The winding roads of California seem to have been created perfectly for all-terrain vehicles to navigate them. Who can resist a day spent exploring the majestic scenery of this beautiful state with the air on their faces and the smell of nature all around? But ATVs aren’t all fun and games. In fact, there aren’t too many legal forms of recreation that are more dangerous than these commonly used family vehicles.
The State of California’s parks offer residents and visitors access to the largest off-highway paths and roads in the entire country. It’s a temptation families and outdoors enthusiasts are excited to cross off their bucket lists every year. This recreation program is lucrative for local businesses and helps the economy overall, but at what cost when the rules aren’t followed?
The gorgeous coastal beaches along the state are a siren song for ATVers, the rugged paths through the mountains are begging for the more adventurous riders to conquer them, and the California weather is just about perfect all year. If you’re going to take your ATV out to explore, though, no matter where you are, you better know the rules and follow them, because your safety is not guaranteed.
The Rules on Riding an ATV
Depending on where you are riding, the rules regarding who can operate an ATV vary. In California, public state lands have age restrictions you must abide by. No one under the age of 18 can drive an ATV unless they meet specific criteria, including:
- Taking and passing a safety training course, in any state, that was given under a certified ATV safety instructor’s supervision.
- Possessing a state-issued safety certificate to operate an ATV.
- Being under the supervision of an adult who has the state-issued safety certificate to operate an ATV.
- Being supervised by a parent or guardian or an authorized adult if the minor is under 14, plus one of the above criteria.
What happens if you break the rules? Minors may get a slap on the hand, depending on the situation, but the adults in question are held accountable for all violations and any potential damages. Letting your minor child operate an ATV without meeting the above guidelines may result in consequences such as:
- A $125 fine, a requirement to take or retake the safety training course, or both, on the initial violation.
- Second violations result in fines anywhere between $125 and $250.
- Third violations increase to fines of $250 through $500.
- The minor child involved may be required to attend the safety course as well as the adult held responsible.
These fines don’t scare you? Well, the consequences don’t end there. Those are simply what can happen if you are randomly caught not following the rules by a law enforcement officer. The potential repercussions become exponentially worse if you or someone with you happen to be involved in an accident on the ATV. Now the effects move from a simple fine to paying for damages, treating injuries, and possibly even dealing with a fatality.
The Statistics on ATV Crashes
No matter how many safety classes you take, how careful you are, and how well you follow the rules, motor vehicle accidents are possible. With an ATV, the potential for injury from a crash increases since there are usually not seatbelts or an enclosed exterior to protect you when you collide.
Recent reports have shown that an ATV is more deadly than a motorcycle – and with all of the “Look twice, save a life” campaigns that have exploded everywhere lately, that’s a pretty hefty comparison.
Fatal crashes involving an ATV are 60% more likely to occur on a roadway than off-road, however. This is likely due to factors such as the increased speed on main roads, lack of protective equipment, and bigger risk-taking behaviors such as drinking, carrying passengers, or engaging in other risks.
The numbers paint a vivid picture of the need for ATV safety instruction and engagement, no matter how old you are:
- Between 1982 and 2017, there were 15,250 ATV fatalities reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
- Of these deaths, 3,315 were children 16 and younger, and nearly half of that number were children under 12 years old.
- Annually, hundreds of people are killed in ATV accidents in the United States alone.
- Almost 100,000 people in the U.S. are treated every year in the emergency room for injuries that resulted from an ATV accident, with more than one-quarter of these injuries sustained by children under 16.
- Significant injuries caused by the ATV accident result in 15% of these injured parties hospitalized for their damage.
- Injuries mostly occur to the arm (shoulder to fingertips), head and neck, leg, or torso, or a combination of these parts. Head injuries and moderate to severe injuries caused to passengers of an ATV when the driver was untrained, inexperienced, or not fit to drive often result in lawsuits.
Types of ATV Accidents
The most common reasons behind these dangerous and deadly accidents include inadequate maintenance of the vehicle, defective parts or equipment, and driver recklessness, inexperience, or influence of an illegal substance.
Rollovers and collisions cause significant injuries, but tire blowouts are also just as dangerous. Rollovers consist of frontal, rear, or side flips in which the driver is either thrown or crushed by the vehicle. These are more common on paved roads, since ATVs, by definition and design, are supposed to be driven off-road.
Other accidents occur when defective parts, such as the brakes, fail to operate as expected. Sometimes this failure is due to a defect from the manufacturer, while other times it is caused by poor upkeep by the owner.
The lack of standard safety features in an ATV turns these vehicles into a deadly form of recreation – danger wrapped up in a pretty package tempting to those of all ages. When the responsible adults in question treat the ATV as a toy and fail to teach the minors around them about the potential dangers, those adults can be held liable for accidents caused when the minor was operating the ATV.
Who’s at Fault When Injuries Happen on an ATV?
Sometimes an accident is simply an accident, but if you or your child were injured because of an ATV accident that was someone else’s fault, you may be able to get compensation for those injuries. As medical bills add up and the stress gets higher, this compensation for your damages can be just what you need to be able to concentrate on recovering rather than paying for treatment.
The attorneys at Hershey Law will work with you to determine who is at fault for the injuries you or your child sustained by analyzing the following aspects of your case:
- Was there a duty of care involved? Did the person who caused the accident owe those around them an obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to them?
- Was negligence involved? If the person who caused the accident was not acting responsibly, was operating it while intoxicated or under the influence of a substance that should not have been used, or was another type of negligence the reason for the accident?
- Who is liable for the damages? The at-fault person is typically the party that is held responsible for any damages caused by their actions, including the injuries to you or your child. Your attorney can help you determine who will pay for medical treatment, lost wages, etc., while your case is in progress.
- What damages were involved? You may not have been the only injured party, but the focus will be on you and the losses incurred by you (or your child). These damages will include all medical costs, including future costs, all expenses you paid out of your own pocket, any lost wages you were unable to collect, and the pain and suffering you experienced from the injuries.
Since ATV accidents frequently result in serious injuries, you may need an attorney just to recoup your losses from medical treatment and missed work or school. Hershey Law’s knowledgeable attorneys will guide you throughout the process as they put all of the pieces together to form your case.
Let the Experts at Hershey Law Fight for You
Determining and proving fault is not always cut and dried, though. The sooner you head to your attorney’s office and let them get started, the better, since there are often critical time limits for filing paperwork that have to be dealt with.
Your attorney will investigate the accident for you to determine what caused it and who is liable to create your case. Once that is decided, more investigation is necessary to find the evidence to prove your accusations, analyze case law and create a legal strategy from the facts of your situation, work with the insurance companies on your behalf to attempt to negotiate a settlement, and guide you through every step of the way.
If you or your child were injured in an ATV accident due to someone else’s negligence, call or contact Hershey Law today for your free consultation to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.