Injuries and Liability for ATV Accident
We probably all know someone who has been in an ATV crash, and it’s likely that we, ourselves, have even wrecked. There can be serious personal injuries associated with ATV accidents. Common ATV injuries include:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Leg Injuries
- Internal Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Cuts and Bruises
The most common injuries are head and neck injuries and also injuries to the extremities. Studies have shown that not wearing a helmet is directly correlated with injury severity. The most severe injuries happen to occur to boys over the age of 16. This is because boys over the age of 16 are the least likely group to wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet can save your life.
All Terrain Vehicle Liability
When determining liability, it’s important to understand the cause of the ATV crash. Who or what caused the ATV accident will generally dictate who will be held liable.
A motor vehicle could have negligently ran into you causing your personal injuries. In that situation, the at-fault party would be the driver of the motor vehicle. Therefore, the driver of the motor vehicle would be held liable for your personal injuries.
Maybe you sustained injuries because of a defective ATV. In that situation, the atv manufacturer could be held liable for your injuries. Common product liability cases might include claims that the helmet, the brakes, the tires, or steering column on the ATV was defective. Because of that defect, the injuries occurred.
With permission, sometimes ATV riders go on trail rides on someone else’s property. In that situation, the property owner could be held liable for injuries sustained on his property as a result of the accident.
Like in many cases, maybe the ATV operator is partially responsible for the wreck and for his own injuries. Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state. This means that if the driver of the recreational vehicle is over 50% responsible for his own injuries, the driver will not be able to recover any compensation for his injuries. For anything less that 50%, the driver’s recovery will be reduced by that same amount.
Generally, the issue of liability in ATV accidents is not as clear cut as in car accidents or motorcycle accidents. Thus, it is vitally important that you set up a free consultation with an ATV accident lawyer to discuss your legal options as soon as possible.
Rules and Regulations for ATVs
Definition of Off Road Vehicle
In Georgia, the law has a broad definition of what exactly an off road vehicle is. All terrain vehicles fall within that definition, but the term off road vehicle encapsulates much more than just all terrain vehicles. Summarily, the law says that an off road vehicle is any motorized vehicle capable of traveling over land, water or other natural terrain and not intended for use predominantly on public roads. A few examples of the types of vehicles that would fall within this definition might be any of the following:
- Off road vehicles that may be four-wheel drive with low pressure tire vehicles
- Two-wheel vehicles
- Amphibious Machines
- Farming vehicles
- Self Propelled Lawn Mowers
- All Terrain Vehicles
Off Road Vehicle Operating Restrictions
The State of Georgia has implemented rules and regulations that place restrictions on the operation of off-road vehicles. If these restrictions are violated, you can be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $25.00. If you are going to operate an off-road vehicle, the vehicle must have operative brakes, a muffler, and no other type of silencing equipment. You must also not drive the vehicle on any private property without the express permission of the owner. Lastly, you can directly cross perennial streams, but do not drive up and down the stream as if the stream were a trail. The Ohoopee, Canoochee, and Ogeechee Rivers are all good examples of perennial streams. At times, they get low enough to drive through; however, you must not drive up and down them.
From a criminal standpoint, it is a violation to operate an off-road vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If caught by the police, you can face up to a year in jail, driver’s license suspension, and hefty fines. It is also a criminal violation for a youth under 16 to operate an ATV on public roads within the state. ATVs are not street legal, but there are certain locations within Georgia that allow their use on public roads.
Local Government Authority to Establish Zones of Use
If you’ve ever been to St. Simons Island, you have probably noticed several people driving golf carts on public streets. People are able to do this in St. Simons, because Georgia law allows incorporated towns, municipalities and counties to adopt ordinances allowing off road vehicles to be used in certain areas of their jurisdiction within certain time periods. The town of St. Simons as well as other towns in Georgia have used this particular law to allow golf carts or other all terrain vehicles to be used in certain locations within their towns.
The local government agencies can also mandate that other requirements be met before off road vehicles are allowed on their public roads. They may limit the types of off road vehicles allowed on their public roads. They may also require off road vehicles to have safety equipment such as headlights, brake lights, seat belts, blinkers, reflectors and other things before the vehicle is allowed on the public roads. If the equipment is not installed, you may be in violation of a local ordinance and subject to a fine if you’re caught driving on public roads. Regardless of violations and fines, it’s important to always remain safe for your own benefit when exercising these privileges.
ATVs are Dangerous
It’s almost like driving four wheelers, golf carts or side by sides are a rite of passage for the youth in South Georgia. I’m sure many children can vividly remember receiving their first four wheeler at about four years of age on Christmas morning. With no experience at all, they took off on it and learned the hard way of what not to do. Many of those youths are grown now and now spend Sunday evenings driving all terrain vehicles on dirt roads in the country.
