ATV Wreck Kills One Teen, Injures One Teen

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2020 | Injuries, Products Liability

Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating an All-Terrain Vehicle wreck in Laurel County.

Few details were available about the wreck. According to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, a 15-year-old driver lost control of an ATV on High Moore Road, and slammed into a tree. The collision killed the driver almost instantly. An 18-year-old passenger was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

None of the names were released.

ATV Wrecks and Defective Products

Marketing campaigns encourage ATV drivers to take these vehicles to the limit. As a result, even a relatively minor issue might cause a serious injury.

Older model ATVs, especially three-wheel models, were prone to rollover accidents, largely because of a design flaw. In most cases, the braking and acceleration functions were not well balanced. This imbalance made the ATV fun to drive and dangerous to operate. These companies probably should have prioritized operator safety over profits, but not surprisingly, they did the opposite.

These ATVs are now illegal to sell. But they are still a common sight on Kentucky off road trails, largely because of the active and largely unregulated used ATV market.

Other common ATV defects include defective tires and defective steering. Certain tires are prone to tread separation, and ATV steering mechanisms contain a host of moving parts.

Insurance companies commonly try to use the misuse defense to avoid liability in these claims. Most ATVs contain warnings, either on the vehicle itself or in the owner’s manual, which prohibit or advise against certain activity, such as driving on certain surfaces or above certain speeds.

Generally, however, such misuses are a foreseeable misuse. The top rung of a ladder is the classic example. It is clearly foreseeable that a person will ignore the warning label and step on the top rung. If that action causes injury, the ladder manufacturer is still liable for damages.

Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable for defective product injuries. Victim/plaintiffs must only establish cause.

ATV Wrecks and Negligence

These claims are different. Negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. Most vehicle operators, whether that vehicle is a car, truck, boat, bicycle, or any other vehicle, have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible, drive defensively, and obey the rules of the road.

If the driver’s behavior fell below this standard, the driver could be liable for any resulting injuries, including injuries to a passenger. There are basically three types of negligence:

  • Operational: Speeding and reckless operation are two of the most common forms of operational negligence in the ATV context. Operators cannot drive at unreasonably high speeds, and they cannot push these vehicles too far. 
  • Environmental: This area of negligence is closely related to operational negligence. For many people, it’s a lot more fun to ride an ATV on a muddy field than on a dry field. The poor conditions create a higher safety responsibility. That’s a responsibility which many operators ignore.
  • Behavioral: It is extremely dangerous to operate a closed, four-wheel vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while the operator is fatigued. Open ATVs greatly enhance these dangers.

ATVs usually do not have seatbelts, airbags, or any other safety systems. As a result, an ATV wreck often involves catastrophic injuries. 

Third Party Liability

Vicarious liability theories, such as negligent entrustment, are often significant in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury wrecks. Frequently, individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.

If the tortfeasor was a teenager, the negligent entrustment rule almost always applies. People under 18 cannot own vehicles or other property. So, teen drivers are almost always operating someone else’s vehicle. Legal owners are financially responsible for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to use their vehicles, and these drivers cause crashes. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Driving record which includes prior safety suspensions,
  • Operating a vehicle in violation of a license restriction (e.g. without glasses), and
  • Driving record which includes one or more at-fault collisions.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases, such as UHaul trucks and Enterprise cars, work differently because of the Graves Amendment. These victims must prove additional facts in order to obtain compensation.

Generally, a Lexington personal injury attorney can obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

ATV wrecks are usually very complex cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.