Wisconsin is a popular destination for recreational vehicle enthusiasts. Every year, thousands of people visit parks and trails throughout the state to use their dune buggies, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), 4-wheelers, mini-trucks, snowmobiles, and other modes of off-road transportation. According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, some of the more popular recreational vehicle locations in the state include the Chippewa County ATV Trail, the Kewaunee County Riverview ATV Park, the Cheese Country Tail System, and the Iron County ATV Trails.
But a negligent operator or a defective recreational vehicle can lead to catastrophic injuries. Based on the most recent figures published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 97,000 people are injured in ATV accidents every year. And approximately 28 percent of these injuries “involved kids under 16.”
In severe cases, recreational vehicle accidents are fatal. The CPSC found that over a 12-year period (from 2001 to 2012), there was an average of 564 adults and 123 children killed each year in ATV accidents. The “crunch time” for such fatalities is during the summer months (May-September) when children are out of school and outdoor recreation is at its peak.
If you or a family member have been injured in a recreational vehicle accident, you may have the right to recover damages from the negligent parties. An experienced Appleton lawyer can review your case and advise you on the best course of action. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a number of parties that share responsibility.
ATV and recreational vehicle accidents are most often caused by negligent or inexperienced drivers who lack proper training. While you do not need a motor vehicle driver’s license to use a recreational vehicle, you must complete a state-approved safety course (which can be taken online) before operating an ATV or UTV on Wisconsin’s public trails. Children as young as 12 can obtain these safety certificates, but any operator under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. A safety certificate is not required to operate a recreational vehicle on private land owned by a member of the operator’s immediate family.
An improperly trained operator can easily make a mistake that causes a collision with another vehicle or person using the trail. Similarly, if a recreational vehicle is carrying more passengers or a heavier load than what is recommended by the manufacturer, that can lead to a potentially fatal rollover accident. Many operators, especially teenagers, do not bother to read the manufacturer’s instructions, so they are ignorant of the applicable weight limits. But ignorance is not a defense to negligence.
And as with traditional motor vehicles, a recreational vehicle accident may be caused by a driver who is under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal narcotics. It is against the law in Wisconsin to operate an ATV or UTV on public property with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, or any “detectable amount” of a controlled substance. The state can and will prosecute such DUI offenses criminally, but anyone injured by the drunk driver can still file a separate personal injury claim to seek compensation.
Even if the driver was not at fault for a recreational vehicle accident, the vehicle itself may be. More precisely, there may have been a defect in the design or manufacture of the equipment that caused it to fail at a critical moment. The defect may just be in a single component–such as the throttle, brakes, or tires–but that can be enough to cause a serious accident.
If you are in an ATV or recreational vehicle accident and suspect that it may be the result of defective equipment, it is important to make sure any evidence is preserved. A Neenah personal injury attorney can advise you on how to protect your rights in this situation.
Even if you have insurance, that may not fully compensate you following a recreational vehicle accident. The insurance company may also unfairly delay or deny your claim. And the negligent driver (or their parents) may balk at taking responsibility. All of these are reasons to have an experienced Appleton recreational vehicle accident attorney at your side.
At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, we represent people from Appleton, Neenah, Oshkosh, and Green Bay who have been involved in an accident. Our practice is exclusively dedicated to accident victims. We never represent insurance companies. Call us at 866-720-0009 to speak with one of our attorneys today.