Driving recreational or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is a popular way to spend leisure time or a vacation. However, farmers and farm laborers use ATVs to maintain the farm. The fun, enjoyable nature of driving an ATV can mask the substantial risk of injury that may arise due to negligent driving. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150,000 people went to the ER for ATV-related injuries in 2007. Often the victims of ATV accidents are kids.
Do those that are hurt in an ATV accident have any recourse? Most recreational vehicle accident cases turn on fault. The primary issue is who caused the accident. If someone other than the victim caused an ATV accident, the victim can sue on the grounds of negligence by showing that the defendant (1) had a duty to the victim, (2) breached the duty, (3) the breach caused the accident, and (4) the victim sustained losses and actual damages. However, often more than one person is at fault for an accident. In those cases, the jury will allocate a percentage of fault to each party and apportion the damages accordingly.
As with car accidents and truck accidents, an ATV accident victim may be able to recover medical expenses, lost income, psychological anguish, property repairs, and pain and suffering. Where the at-fault party is covered by insurance, the accident victim may be able to recover a significant settlement, but usually not without the help of a personal injury attorney that has the experience to know how much the case is likely worth.
It is unfortunately common for those using ATVs for recreation to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even though many states have made operating an ATV under the influence a criminal offense. If you are operating an ATV under the influence and get injured, it may be more difficult to obtain compensation from another party. However, if you are injured due to negligent actions an ATV driver who is operating under the influence, a criminal conviction for drunk driving can be powerful evidence in a civil personal injury lawsuit.
ATV Drivers That Cause An Accident
What if you were the operator of an ATV and are at fault for the accident? One common reason people get in ATV accidents is a lack of appropriate training. Not understanding how the vehicle works on rough terrain, on hillsides or on paved roads can lead to a crash or rollover.
Similarly, many children have accidents on ATVs that were intended to be driven by adults. In general, ATV engines that are 90cc and over are for children that are 16 or older. Children do not have the strength or experience to operate ATVs intended for adults. If your child is driving someone else's ATV without adult supervision and gets injured, you may be able to secure a settlement with the ATV owner's insurance company. Another common reason for ATV accidents is that the operator hauls a load or passengers that exceeds manufacturer recommendations. Adding weight to the ATV makes it less maneuverable and increases the likelihood that it will roll over.
Even if you are in a single-vehicle ATV accident, you may have recourse to recover compensation for your injuries in a product liability lawsuit. Sometimes an ATV accident that seems to be caused by operator error is actually caused by equipment failure, such as defective brakes or defective steering mechanisms, or even a defective helmet. In those cases, it may be appropriate to bring a suit against the manufacturer of the defective product.
It is important to preserve the ATV and your helmet if you believe equipment failure might have been responsible for your injuries. These are pieces of evidence that may need to be examined by an expert. If the trail you were on while driving the ATV was damaged, a premises liability case may be appropriate.