Summertime means vacations and outdoor fun. Over the years all terrain vehicles (ATV's) have steadily increased in popularity as recreational vehicles. Unfortunately, most consumers are unaware of the hidden dangers of these vehicles and the number of deaths and serious personal injuries associated with their use.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that over the 2010 Memorial Day weekend alone, there were a reported 28 deaths related to ATV use. That's an average of 7 deaths per day over that one holiday weekend. Between 2004 and 2006, deaths of children under the age of 16 increased more than 65%.
In California the number of reported deaths is staggering. Between 1982 and 2009, there were 560 fatalities associated with ATV's. 101 of the deaths between 1982 and 2006 were children under the age of 16.
California has passed various ATV laws to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with these recreational vehicles. Operators are required to wear helmets on public lands at all times. All operators under the age of 18 must possess a safety certificate or be with an adult with a safety certificate if operating on public lands. Passengers may not be carried while on public lands, except one passenger may be carried if the particular ATV is designed to carry a passenger. The ATV may not be used on highways, except to cross highways. Click here to obtain more information about ATV training.
Obeying the safety laws however, does not prevent serious ATV injuries and accidents. There has been many wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits alleging that the design of particular ATV's are contributing factors to these accidents. These product liability claims often look at whether the center of gravity of these vehicles is too high causing them to be unnecessarily top heavy. The Yamaha Rhino 450 and 650 have been widely criticized. Critics claim that the vehicles were involved in numerous slow speed rollovers on flat terrain. Safety experts say the high center of gravity and narrow tires for these vehicles make them especially prone to rollover accidents.
Yamaha issued a safety recall of these vehicles in 2007. Owners of 2004 through 2007 models can have their vehicles modified. The safety modifications are free of charge.
Because ATV's, unlike cars, do not have doors or rollover protection, occupants can becoming easily trapped if the ATV turns over. This can result in crush injuries resulting in amputation of the limb. Other injuries often associated with ATV accidents involved permanent brain trauma, and spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis.
As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I know that litigation in this area is challenging. In order to be successful in these type cases, you need an experienced products liability lawyer to review the case. Due to the complex nature of these case, they can be extremely expensive to litigate. The products liability lawyer must be familiar with and have access to the types of experts needed to prove not only the design defect, but the causation issues in the case, i.e. how did the design defect contribute to cause the accident in questions. Typically, experts used in these cases include biomechanical engineers, mechanical and design engineers, accident reconstructionists, handling and safety stability professionals.
As with any personal injury case, acting promptly after an injury occurs is extremely important. It is vitally important that the scene of the accident be investigated and photographed. The ATV in question should immediately be stored for preservation of evidence and inspection by experts. Interviews of potential witnesses should be done immediately before witness's memories fade.
CPSC, CPSC Warns Memorial Day Weekend Among the Deadliest Holidays for ATV Riders, May 27, 2011