Your Legal Options Following an ATV Wreck

by | Jul 26, 2020 | Injuries

When it comes to ATV wrecks, Kentucky is one of the most dangerous jurisdictions in the country. Only four other states have more fatal ATV wrecks than the Bluegrass State.

These victims normally have legal options. A Lexington personal injury attorney might be able to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Additionally, especially in defective product claims, punitive damages are often available. Manufacturers must pay these damages if there is clear and convincing evidence that they intentionally disregarded a known risk.

What Causes ATV Wrecks?

In the 1980s, faced with an increasing number of liability lawsuits, manufacturers replaced three-wheel ATVs with four-wheel models. Individually, four-wheelers are more stable than three-wheelers, and thus less likely to roll over in crashes. But the change had some unintended consequences. 

The popularity of ATVs increased significantly, as did their top speeds. Furthermore, the improved stability gives many operators a false sense of security. So, they often make unwise choices and push these vehicles beyond their designed parameters.

So much for general issues. In terms of a specific crash, the cause is usually one of the following:

  • Exceeding Operational Limits: Many manufacturers advertise their four-wheelers as “off road” vehicles. By that, they mean the vehicle is safe on surfaces like flat and straight dirt roads. Unfortunately, many operators believe “off-road” means things like gullies and steep hills. Many ATV sales people encourage these misuses.
  • Too Many Passengers: Most ATVs are single occupant vehicles, even if the seat is big enough for two or more people. Sometimes these vehicles have written warnings about maximum occupancy, and sometimes they don’t. Regardless, due to the foreseeable misuse doctrine, the manufacturer could still be responsible for damages. More on that below.
  • Product Defect: Small defects often cause serious injury accidents on paved, level roads. These same defects often cause much more serious injuries if they occur offroad. Common defects include loose parts and cheap materials.

ATV product defects are especially troubling. According to one safety advocate, “Too many families, thousands of families every year, are tragically impacted by ATV deaths and serious injuries. ATVs are one of the most dangerous products CPSC [the Consumer Product Safety Commission] regulates, causing more deaths and injuries than almost any other product under CPSC’s jurisdiction.”

Common Injuries

Broken bones, head injuries, and blood loss are the most common injuries in most ATV crashes in Kentucky.

Fall-related broken bones are usually not too serious. Crash-related broken bones are a different matter. Generally, vehicle accidents crush bones. They do not merely break them. As a result, these victims usually suffer permanent loss of use, at least to an extent.

Overall, vehicle collisions are the most common cause of head injuries in Kentucky. Frequently, the motion of a crash causes a permanent brain injury. Sudden, violent motion forces the brain against the inside of the skull.

Exsanguination, or excessive blood loss, is often the official cause of death in an ATV crash. Many of these accidents occur offroad in remote areas. As a result, these victims might not get the help they need straightaway. A few ticks of the clock could literally be the difference between life and death.

Your Claim for Damages

In their rush to make money, many ATV manufactures knowingly sell defective products. This issue could be a:

  • Design Defect: To increase speed and agility, many ATVs have narrow wheel bases and small tires. These design defects make these vehicles more susceptible to accidents, especially over rugged terrain.
  • Manufacturing Defect: As mentioned, many manufactures use cheap materials and components. These cheap materials are not designed to stand up to extensive wear and tear.

To defend these claims, many manufacturers claim the rider pushed the vehicle too far, and that misuse caused the injury. But the foreseeable misuse rule usually comes inco play here. Manufacturers are responsible for misuse-related injuries, unless the misuse was not foreseeable. Examples of such misuse include using a riding lawn mower to trim ivy on a brick wall.

If the victim was a passenger, the ordinary negligence doctrine might be available. If the driver failed to use reasonable care, the driver is financially responsible for the passenger’s injuries. Negligence actions do not “blame” anyone for the accident. Instead, these actions hold people responsible for the mistakes they make.

ATV wrecks often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.