:

  • Single-rider all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
  • Two-up all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
  • Side-by-side off-road vehicles (ORVs)
  • Utility terrain vehicles (UTVs).

Snowmobiles fall under the definition of vehicles in the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act. In this law, a “motorized snow vehicle” means a self-propelled vehicle designed to be driven primarily on snow.

ATVs and snowmobiles can weigh in excess of 600 pounds and travel at speeds over 90-100 km per hour. Although these types of vehicles are generally designed for and used for off-road riding, they may cross certain public roads and travel on these roads under certain circumstances (usually on the shoulder unless it is unsafe or impassable).

Rules of the (off-) road.

To operate an ATV and similar vehicles off road, the driver must:

  • Be at least 12 years of age unless directly supervised by an adult.
  • Be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid driver’s licence to cross a highway
  • Wear an approved helmet
  • Carry a copy of the vehicle’s registration.

The vehicle must be insured, registered and have a valid licence plate unless it is driven in an exempt area such as the far north of the province.

To operate these vehicles on road, the driver must:

  • Be at least 16 years of age and have a valid driver’s licence.
  • Not have any passengers younger than 8 years of age.
  • Carry a copy of the vehicle’s registration
  • Wear an approved helmet and ensure all passengers wear approved helmets.
  • Remain in the seated position with a seat-belt.
  • Ensure a passenger on a two-up ATV is able to reach and use the footrests.
  • Obey modified posted speed limits. In areas where the posted speed is a maximum of up to 50km/h, the ATV can travel at 20km/h max. In areas where the posted speed limit is more than 50km/h, the driver must not go any faster than 50km/h.

To be driven on road, an ATV must be:

  • Registered.
  • Have a rear-facing licence plate.
  • Have valid insurance.
  • Not exceed the manufacturer’s weight requirements.
  • Drive the same direction as traffic on the shoulder of the road unless the shoulder is impassable.

ATVs cannot be driven on 400 series highways, the Queen Elizabeth Way, and some sections of the Trans Canada Highway. Municipalities may enact bylaws which restrict use of ATVs.

If the ATV is driven on the owner’s private property, it is exempt from the auto insurance, age and helmet requirements - though supervising youth and wearing helmets are strongly advised.

Road rules for snowmobiles are similar, but driving on highways (outside of direct crossing and some other specific situations) is more restricted. When travelling along public roads, drivers must stay as far away from the road as possible in between the road and the fence line. Complete rules are available from the Ministry of Transportation.

Common ATV and snowmobile accidents and injuries.

According to reporting by Public Health Ontario, there are several risk factors that are associated with ATV and snowmobile accidents:

  • Young age.
  • Male gender.
  • Having multiple passengers.
  • Driving age-inappropriate vehicles (mostly young riders on vehicles designed for adults)
  • Engaging in risky behaviours (driving while intoxicated, doing tricks and jumps, driving at night, speeding)
  • Lack of protective equipment (particularly not wearing a helmet).

Studies have found that the most common way riders and passengers of off-road vehicles are injured is ejection from the vehicle. Rolling or tipping accidents are also very common for ATVs, while snowmobile accidents are often caused by crashing into a fixed object. 

Upper body fractures are the most frequent injuries prompting emergency-room visits, while lower body and trunk fractures were the most common injury for hospitalizations.

Staying safe.

Although the risks involved with off-road vehicle riding cannot be eliminated completely, you can significantly reduce the chances that you or a loved one will be involved in an accident or injured by following certain precautions:

  • Take ATV/snowmobile safety courses prior to riding.
  • Keep your vehicles in good repair.
  • Carefully monitor weather conditions to avoid unsafe surfaces (such as thin ice or mud patches).
  • Always supervise young riders and ensure they are driving appropriately-sized vehicles.
  • If you are an inexperienced driver, stay on well-maintained trails at slow speeds.
  • Always wear a helmet and other safety gear to protect your body.
  • Ensure you have an appropriate amount of time and space from other vehicles when crossing roads.
  • Ride in groups to ensure another person can help an injured rider or call for help if they are incapacitated.

Claims and liability.

Unfortunately, when ATV and snowmobile accidents do occur, they frequently result in serious and often life-changing injuries and/or disabilities. If you or a loved one have been injured in one of these accidents, you may be able to receive accident benefits and/or compensation for your losses.

Anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario, regardless of whether they are at fault, may be eligible to claim funds under Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, also known as ("SABS"), from either their own motor vehicle insurance policy, another driver’s policy, or from Ontario’sMotor Vehicle Accidents Claim Fund if no one involved carried insurance.

SABS benefits cover medical and rehabilitation expenses, attendant care costs, income replacement, caregiver and housekeeping expenses and provide death and funeral benefits. Private health insurance company policies or employer-funded policies may also be drawn upon for these types of expenses.

If you were not at fault for the accident, or only partially at fault, you may also be able to file a tort claim for damages from a negligent person. These claims can help you not only recoup calculable costs related to the injury, but provide you with a sum recognizing the incalculable cost of your pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

It is important to note that the “owner” of an off-road vehicle is also jointly and severally liable for damages for injury or damages arising out of the operation by the driver of the vehicle, if the driver had the consent of the owner to operate the vehicle.

We can help.

Contemplating life after a serious ATV or snowmobile accident can be overwhelming. You should know that you are not in this alone. The ATV and snowmobile accidents team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is ready to offer advice and support as you determine what you need to help with your rehabilitation and recovery.

When you contact a member of our team, we will listen with empathy, educate you about your rights and options, and explain how we can help if you pursue a claim for benefits or compensation. As one of Canada’s top personal injury law firms, we have the experience, knowledge and skill to take on these types of cases. Known for our fierce advocacy for our clients and our commitment to compassionate, full-circle care, you can be assured that you will be in good hands when you choose us. 

At one of the most difficult times in your life, trust our ATV and snowmobile accident team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, and Barrie to help you get what you deserve and to support as you seek closure and work towards living your best life possible.

Snowmobile and ATV Accident Lawyers.

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