ATVs and other Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) can be exciting to ride, but unfortunately, sometimes the ride ends with an injury.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), estimates indicate that OHVs lead to an average of 700 deaths and 100,000 injuries per year in the US. Over a five-year period, ATVs accounted for about 96 percent of OHV injuries.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury when riding an ATV:
- Wear a helmet and eye protection. A DOT-approved helmet can lower the risk of a serious head injury by 64 percent and the risk of death by 42 percent if you do have an accident, while goggles help protect your eyes from branches, rocks, or other items that could cause injury. Be sure to try on your helmet and goggles and adjust them so they fit well together. If you buy them separately, you may have to try several goggles until you find some that work with your helmet. Many stores also sell helmet/goggle sets that are designed to fit together.
- Protecting your head and eyes is a priority, but don’t stop there! While it can be tempting to ride in short sleeves and shorts – especially in the warm summer months – long sleeves and pants can protect your skin from deep scratches and lacerations in an accident. Sporting goods stores often carry ventilated jackets and pants for motorcycle riders, and these are also an excellent way to stay cool while reducing the risk of injury on an ATV.
- Take a hands-on ATV rider course from a qualified instructor. While your friends may mean well when showing you the ropes, they might forget to mention one or two critical pieces of information. Completing a course allows you to practice on an ATV and ensures you have all the necessary knowledge to ride as safely as possible. The ATV Safety Institute (ASI) has information on how to find a course.
- Only ride with the number of passengers you have seats for – most ATVs are intended for solo use. If carrying a passenger is essential, look for a two-seat model.
- Treat your ATV like a car. It may be slower, but due to the lack of seatbelts, airbags, and roll cages, ATV accidents can be just as dangerous for a rider as a car accident. You shouldn’t drive your car after drinking or while distracted by your phone, so don’t use your ATV in those situations, either.
- Young children should not drive or ride ATVs. Older children should only use ATVs with supervision and after passing a rider course. They should also use youth models that match their size – driving an ATV that’s too large or small can increase the risk of injury.
- Pay attention to the weather and slow down in low-visibility or otherwise dangerous situations. An ATV will not protect you from lightning, so if it looks like a storm is headed your way, it’s time to take a break from riding and go indoors.
How Can an Illinois ATV Accident Attorney Help After an ATV Accident?
An ATV accident can leave you with medical bills and put you out of work for days, weeks, or even months. Common injuries include broken bones, soft tissue injuries, traumatic brain injury or TBI, and back or spinal cord injuries.
For some people, ATV injuries can lead to permanent disability or even death.
But who is liable for your injuries in an ATV accident? This is an important question, and it isn’t something you should try to figure out independently.
Determining fault can be complicated, and multiple parties may be liable, including:
- The ATV owner
- The ATV driver
- The owner of the property where the accident occurred
- Mechanics or service providers who worked on the ATV
- The manufacturer
- A person or company who transported the ATV
- Other parties, in some circumstances
What About Liability Insurance?
Illinois doesn’t require liability insurance on an ATV unless it’s used on-road (which is illegal in most circumstances, although there are a few exceptions).
However, it’s a good idea to have liability insurance on your ATV anyway, and another ATV owner involved in your accident may have a liability policy. It will still be necessary to show they were liable for your accident, however.
Remember that liability insurance on your ATV doesn’t cover your injuries, only your liability to others for their injuries. However, if you were riding on an ATV as a passenger and the driver caused an accident, they may be liable for your injuries.
If you are hit by a car while riding your ATV, you may be covered by the car driver’s liability insurance if they were at fault. Remember that if you were illegally driving your ATV on the road, it would be difficult to prove the car driver was liable.
In some cases, a person legally crossing a road on an ATV may be able to prove the vehicle driver was liable if they acted negligently (running a red light or stop sign, for example). If you were hit by a vehicle on private property where you had the owner’s permission to ride, the car driver could be liable if they were negligent.
An experienced Illinois ATV accident attorney can help you determine negligence in your case.
If we find evidence that another party caused your ATV accident, we will look for any relevant insurance policy that might cover your damages. But if there is no relevant policy, we may be able to sue the party directly if they have significant assets we can seize.
If Your ATV Accident Occurred on Someone Else’s Property, Are They Automatically Liable?
The property owner is not automatically liable simply because you had an accident on their property, even if you had their permission to ride there. However, in certain situations, they may be liable, and their home or business insurance might cover some or all of your damages.
In general, property owners have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent guests on their property from being injured. In Illinois, this does not mean that the property owner has to make their property safe for ATV riders.
