All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are small, motorized vehicles that are designed for one or two riders. They are primarily used for recreational purposes, but some owners, such as farmers and laborers, might use them to access more remote areas of their property or worksite. Each year, thousands of Americans seek treatment in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in ATV accidents.
Despite their name, ATVs do not necessarily drive well on all types of terrains. The first versions of the vehicles were manufactured with three wheels, but the federal government determined that they were too unstable and banned their production. ATVs are now made with four low-pressure tires, which are designed to travel over mud, rocks and other rough ground. However, they are much harder to control on paved surfaces. As a result, it is not legal to drive an ATV on paved roads or streets in many U.S. states.
Like motorcycles riders, ATV drivers straddle a seat that sits atop the engine. This can create an exhilarating feeling of freedom and fun, but it can also pose serious risks for the driver. It is easy for an ATV to overturn when it is driven at high speeds or on the pavement. When a car overturns, drivers are protected by seat belts and a reinforced roof, but ATV riders aren’t so lucky. Riders can be thrown from their vehicle or crushed beneath it. This is true even if their vehicle has a roll cage.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 687 Americans died in ATV accidents each year between 2009 and 2012. In 2015, nearly 100,000 people were injured as the result of ATV crashes. The most common types of injuries reported after an accident were head and neck injuries. Other common injuries included abrasions, bruises, burns, dislocations, broken arms and legs and injuries to the chest and abdomen.
ATV-related injuries cost the U.S. approximately $3.24 billion each year, according to a study by the University of Utah.
Not only are traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, one of the most common injuries that people suffer in ATV accidents, but they are one of the most serious. A TBI occurs when someone experiences a blow to the head. According to the National Institutes of Health, someone may or may not lose consciousness after a TBI and consciousness is not a consistent indicator of the severity of a person’s head injury.
Symptoms of a mild TBI may include headache, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, sleepiness, memory problems and behavior or mood changes. Moderate or severe TBI symptoms may also include vomiting, convulsions or seizures, slurred speech, enlarged pupils, loss of coordination and the inability to wake up after sleeping.
TBI symptoms can occur several hours after the initial injury has occurred. Therefore, anyone who suffers a blow to the head during an ATV accident should seek prompt medical attention. This includes those who believe that they have not been injured.
Traumatic brain injuries can require weeks or months of expensive medical treatment. For a mild case of TBI, also known as a concussion, doctors may diagnose the injury by performing a physical exam and a CT scan. Treatment for mild TBIs often consists of rest and a period of restricted activity. For severe TBI cases, diagnostics and treatments may include a physical exam, brain scans and emergency surgery to remove blood clots or repair fractured skull fragments. Surgery could also be required to relieve pressure on the brain.
In order to prevent accidents, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following safety tips for ATV drivers:
Safety experts also urge parents not to allow children under the age of 16 to operate adult ATVs. Federal statistics show that 90 percent of ATV injuries suffered by underage drivers occur because the victims lack the physical maturity to properly control an adult-sized ATV. Children under the age of 16 should only operate age-appropriate ATVs. Children under the age of 6 should not ride any type of ATV.
Some victims of ATV accidents may be able to recover damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if the accident was caused by the negligence of another party, the injured victim could seek compensation against the at-fault person or entity. Such a lawsuit could help a victim recover medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, psychological anguish, property loss and more. Likewise, if an accident was caused by a defective part or design of the ATV itself, the injured party may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against the maker of the ATV and/or the manufacturer of the defective part.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.