Injured in an accident involving an ATV, UTV, or other off-road vehicle?
Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed in ATV accidents. This recreational sport attracts people of all ages and despite improved safety efforts, the past time is still incredibly dangerous. In this article we will explain the serious effects of ATV accidents, common causes of these accidents, and the various people who the court may deem responsible for your injuries.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What exactly is an ATV?
- What do I do if I've been injured in an ATV accident?
- How are ATV accident different from car accident or motorcycle accidents?
The Basics of ATVs:
The Specialty Vehicle Institute of American defines an all-terrain vehicle as:
"...a motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on four low-pressure tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control."
There are two classes of ATVs by the manufacturer. Type 1 ATVs are intended by the manufacturer for use by a single operator and no passenger. Type 2 ATVs are intended by the manufacturer for use by an operator and a passenger, and are equipped with a designated seating position behind the operator. There are even youth-modeled ATVS. Youth model ATVs are designed for smaller hands and feet, and travel at slower speeds appropriate for their age. 3-wheel vehicles have been outlawed for sale in the US.
Some of the guidelines that the ATV Safety Institute recommends riders follow include:
- Do not ride an ATV on paved roads.
- Passengers should not ride on ATVs designed for one person.
- Make sure the ATV is age-appropriate for the rider.
- Children must be supervised if they are to ride an ATV.
Common Injuries in ATV accidents
Since they lack safety features built into the vehicle, injuries tend to be fairly severe. Any part of the body can be injured in an ATV accident. That said, there are a few types of injuries that are most common. These include:
- brain injuries
- broken bones
We have experience with handling many ATV accident cases, and we've seen the havoc it can bring on a family.
Who is to blame for ATV accidents?
When an accident happens, people want to know who is to blame for the incident. When this accident involves an ATV, the could include several people. These include:
The cold hard reality is that this is the party most likely at fault is the rider, statistically speaking. Most ATV accidents result from simple rider error. Obviously that's not the only cause of these accidents, it's just the most common cause. Even if rider error is not to blame, you can expect they will have to deal with being blamed for the accident.
The Owner of the ATV
The owner of an ATV is obligated to make sure that anyone they lend the vehicle to has the training and mental and physical faculties to operate the vehicle safely. When they lend the vehicle to someone who does not possess these abilities, this is a special kind of negligence called negligent entrustment. There are several common circumstances where negligent entrustment rears its ugly head. Those include:
Letting a young child ride an ATV
Letting a drunk person ride an ATV
Letting someone ride an ATV when you know that have a proclivity toward reckless behavior or a lack of skills
There are a couple other things outside of negligent entrustment that an owner can do, such as: failing to provide safety equipment, letting too many people ride at once, failing to instruct the riders on basic operation of the vehicle, handing them the keys to a vehicle that is not functioning properly or in disrepair
For example, imagine Billy is 10 years old and his uncle gives him the keys to an ATV and sets him loose. Billy then rides into a telephone pole and dies. Surely a cynical enough person could blame Billy, but a more reasoned analysis would say that the main reason this happened is that the uncle let his nephew ride the ATV, which someone that young cannot safely do without adequate training.
The Owner of the Real Property where the ATV is ridden
In the law, there is a distinction between real property (like owning land) and personal property (like ATVs, cars, etc.). In the last section we mentioned how the owner of a piece of personal property can be responsible for a couple kinds of misconduct. But also, the owner of real property can be found negligent for a few other kinds of mistakes. In particular, real property owners are held accountable for defects on their premises and for allowing a dangerous condition to exist on the premises.
You can probably imagine a variety of scenarios that would apply to an ATV accident that would fall into either category. For instance, Joe is riding an ATV on his friend's ranch, and the friend neglected to mention there is an open well. Joe rides into the well and is injured. That would be an example of a premises defect that caused the accident.
What other specific premises defects could the court determine is responsible for an ATV accident? Hard to say. It's best to think of as a spectrum. On one end imagine you have a legal standard that requires a property owner to keep their premises free and clear of all issues lest they be 100% at-fault for any injuries, and on the other end, imagine a legal standard under which the law says they can have giant gaping holes in their front yard and not warn anyone, yet they escape all liability. Naturally, in the real world, juries shrug off either extreme, and agree that liability falls somewhere in the middle. Consequently, there are many premises defects that could lead to an ATV accident that a jury would say the property owner does not bear liability for, and there are many that a jury would conclude they are liable for.
Manufacturer of the ATV
Most of the time ATV accidents are not caused by a defect or a design flaw, but sometimes they are. For example, the Yamaha Rhino, which is a side-by-side ATV, would flip over causing horrific injuries just by turning the steering wheel slightly while at speed. Obviously, people who purchased these unreasonably dangerous vehicles didn't knowingly buy a vehicle that would rollover and hurt them when being driven in a normal fashion. This failure to warn Rhino owners about the vehicle's propensity to rollover resulted in liability for the manufacturer.
Products liability cases related to ATVs usually involve a vehicle that does not perform as expected. It is not the intention of the court to force ATV manufacturers to build perfectly safe ATVs that protect their occupants under all circumstances. Rather, the law simply required that ATV manufacturers fulfill the reasonable expectations that their customers have with respect to the vehicle's intended use. For instance, we had a case a few years ago where a young man purchased a competition-grade ATV. this vehicle was designed and marketed to be used in off-road environment, jumping over dunes and the like. The very first jump that this vehicle was subjected to resulted in a catastrophic failure of a major structural component. Had he made a jump like this in any other kind of vehicle, the manufacturer would have been able to disclaim liability, arguing, "Of course the vehicle broke under those circumstance. It's not made to do that." But when a vehicle is made to be used in such a fashion, the owner can hold the manufacturer accountable with the product fails to live up to this promise.
If you're curious what kinds of compensation are available following an ATV accident, there are several types available to you. You can sue for:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Money to replace the ATV
- Funeral expenses and other damages associated with a wrongful death claim
None of these damages are paid automatically just because you've been involved in an accident. You have to prove that you sustained injury and that the compensation is equal to the amount you're requesting in your case. An experienced attorney will be able to look over your claim and give you an idea of what you might expect to recover.
Gives Grossman Law Offices a Call Today.
Therefore, if you have been injured due to a defective ATV or due to a dangerous condition on a property on which you were riding, you may be entitled to recovery for your damages. Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have helped hundreds of personal injury victims seek the compensation they need to move on with their lives. Grossman Law Offices has been helping people for over two decades and we may be able to help you, contact Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000.
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