In 2012, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that 505 adults and 68 children lost their lives in accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Thousands more suffered debilitating injuries, making ATV accidents a common source of personal injury litigation.
ATVs are designed to be used on many different types of terrain. They are typically made for a single rider, with a seat and handlebars mounted on low pressure tires.
Most ATVs have four wheels, but three- and six-wheel models are also available. ATVs can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
ATVs are most often thought of as recreational vehicles, but they are also used heavily in farm settings to tend to livestock, haul supplies, and inspect property boundaries. Louisiana law allows ATVs and other off-road vehicles on the shoulders of public roads or highways, except interstate highways, from 30 minutes after sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset, with incidental crossing of public roads or highways as needed.
Causes of ATV Accidents
Some of the most common causes of ATV accidents include:
- Driving on a paved surface when ATVs are intended for off-road use
- Carrying passengers when the vehicle is intended for a single rider
- Driver inexperience
- Driver intoxication
- Trying to perform stunts or other dangerous maneuvers
- Allowing children to ride unsupervised
Types of Injuries
In an ATV accident, the vehicle typically flips or rolls. This can result in the rider being pinned beneath it. Injuries from an ATV accident can result in permanent disability or death. Common examples of ATV injuries include:
- Sprains and strains
- Broken bones
- Spinal injury
- Back injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Internal organ damage or bleeding
- Nerve damage
Liability for Injuries
There are many different circumstances that can affect who is liable for injuries suffered in an ATV accident. Potentially responsible parties include:
- ATV rental agency
- Friend or family member who owned the ATV the victim was riding
- Owner of the property where the accident occurred
- Driver of another vehicle involved in the accident
- Parents of a child who causes an ATV injury due to his age or inexperience
- Manufacturer of the ATV, if a mechanical defect caused the accident
In some cases, more than one party may be liable for the accident. When this happens, each party is responsible for a percentage of the total damages in accordance with the assigned percentage of fault.
A personal injury claim from an ATV accident can include compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including anticipated future medical needs related to a permanent disability
- Lost wages, including anticipated loss of future earning potential related to a permanent disability
- Pain and suffering, including both physical pain and emotional trauma
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury case filled by the surviving family of someone who died in an accident caused by another party's negligence. A wrongful death claim can include compensation for:
- Medical expenses up to the time of death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost future earnings
- Pain and suffering of the deceased, if the death was not immediate
- The family's loss of the companionship of the deceased
Punitive damages can be awarded in both personal injury and wrongful death claims, but only in cases of especially egregious misconduct such as causing an accident while severely intoxicated. Punitive damages aren't intended to compensate for a specific loss but, rather, to serve as a deterrent for future bad behavior on the part of the defendant.
The Value of Legal Representation
Since ATV accidents can involve serious injuries and multiple potential defendants, seeking the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney is strongly recommended. A skilled attorney can help determine financial responsibility for the accident, assess the value of the case, gather necessary evidence, contact applicable expert witnesses, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Personal injury claims are accepted on a contingency fee basis, which means the attorney is paid a portion of the settlement as the fee for his services. This allow you to obtain quality representation with no upfront expense.
If you or a family member has been injured in an ATV accident you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is committed to protecting the rights of Louisiana residents who've suffered harm in ATV accidents caused by another party's negligence. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.