Off-road vehicles (“ORVs”), particularly all-terrain vehicles (“ATVs”) and utility all-terrain vehicles (“UTVs”), are prevalent throughout North Carolina.
These vehicles are available in a range of styles and may differ in their functions. People use these vehicles for agriculture, transportation, hunting, and pleasure. ATVs can be both useful and entertaining.
However, ATVs can also be very dangerous. Many of these vehicles reach speeds of up to 60 mph. Some models have seat belts or other additional safety equipment, while others do not have this equipment. In 2018, there were approximately 81,800 ATV-related injuries requiring emergency treatment nationwide.
ATVs pose a high risk of rollover, especially when an ATV hits a ditch, large rock, or even a slight hollow in the ground. Driving these vehicles in dangerous weather conditions, such as rain, snow or ice, can also increase the risk of rollovers.
North Carolina ranked 9th among states for ATV-related fatalities, with 458 ATV-related deaths between 1982 and 2014. Unfortunately, from 2015 to 2017, North Carolina fell to 7th place for the number of ATV-related fatalities, with 68 ATV-related fatalities. related deaths (3% of deaths reported nationally).
Since riding ATVs and other ORVs can be a fun way to explore the outdoors, it is common for children and teens to ride them, but it can be dangerous. From 2015 to 2019, approximately 524,600 ORV accidents resulted in injuries treated by emergency services in the United States. Of these 524,600 ORV crashes, 70,300 children under 12 were injured (approximately 13% of all injuries) and 140,000 children under 16 were injured (approximately 27% of all injuries).
Before using potentially hazardous equipment, it is imperative to review the owner’s manual, warning labels, and all risks / hazards associated with operating an ATV or other ORV. Some warning labels and owner’s manuals contain age or license requirements, while others do not. Some warning labels may also indicate the appropriate number of passengers and where they can or cannot be seated.
Catastrophic and potentially fatal injuries can occur in an ATV accident. The physical, mental and emotional impacts of these accidents can be temporary or permanent for survivors and their families. The financial distress resulting from medical bills and other expenses related to accidents can also be astronomical. Thus, it is imperative to be aware of the legal issues involved should you or a loved one find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being involved in an accident involving an ORV, ATV, or UTV.
Liability and damages
As in other cases of bodily injury, an injured person is only entitled to recover damages from an ATV operator and / or an ATV owner if the operator and / or the owner owner is “responsible” for the accident. The operator and / or owner must have been “negligent” in causing the accident, and such negligence must have “directly caused” the injury to the person.
Of course, sometimes an accident is the fault of more than one party. North Carolina is one of the few states to still recognize the common law rule of âcontributory negligenceâ. This rule provides that if the injured party negligently contributes to the collision, even up to only 1%, the injured party cannot recover from the other party at all. This is a tough rule that most other states have done away with. However, North Carolina also recognizes exceptions to the rule.
If the rule of contributory negligence does not apply, or if one of the exceptions to the rule does apply, the injured party is able to recover all damages âproximately causedâ by the negligence of the ATV operator ( or the owner of the ATV). Such damages may include the cost of repairing or replacing damaged physical property, medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, decreased future income, pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, loss of use of a body part or the permanence associated with any persistent injury.
The purpose of bodily harm is to make the injured party âwholeâ. This is obviously impossible after a serious or catastrophic loss, but the law does its best to award pecuniary damages to compensate, as closely as possible, the loss of an injured person. Thus, the at-fault ATV operator, ATV owner, one of their insurers, or other responsible party may be required to pay damages for all such losses.
Subjects involved in ATV cases
The ATV business can be particularly complicated given both the particular factual issues and the legal issues that may apply.
First, there may be more parties involved in an ATV accident than in a typical automobile accident. The ATV operator, of course, could be at fault. However, if the ATV operator borrows the ATV or is a minor, the ATV owner may also be responsible. If the facts are sufficiently obvious, the injured party can claim punitive damages (additional damages intended to punish the operator of the ATV and / or the owner of the ATV).
In addition, it is important to analyze whether other parties can be held responsible, including other drivers on the roadway at the time of the accident if the ATV is driven on or near a road, the owner of the ATV if the rider borrows the vehicle, or even the manufacturer or distributor if the ATV has faulty equipment.
Part of the North Carolina statutes specifically regulates the sale and operation of ATVs. Some of these laws include age restrictions, passenger restrictions, actions prohibited by a seller, equipment requirements, actions prohibited by an owner / operator, safety training, penalties and exceptions.
If a lawsuit stems from an ATV accident, the litigation process can be complicated. The “discovery” process may include an inspection of the ATV’s ownership records, the operating system (including its brakes, muffler system and spark arrester), owner’s manual (s), vehicle labels. warning and other documents. It may also be necessary to retain the services of experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists.
As with other personal injury cases, liability insurance plays an important role. The injured party can recover under several insurance policies, depending on the person responsible. Responsible ATV rider auto insurance policies, home insurance policies, other liability insurance policies, and / or executive insurance policies may or may not be available to an injured party. If the responsible ATV operator does not own the ATV, the owner of the applicable ATV insurance policies may be available for the injured party. If the owner of the ATV is a business entity, the entity’s insurance policies may also be available to the injured party.
If the insurance available is insufficient to cover the losses of the injured party or does not cover some type of damage (such as punitive damages), the party at fault will be individually liable. In addition to liability insurance, there may be short-term med pay coverage available, regardless of the fault, to help with medical bills.
If you are involved in an accident involving an ORV, including, but not limited to an ATV or UTV, you may have a viable legal claim, depending on who was “at fault” for the accident. If you have a claim, the dollar value of your claim will depend on the injuries involved and the damages that may be legally recoverable.
Time is really of the essence. An experienced lawyer who knows how to handle these matters can help you resolve these issues and navigate such a difficult situation. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help you or a family member recover all of the damages available when someone else is at fault in an ATV accident.