However, they may be liable if they willfully or maliciously choose not to warn you of a hazard on the property. Proving that they did so will mean showing that they knew of the hazard, had the opportunity to warn you, and didn’t do so.
If you are riding at a business that rents ATVs and asks customers to sign a waiver, that does not necessarily mean they can’t be liable in any circumstances. A waiver indicates that an activity like ATV riding can be dangerous, ATV accidents happen, and the business is not liable if you get hurt in the ordinary course of riding an ATV.
But there are some situations where the business owner could be liable:
- As with private property owners, a business owner can be liable if they choose not to warn you of a hazard they knew existed on the property. “Warning” doesn’t have to be verbal – if the owner put up a large sign warning of a dangerous landscape feature or fenced off part of the property with a “Keep Out” sign, they probably are not liable for your accident. But if there was no indication of a problem, and you came around a curve and ran straight into a pile of rocks, the owner might be liable if they knew about the rocks and made no effort to warn anyone.
- If the business owns the ATV, it could be liable if it failed to properly maintain the vehicle so it could be operated safely. A waiver doesn’t mean they can give you a dangerously malfunctioning piece of equipment and expect to escape liability. You would need to prove that the vehicle had not been maintained and that the lack of maintenance caused your accident.
In these situations, your ability to prove how and why you were hurt is crucial. It’s all right if you don’t have any proof right now – call an Illinois ATV accident lawyer anyway.
Our investigators will look into your accident and work to gather evidence against the liable party. This may include talking to witnesses, requesting documents related to the case, seeking electronic evidence like phone records, etc. If you signed a waiver, bring a copy to your attorney.
One thing to remember is that evidence may be lost or destroyed over time, so please contact us as soon as possible.
What Kind of Damages Can An Illinois ATV Accident Attorney Help You Pursue?
You can seek any damages you suffered due to your ATV accident from the liable party (or their insurance carrier). Most people have more damage than they realize.
It’s not unusual for someone to come to us because they can’t pay their medical bills from an accident, only to find out they have several other kinds of damages as well.
Here are some of the potential damages we frequently see in ATV accident cases:
- Medical expenses. We’ll go over your current bills and ask if you are still in treatment because we want to ensure your future medical costs are covered as well. You may also be able to seek reimbursement for related expenses like mobility aids, home exercise equipment for physical therapy exercises, travel to see a specialist, etc.
- Lost income. If you were seriously hurt in an ATV accident, you might have been unable to return to work for some time, especially if you work a physically taxing job. However, some people with brain injuries may be unable to return to a desk job if they develop difficulties with cognition, memory, or concentration. If you received paid time off, that’s great – but you still deserve compensation because you had to expend that PTO. We’ll ask for copies of any pay stubs, time off requests, or other documentation to show how long you were out of work.
- Lost earning potential. If your accident resulted in a permanent injury and you simply can’t work, or you have to move to a lower-paying job, we could pursue compensation for your lost earning potential. We can use your most recent pay stubs and career history to estimate how much you would have earned if you’d been able to continue working in the same capacity. To show lost earning potential, we will need your medical records and an assessment from your doctor indicating that your condition is unlikely to improve in the future.
- Pain and suffering. Physical pain, mental trauma, and emotional distress can all take a toll on you, and you deserve compensation for these damages. In addition to physical injuries, many people develop anxiety, depression, or PTSD after an ATV accident.
- Damage. If you own the ATV in question and it was damaged in the accident, we will pursue compensation for the repair or replacement costs. Some people may also have a claim for a damaged phone or other expensive items they were carrying at the time of the crash.
- Permanent disability or disfigurement. Whether or not it affects your income, a permanent injury or scarring can lead to a loss of quality of life.
- Wrongful death. In the unfortunate situation that your loved one died in an ATV accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages like medical bills, funeral or burial expenses, your own loss of companionship and consortium, and lost financial support if you relied on the decedent’s income.
Get Help From an Experienced ATV Accident Law Firm in Illinois Today
The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers help people protect their legal rights and seek damages for injuries following an accident. The firm was founded by Robert S. Fakhouri, one of the youngest people ever to join the Illinois Bar after graduating from the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Since 2020, Mr. Fakhouri has been on the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 40 Under 40 list and has received the Illinois Super Lawyer Rising Star award every year since 2019. In 2023, he made the Top 25 Motor Vehicle Attorneys list. Catch his unfiltered legal tips on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
If you’ve been hurt in an ATV accident, please contact The Fakhouri Firm for a free consultation to learn about your options. Call us at (312) 999-9990.