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Can I recover for personal injury from an ATV accident?

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Posted on September 28, 2021

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year more than 135,000 people are injured on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and hundreds of fatalities occur as a result of ATV accidents. In Utah each year there are approximately 7 or more deaths from ATV accidents.

This article is not meant to be a critique of using ATVs as the author grew up riding four-wheelers in the southern Utah desert, and as an adult, my father and I frequently ride two Honda four-wheelers (while my brother is a dirt-bike enthusiast). In fact, in Southern Utah, if you add sand-paddles, Sand Hollow State Park and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park can be some of the biggest thrills. Instead, this article is meant to assist those who enjoy riding but may find themselves in the unfortunate situation of being involved in an ATV accident.

As much as I enjoy riding, like many enthusiasts, even the most serious rider knows that ATVs are not toys. They are powerful and potentially dangerous machines, especially when the rider is inexperienced, or the conditions are less than favorable. Although there are ways to reduce the risk of injury related to ATVs (e.g., not driving on paved roads, no child under 16, not having excess passengers, and wearing protective gear like helmets and eye protection), there is no way to remove all risks associated with ATVs, and injuries will occur.

Utah’s ATV Laws

Utah has additional laws that you must follow when you are on public land, including, but not limited to,  1) a helmet is mandatory on public land for riders under the age of 18; 2) it is illegal to drive any ATVs while under the influence of alcohol; 3) Riders under 18 are required to possess an OHV education certificate or valid Driver’s License and must be under adult supervision; and 4) tall flags are required on sand dunes. If you don’t follow these rules, you may limit your ability to recover for your injuries.

Accidents Happen

Even if you obey all the laws, accidents happen. Frequently, the most common cause of injuries from ATV accidents are because of the ATV overturning. Forward and backward overturns often occur while descending or ascending steep terrain, but side to side overturns frequently occur because of high rates of speed, change in terrain surface (e.g., from sand to gravel), and/or improper loading or excess passengers. The next most common cause of injuries are collisions with other ATVs or stationary objects (e.g., trees, terrain, or animals). In fact, 4/10 injuries and fatalities involving ATVs a collision with another ATV was the primary hazard that led to the death of the rider.

Although the most common injuries resulting from ATV accidents are simple sprains and fractures, however, nearly 1 in 5 accidents require the rider to admitted to the hospital for more serious injuries. Sometimes these injuries include spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, and many more. These costs can add up quickly and often leave victims or their parents with substantial medical costs.

Liability Issues

Almost all recreational activities are determined based on fault. If you are injured because of your own fault, you will likely be precluded from recovery or limited in what you can recover. However, even if you caused the accident, or it was a single vehicle ATV accident, you may be able to seek compensation based on a theory of product liability. This would be especially true if the crash was due to another reason like equipment failure, brake defects, or broken equipment. In these cases, your personal injury attorney may be able to bring a lawsuit on your behalf against a manufacturer for their defective product(s).

If someone other than the victim caused the accident, then you will be able to sue on the grounds of negligence, so long as all of the elements for negligence are met. As with car accidents or motorcycle accidents, an ATV accident victim should be able to recover for their medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, property damage repairs.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Make a Difference

However, in ATV accidents more than other types of insurance, there are more at-fault parties who do not have insurance. In these cases, you will have to sue the at-fault party individually (as opposed to using their insurance). Furthermore, unlike an auto-accident where you have under insured motorist’s coverage (UIM) or uninsured motorist’s coverage (UM), there is normally no insurance policy that people have that would cover ATV accidents. Although, having an experienced personal injury attorney can help because depending on where the accident took place, there may be other ways in which to recover that are not obvious (e.g., premises liability).

As is the case with a motor vehicle accident, anytime you are involved in an ATV accident you should preserve evidence of the scene of the accident. This includes taking pictures of the crashed ATV and documenting who was there. Additionally, if a child is involved, knowing the make and model of the ATV could help if someone allowed them to ride too large of an ATV. Additionally, if you are injured because of another ATV driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may need to report the accident to law enforcement, as a criminal conviction for DUI can be a powerful tool for increasing the value of your case.

Takeaway

ATVs are a popular way to spend your leisure time enjoying the outdoors. However, don’t let the fun mask the substantial risk of injury that occurs when someone is driving negligent. If you have been involved in an ATV accident, even if you think you were at fault, or it was a single-vehicle ATV accident, we recommend talking to our experienced personal injury attorneys at We Win Injury Law. Remember, the consultations are always free, and we don’t charge anything unless we get you a settlement or jury verdict for your case.