ATVs are a class of motor vehicles designed principally for off-road use by farmers and other types of businesses as well as for racing and recreational purposes. Some can travel up to 65 miles per hour. Although they can be fun to operate, there are about 700 fatalities per year attributable to ATV use and 135,000 injuries with about one-third of these involving individuals 16 years of age or younger.
Massachusetts law requires that you register your ATV. Other laws and rules regarding the operation of an ATV include:
- All riders must wear helmets
- Use on paved roads or public ways is prohibited except to cross such roads
- Your ATV must have a lighted headlight and taillight between sunrise and sunset
- Drivers between the ages of 12 and 14 must be supervised by an adult at least 18-years of age
- If under 18, you must take an operator safety and responsibility program before driving
- Operators cannot be younger than the age of 10 and if under 14, can only drive an ATV if supervised by an adult on their parents’ land or if engaged in a special event
Further, you must operate these vehicles so as not to endanger any person or property or to harass wildlife.
Liability and Insurance
Although these vehicles are not covered by standard auto insurance policies, there are other insurance options to protect you in case of injury. You can purchase off-road or ATV insurance to cover you in case of injury that also provides for uninsured coverage in case the individual responsible for your injuries was uninsured.
If you are injured on an ATV, issues regarding coverage will depend on where the accident occurred as well as how it happened. For instance, if you were operating an ATV on someone else’s property and struck a hazard that caused you injury, then you may be covered by the landowner’s homeowner’s policy so long as you can prove that the landowner’s negligence caused your accident. If the landowner was aware that you were using his land for off-road vehicle use, then his failure to ensure that the path you were taking was safe may be enough to trigger coverage. It may depend on the hazard that caused the accident and if the landowner had sufficient notice of its existence. There is also the Recreational Use Statute to contend with.
Should you be injured on your own property, then your homeowner’s policy should cover you for medical expenses and other losses. If you have homeowner coverage, then check it carefully when you purchase an ATV or ask your insurance agent about coverages and exclusions. You may not need additional ATV insurance if you plan on operating the ATV exclusively on your own property. But if your homeowner’s policy has certain exclusions that cover any situations in which you could be involved, then consider purchasing ATV insurance. Note that you cant file a claim for pain and suffering against your own policy for your own negligence.
Many ATV accidents occur with other ATVs or motor vehicles. If so, your first option is to look to that operator’s ATV or motor vehicle’s insurance, if any. If that person was not insured, then you can look to the uninsured provision of your own ATV policy.
An attorney experienced in insurance issues is likely needed for negligence cases – cases against another person and their insurance company for negligently causing your injuries.
Causes of ATV Accidents
ATV accidents are caused by operator negligence or equipment failure. Causes include:
- Lack of special training
- Climbing steep slopes
- Traveling on paved roadways (tires are not equipped for paved roads)
- Collisions with motor vehicles
- Collisions with other ATVs
- Collisions with stationary objects
- Carrying heavy loads or passengers that leads to rollovers because of loss of maneuverability
- Speeding or traveling too fast for the terrain conditions
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Municipal liability for improper signage
- Equipment failure–faulty steering, brakes, suspension, tires, lighting systems, defective helmet
If equipment failure was a substantial cause of your accident and injuries, then your attorney will bring a product liability claim against the ATV manufacturer. These are complex cases with complicated issues that often require that your attorney retain an expert and have the resources to prosecute these claims. Call the Law Offices of Burns and Jain in any accident involving an ATV.
Damages in an ATV Accident
Many ATV accidents result in traumatic head injuries from failure to wear a helmet or from being ejected from the ATV in a collision since you have no or little protection surrounding you. Your damages in an ATV accident can be substantial. These might include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income losses
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain the Law Offices of Burns and Jain
An ATV accident can cause headaches regarding insurance coverage as well as proving liability and damages. You need experienced legal representation if you or a loved one was injured in an ATV accident. Call our law offices to discuss your injury claim and see how we can help at 617-227-7423.