Thousands of all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are ridden by South Carolinians every day. Some are used for transport or to haul material for work; some are used to play, riding trails on public and private land. But as more and more people recognize ATVs for their ruggedness, economy, and fun, ATV-related injuries and deaths have been increasing.
ATV Death and Injury Statistics
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2014 Annual Report of ATV-Related Deaths and Injuries shows that there were 13,617 ATV-related fatalities nationwide between 1982 and 2014. That’s an average of about 425 deaths per year for the past 32 years. Almost 3,100 of those deaths were of young people under age sixteen, and 1,342 were of children under twelve years old. At least 149 of those deaths were South Carolinians, through 2011.
If you’re shocked at how many people died from ATV-related accidents, the number of injuries suffered nationwide is truly astounding: approximately 93,700 people were seen in the emergency room due to ATV accidents—and that’s just in 2014. About 46 percent of those injuries were due to abrasions, contusions (bruises) and broken bones. About 56 percent were to the head, neck, or arm.
Common Causes of ATV Accidents
While there are many reasons an ATV may crash, negligence is high on the list. When someone operates this type of vehicle carelessly or without regard for the safety of themselves or others, injury or even death can result, and the operator can be held legally liable. Some of the more common causes of negligent ATV accidents include:
- Untrained or Inexperienced drivers
- Driving too fast for the terrain or weather
- ATVs too large for the rider to control safely
- Carrying passengers on a single-rider ATV
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
But operators aren’t the only ones who may be liable for accidents. Property owners might be accountable for accidents, too. For example, if trails aren’t maintained properly and deep holes or pits, steep slopes, dangerous obstructions, or other hazards result in an injury or death, the person or organization responsible for the land or trails can be held responsible.
ATV manufacturers themselves can be found liable, too, if dangerous product defects cause an accident. Flaws in manufacturing or unsafe product design can cause unexpected failures, leading to severe injury or death.
To help prevent child injuries and deaths, Governor Haley signed Chandler’s Law, which took effect in July of 2011. This law disallows children under six years old from operating an ATV, and prohibits operators under sixteen years old from carrying passengers. Operators under 16 years old must also wear helmets and eye protection.
What to Do After an ATV Accident
ATV accidents can lead to expensive medical bills. One of your first tasks (after you receive appropriate medical care) should be to look for an insurance policy that may cover the accident. Note that standard automobile insurance usually doesn’t cover ATV accidents. If negligence by the property owner caused an accident, his or her insurance may provide coverage, for example. If not, it’s possible that the ATV operator’s homeowner’s insurance might be liable.
If the operator was negligent, he or she also might be personally liable. The owner of the ATV may also be liable if he or she allowed someone who should not have been driving to operate the vehicle.
After your accident, a personal injury attorney who has experience with ATV accidents can help you determine who might be responsible, in part or in whole. An attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement from an insurance company, manufacturer, or other negligent party. If push comes to shove, your attorney can also represent you in a court of law to make sure that your right to pursue the compensation that you may be owed.
Speak With an ATV Injury Attorney
At the Law Office Kenneth E. Berger, we’re familiar with the legal processes involved in seeking compensation for your ATV injury, and we would like to help you today. If you’d like to talk to a legal professional about your situation, please call our Columbia office for a free case evaluation today, at 803-790-2800.