Ontario court rules “Car Surfing” is covered by auto insurance

Published: October 5, 2018

Updated: October 28, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Car surfing is a practice where a person rides on top of a moving vehicle, pointless yes, but something young people do. An Ontario court has ruled car surfing is covered by auto insurance in the province, highlighting its similarities to other reckless driving activities.

“Car surfing or attaching oneself to a vehicle, while reckless and dangerous, is not a more abnormal use of a vehicle than the other reckless and dangerous uses of a vehicle such as texting while driving,” Ontario Divisional Court Justice Paul Perell wrote in a decision released Tuesday.

The court ruling in upheld a previous decision by the accident benefits tribunal in 2017. Iris Charbonneau was injured while surfing a car in what was deemed an “auto accident” according to an adjudicator at the Ontario Licence Appeal Tribunal.

Charbonneau’s accident happened in 2013. She was surfing a 2013 Nissan Quest, holding the roof rack in on hand and friend’s shoulder in the other whilst standing on the bumper. Another friend was with her on the bumper when the driver performed a sharp turn. Charbonneau fell from the vehicle and hit he head on the floor.

Auto Accident

Intact Insurance argued the accident could not be called an “auto accident” so there should be no payout. The company also pointed to no accident benefits coverage on the policy issues to Charbonneau’s father. In 2014, the adjudicator did not agree with Intact, prompting the company to take the case to the Ontario Divisional Court.

“In our opinion, while reckless and foolish, Ms. Charbonneau was using the vehicle for its normal purpose of transportation and there was an accident in which the adjudicator correctly determined there was Statutory Accident Benefits,” Perell wrote for the court.

“Intact submitted that the purpose test is designed to ensure that no fault benefits are confined or restricted to accidents or to motorists and others who are making an ordinary and well-known use of the vehicles,” Perell wrote. “In the immediate case, Intact’s submission is self-defeating because the adjudicator had material before her to suggest that car surfing is a commonplace enough activity that the legislature has thought fit to criminalize it as an offence under s. 178 of the Highway Traffic Act, which prohibits ‘attaching oneself to a vehicle.’”