There’s a sense of freedom taking off on an all terrain vehicle, and maybe we sense a dangerousness to them as well. There is little doubt that they are dangerous. Recent studies have shown that the most common type of accident are rollovers, and the majority of ATV accident cases were a single-vehicle event. Young ATV accident victims were seven times more likely to require medical treatment compared to young motor vehicle accident victims. Sadly, there is a high fatality rate for young ATV crash victims.
There are so many things that can decrease the dangerousness of ATVs. Many of the things are obvious, but the consumer product safety commission specifically recommends the following:
- Always wear a helmet and other protective gear, such as eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Never ride with more passengers than there are seats. Most ATVs are designed for one rider.
- Riders younger than 16 should only drive age-appropriate youth model ATVs, and never operate adult ATVs.
- Off-road vehicles are designed to be driven only on off-road terrain, not paved surfaces.
- Never ride on public roads, except to cross, where permitted by law.
- Get hands-on training from a qualified instructor
- Avoid drinking alcohol before or while driving an ATV. Alcohol can impair judgment and response time.
Some of these recommendations may take away a lot of the fun from driving ATVs, and sometimes these recommendations might not be followed. Regardless, it is still important to keep these things in mind. The CPSC makes these recommendations because they have thoroughly studied the major common causes of ATV accidents. ATVs are dangerous. Crashes can and usually do lead to serious injuries or even death. It is important that we respect the dangerousness of ATVs before we or our loved ones decide to us them.
Procedures to take After an ATV Accident
Before using an ATV, you should be aware that in Georgia, you are not required to have up-to-date registration or insurance of any kind before using your ATV. Even if it’s not required, you might want to look into getting an insurance policy. The average cost of ATV insurance per year is $88. In the event you sustain ATV accident injuries, your personal injury lawyer will be able to file an accident claim with your insurance company so that you can be reimbursed for your medical expenses. Without proper coverage, you may have difficulties getting maximum compensation.
If you are in an ATV accident, the first thing you should do is try to remain calm and check for your own injuries. If you can, you should then warn oncoming traffic that an accident has just occurred. If you’re not injured, check and see if anyone else is injured by asking them if they are injured. If there are injuries, you should immediately dial 911. If there are none, you should still report the accident to the police.
While waiting on the ambulance, you should aid the victim without moving them. Apply pressure to any wounds that are bleeding, administer CPR if necessary, try to keep wounded victims awake, and do whatever you can to comfort them.
Once you are stable, you should gather as much evidence as possible for your personal injury case. Try to take as many pictures or videos as you can. We recommend taking pictures of the crash site, any injuries, and the vehicles involved in the crash. Try to speak with any witnesses to the accident. Get their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Gathering this information is necessary to build your personal injury claim.
If you sustained injuries from the crash, you should follow up with your medical providers. Some injuries might not be so apparent initially after the accident. Medical issues can pop up later on. Your medical providers are there to help you get better. The ultimate goal is for you to recover from your personal injuries.
After being discharged from the emergency room, you should contact an experienced atv accident attorney. Most personal injury attorneys will allow you to schedule a free case evaluation at their law office. Your attorney should be able to explain to you whether there is any liability, whether recovery is possible, or any other legal questions that you might have.
Working with an ATV Accident Attorney in Georgia
At Joseph Williams Law, you will have a side by side attorney in Georgia that is always by your side. Sometimes our clients are seriously injured. In those situations, it can be difficult for clients to physically come to the law firm. Other side by side accident lawyers may not visit you in the emergency room for a free case review, but Joseph Williams will.
Our first course of business is to establish a rapport with all of our clients. You should always feel comfortable with your attorney. In your initial interview with your side by side attorney, its important that you be completely honest with your lawyer about the facts of your ATV injury. After getting a basic run down of the facts, your attorney should have a decent idea of who the at fault party is and whether there is any liability or available insurance.
Your ATV injury attorney should look for any active insurance policies that cover your injuries. Once those policies are found, your attorney will notify the insurance companies of your claim. Negotiations will likely begin after the completion of your medical care.
After your treatment is complete, your side by side accident lawyer should organize all evidence of your injury. This evidence may consist of police reports, witness statements, medical records, and medical bills. Using these documents, your attorney will prepare your ATV accident lawsuit. Prior to the filing of your ATV accident lawsuit, your lawyer will send a demand asking the insurance company for a settlement amount. Patience is key here because these negotiations can take awhile.
Your medical bills may start piling up. In most cases, the costs of your medical treatment will be paid at the end of the ATV accident lawsuit. Like in any auto accident, your side by side lawyer can negotiate medical bills down for you. Negotiating these bills down, allows you to walk away with more money at the end of the day. You may also be able to recover for pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage due the accident as well. Finding a side by side lawyer who cares about you is key to recovering what you deserve.
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