All-terrain vehicles, known as ATVs, are used across the country for work and play. Farmers and farm laborers use off-road vehicles to:
- Keep track of livestock and grazing areas
- Inspect and maintain farmland
- Check and haul supplies to crops
Many people also use ATVs as recreational vehicles on family farms, in off-road and mountainous areas, as well as in rural and coastal terrain.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which maintains injury statistics for ATVs, has documented a total of 14,129 reported ATV-related deaths during the period from 1982 to 2015. In 2015 alone, the CPSC estimates that nearly 98,000 people received emergency room treatment for ATV-related injuries.
If you or a loved one has suffered an all-terrain vehicle accident or fatality, you might be entitled to compensation. If you file an accident claim, you can potentially sue the ATV operator, property owner, ATV manufacturer, or other at-fault parties for your medical expenses.
This article will walk accident victims through the aftermath of an ATV crash. It will also explain what to do if serious injuries or wrongful death have been suffered.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Some of the most serious non-fatal ATV injury problems include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Permanent concussions
- Neurologic injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries, fractures, and dislocations
TBI can occur when an ATV rider hits their head in an accident, crash, or rollover. Often, the person involved in the crash may not even appear injured.
People injured in non-fatal ATV accidents can suffer catastrophic, life-changing medical problems. Treatment for ATV injuries can be costly and extensive. Head and spinal cord injuries often need extensive, ongoing physical therapy and rehabilitation.
The most common type of injury cause involves an ATV flipping or rolling. When this happens, an ATV driver and passenger can be thrown from the vehicle or even pinned down by it. Many people don't realize that, in general, ATVs are not designed to carry passengers in the back. Doing so can put both passengers and the vehicle operator at an increased risk of an accident.
Because children often lack the fine motor skills to operate ATVs properly, their risk for injury is greater than that of adults. Studies have found that adolescent and teenage ATV riders have more severe injuries than any other age group. Although there are state and federal laws for all-terrain vehicles, serious non-fatal ATV injuries can occur.
Cost of Medical Treatment and Long-Term Care From ATV Injuries
Treatment for ATV injuries often involves life-changing therapies and rehabilitation.
Besides physical damage, mental impairment and emotional damage suffered by many victims of life-changing ATV injuries may be severe. Some TBI victims will need a lifetime of chronic care, together with extensive rehabilitation and the use of expensive assistive technologies.
To reduce your risk of injury, follow these safety tips:
- Always wear an approved helmet, footwear, and other protective gear
- Do not allow ATV drivers to carry passengers
- Ensure that all ATV drivers read and understand the vehicle's operating manual
- Check local and state regulations governing ATV use
- Make sure that all ATV drivers and riders get safety training and practice operating an ATV
- Never let young children drive an ATV
- Never drive an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Make sure that you have at least one working communications device with you when you drive or ride an ATV
Immediate Actions After an ATV Accident
After being involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident, there are several steps you should take. Start by ensuring your safety and the safety of others involved. If possible, check for injuries. Seek immediate medical attention and document the accident scene to collect useful evidence. Reporting the accident to the insurance company is also necessary. A personal injury lawyer can provide you with guidance on your legal options.
Laws governing ATVs often focus on the following:
- Age restrictions for riders
- Helmet and safety equipment requirements
- Rules about where and when ATVs can be used
Because ATVs are used off-road, they're subject to a different set of regulations. These might include restrictions on operating ATVs in protected areas to prevent environmental damage.
ATVs lack many safety features due to their off-road nature and open design. Helmets and protective clothing are often the primary safety considerations for ATV riders. Rollovers and collisions with natural obstacles are safety concerns with ATVs.
ATV insurance can be more varied than insurance for trucks and other vehicles due to the diverse ways people use ATVs. Some homeowners' policies may offer limited coverage for ATVs. This is especially true when they're used solely on the property owner's land. But for broader coverage that includes physical damage to the ATV, liability for injury to others, and damage to other people's property, specific ATV insurance policies are usually necessary. This insurance becomes important when using ATVs off the owner's property for hunting.
Product Liability in ATV Accident Cases
In instances where a manufacturing or design defect in the ATV has contributed to the accident, you may have a product liability claim. Legal counsel can help determine the validity of a product liability lawsuit.
