All terrain vehicles (ATV’s) are an indispensable tool for farmers, ranchers, search and rescue, forest service, and others who must routinely work in off-road areas inaccessible to other vehicles. They have also become increasingly popular for recreation and, too often, they are used in this capacity by inexperienced, untrained riders and children, causing hundreds of deaths and thousand of injuries each year.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 1999 to 2005 there were 3,618 reported ATV-related deaths and an estimated 796,500 ATV-related injuries treated in emergency rooms. More than 25% of deaths and over 30% of injuries occurred in children under the age of 16.
There are several reasons why children are so often victims in ATV accidents. Too often parents, and children alike, view ATV’s as toys. Many of the vehicles are designed for and marketed to children. In reality they are heavy, powerful, and sometimes difficult to control. They should never be ridden by children without adult supervision. ATV’s are designed to be ridden by one person at a time, but children (and adults) tend to overload the vehicles with two or more riders. Lack of training, lack of body strength, lack of motor skills, and poor judgment are common factors in accidents involving children.
Inadequate warning labels and lack of training programs lead to many ATV accidents for children and adults. Second hand and rental ATV’s often wind up in the hands of inexperienced riders with no training, experience or knowledge of the potential dangers.
In September, 2006, the CPSC, with the support of NASCAR legend Richard Petty and the National 4-H Council, announced its “take knowledge to the extreme” campaign aimed at reducing ATV-related injuries and deaths, especially in children. The campaign includes the proposal of new safety rules including:
- Banning 3-wheeled ATVs, which present three times the risk of injury compared to 4-wheel ATVs and have re-emerged through the import market, Internet and secondhand dealers
- Making the current voluntary standard mandatory, which would require all ATVs to meet U.S. safety standards
- Calling for three models of youth ATVs instead of two and setting speed limitations for each youth model
- Requiring retailers to offer free training to all ATV purchasers and members of their immediate family
- Requiring retailers to provide a written form to purchasers warning against the use of adult ATVs by children and giving death and injury statistics related to children riding adult ATVs
ATV injuries can be catastrophic, leading to life-long disability or death. Some of the most common ATV-related injuries include:
- Skull fractures
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Facial fractures
- Oral injuries
ATV accident lawsuits are different from regular auto accident lawsuits. They typically include the primary elements of auto accident cases, but have additional elements due to the very dangerous nature of ATV’s and the off-road conditions which are usually involved, meaning that certain laws do not normally apply – the vehicles do not have to be “street legal” and drivers do not have to be licensed and insured. There may be several responsible parties, including the manufacturer and dealership, among many others. Navigating an ATV accident lawsuit can be complicated (since it involves both accident reconstruction and product liability issues. You should seek the advice of an attorney who has experience with ATV accident litigation to evaluate your claim.
The catastrophic nature of ATV accidents can result in extensive medical bills, long-term rehabilitation and care, loss of wages, and sometimes the wrongful death of a loved one. Even in the wake of such devastating events, it is necessary to act quickly after an accident occurs in order to receive the compensation that you deserve. It may be your only way to provide adequate care for an injured child or loved one.
If you or a loved on has been injured or killed in an ATV accident, talk to an experienced ATV accident attorney today.