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Who Is at Fault in an ATV Accident?

Posted on Saturday, April 28th, 2018 at 1:07 am    

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) are popular for recreational use and on farms. In most states, they are not allowed to be used on public roads and are designed to be used off formed roads and highways. They can be a lot of fun when driven with regard to safety, but unfortunately accidents are common and many injuries prove to be fatal. The ATV injury rate is sitting at over 120,000 a year across the country. Many of those who are injured or killed are children. The fact that most ATVs stick to off road use makes it tempting for farmers and landowners to allow kids to use the vehicles as well as tempting for kids themselves. ATV drivers are encouraged to use helmets, but this is not often done. Like motorcycles, the ATV seat is straddled, which means that there is no safety belt to protect the driver or passenger.

Liability in an ATV accident

There are several different scenarios when considering an ATV accident:

  • The ATV driver is injured in a solo incident, i.e. no other vehicle was involved;
  • The ATV passenger was injured;
  • Another person, not in the ATV, was injured;
  • The occupants of the ATV were injured because they were hit by another vehicle.

Proving liability in an ATV accident can be problematic. The accident may happen in a remote area, or at least out of sight of anyone else, so the possibility that there were eye witnesses is reduced. The ATV driver and passenger may, or may not, have had training, safety protection, or even permission to use the vehicle in the first place. There may be defects in the vehicle or the helmet may have been faulty. All of these considerations must be taken into account in an ATV accident. If you, or a member of your family, such as your child, has been injured in an ATV accident, you should talk to a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options before filing a claim.

ATV driver is injured

If the ATV driver was injured in a crash which didn’t involve another vehicle, then it is quite possible that there is no-one else to blame but the driver. However, there are other scenarios which might make a personal injury claim a valid option. The main scenarios include vehicle defects, helmet defects and lack of maintenance of a designated off road vehicle track. As with any personal injury claim, if there is a product liability issue, then there must be proof that a vehicle was inherently unsafe, e.g. its brakes or steering faulty, the helmet was inherently unsafe, e.g.it cracked or collapsed on impact with the ground.

An accident that happened on a designated ATV track, for example, one provided by a private company, may be blamed at least partly on the owner of the track if it can be proven that it lacked routine maintenance.

ATV passenger is injured

If the passenger is injured, he or she may be able to prove that the injuries were caused by the actions of the driver, e.g. the driver failed to anticipate the conditions, was drunk at the time, was untrained etc.

ATV occupants injured by another driver

If the ATV was hit by another off road vehicle, such as another TV, an SUV, or a farm vehicle that was negligently driven, then the injured victims may have legitimate reason for pursuing a personal injury claim against the other driver. Because of Texas comparative negligence rules, the ATV driver’s contribution to the accident must be less than 50% to enable any compensation to be obtained at all.

ATV driver is injured and had permission to drive from parents

An interesting case in Florida recently involved a young girl who was killed after using an ATV for the first time. The family argued that the accident could be blamed partly on the boy who had given the girl permission to use the ATV knowing she had had no experience of driving one before and the boy’s parents, who had allowed their son to use the ATV without supervision despite clear warnings by the ATV seller and manufacturer that it should not be used by anyone under 16 (the boy was 12). The case has not been decided at the time this blog was written, but it does present an interesting legal question.

ATV accidents are often tragic, and it can be hard to know exactly who or what was to blame. If you, or a family member, have been injured in an ATV accident in or around McAllen, or the surrounding area, you should contact an experienced ATV accident attorney at the Patino Law Firm. Call 956-631-3535 today.