When it comes to ATVs, these claims can arise from three main areas:
- Design defects: These involve inherent flaws in the design of the ATV that render it dangerous even when used correctly. If an ATV has a high center of gravity that makes it prone to rollovers, that could be a design defect.
- Manufacturing defects: These involve errors that occur during the production process that make a particular ATV model unsafe. Imagine the brake system of the ATV was assembled incorrectly. This would be a manufacturing defect.
- Warning defects: These involve inadequate instructions or failures to warn users about potential risks and dangers associated with the use of the product. In the case of ATVs, a warning defect could be the absence of clear instructions on how to operate the ATV safely, or the lack of clear and visible warnings about potential stability issues, rollover risks, or other dangers related to its operation.
Premises Liability in ATV Accidents
If your ATV accident occurred on another person's property, and hazardous conditions on that property contributed to the accident, premises liability laws may come into play.
To establish a premises liability claim following an ATV accident, you must prove:
- Duty of care: You must show that the property owner had a duty to ensure the safety of the premises for ATV use. The extent of this duty depends on whether you were invited onto the property (an "invitee"), entered the property with the owner's permission for your own purpose (a "licensee"), or were trespassing.
- Breach of duty: You must prove that the property owner breached their duty of care. This could involve showing that they knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and failed to correct it or warn you about it.
- Causation: It must be shown that the property owner's breach of duty caused your ATV accident and resulting injuries. Imagine the property owner left a large pit uncovered and unmarked. You drove your ATV into it because you couldn't see it. This might meet the causation requirement.
- Damages: You must show that you suffered actual damages. This could include physical injury, property damage, or emotional distress.
Filing a Claim Against an ATV Owner
When an ATV owner's negligence results in an accident, legal recourse may be available.
ATV owners must operate and maintain their vehicles responsibly. They must ensure that any person they allow to use their vehicle can do so safely. A breach of this duty resulting in an accident can give rise to a personal injury claim. Such a claim requires proving that the owner's negligence directly led to the accident. It also requires proving that the accident caused actual injuries or damages.
Workers' Compensation Claims and ATV Accidents
If you've been injured in an ATV accident while carrying out work-related tasks, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. Report the incident to your employer. Consult with a lawyer if your claim encounters any resistance.
Your employer should then file a claim with their workers' compensation insurance carrier. If your claim is denied, or if you encounter resistance from your employer or their insurance company, consult with a lawyer.
The Role of Insurance Companies in ATV Accident Cases
Dealing with insurance companies post-ATV accidents can be challenging. Insurers generally aim to minimize their financial responsibility. It's not uncommon for insurance companies to offer lower settlements than what might be reasonably owed. They hope claimants will accept quick payouts rather than pursuing full compensation. An attorney can negotiate with the insurance company to secure just compensation.
ATV Accidents on Public Roads
Even if an ATV accident occurs on public roads (check your local laws as it is illegal in some states to operate an ATV on public roads), you can still pursue compensation. The liable party may range from local government agencies responsible for road maintenance to another driver. The ATV manufacturer could also be responsible. Legal advice from an ATV accident lawyer can help identify the best course of action.
Different parties might be liable for an ATV accident or four-wheeler accident on a public road:
- Government agencies: Imagine poor road maintenance or dangerous road conditions contributed to the accident. Local government agencies responsible for the upkeep of roads could potentially be held accountable. Suing government entities often involves a different process and timeline than suing private entities.
- Other motorists: If another driver caused the accident, they could be liable for damages.
- ATV manufacturers: If a defect in the ATV contributed to the accident, the ATV manufacturer could be held liable under product liability law.
- ATV operators: If the ATV operator was driving recklessly or under the influence of alcohol, they may bear responsibility for the accident.
Get Your Personal Injury Case Evaluated by an ATV Accident Attorney
There are state and federal laws about ATV safety that manufacturers and sellers of ATVs must observe. If you or a loved one has experienced ATV-related injuries, you should first receive medical attention. Then, have an experienced personal injury attorney evaluate your personal injury claim. You may be entitled to compensation for lost income, medical bills, and property damage caused by your ATV accident injury. Speak with a reputable law office for a free initial consultation about your injury lawsuit.