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​How Do Side-by-Side ATV Accidents Occur?

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​How Do Side-by-Side ATV Accidents Occur?

Side-by-side ATVs offer a lot of family fun and freedom. Unlike quads, side-by-sides provide room for up to six passengers, which means larger groups can head out on the trails together. Unfortunately, side-by-sides may also have some increased accident potential. In some cases, they may end up causing more severe injuries than quads, due in part to construction and design that may feel somewhat safer to the average ATV rider.

How do side-by-side ATV accidents occur? Who bears liability for those accidents? A variety of conditions may increase the risk of a devastating ATV accident.

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Driver Error

Many ATV accidents occur as a result of driver error. When an accident does occur due to the driver’s risk-taking behavior, negligence, or mistake behind the wheel, the driver may bear liability for any injuries or damages that result from the accident.

Wisconsin law does not require ATV insurance for all vehicles. However, many owners, especially those that ride on dangerous terrain regularly, may carry ATV insurance to provide more financial protection in an accident.

High Speeds

Some side-by-sides can reach up to 60 miles per hour, especially on more even terrain. On the trails, where hazards can rise unpredictably, those high speeds can be even more dangerous than on the average road. At high rates of speed, drivers may have difficulty controlling their vehicles.

They may not recognize hazards until too late to get away from them. Animals may jump out in the road, or stumps, logs, or even trees may appear unexpectedly. A driver traveling at a high rate of speed may not have adequate time to respond to that potential hazard, which may result in a collision.

Collisions With Other ATVs

Traveling the trails with friends and family members helps increase the fun of a side-by-side ATV ride. However, it may also increase the danger. Sometimes, side-by-side accidents may occur because both drivers simultaneously turn in the same direction. In other cases, side-by-side collisions may occur when one driver cuts another off.

Some drivers may engage in riskier behaviors when they hit the trails with other drivers. They may, for example, try to bump one another or cut one another off, assuming that the other driver will take any necessary precautions to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, some drivers may be unable to prevent those accidents, which may result in devastating crashes for everyone in the vehicle.

Risk-Taking Behavior

Frequently, side-by-side ATV accidents result from risk-taking behavior on the driver’s part. Younger drivers, in particular, may take more dangerous chances out on the road. However, younger drivers may not have the skills to avoid an accident when things do not go according to plan.

Side-by-side drivers may have a greater likelihood of risk-taking behavior than drivers of traditional quad ATVs. Side-by-sides provide a false illusion of security. They have a cage around them, roll bars designed to provide some protection from a rollover, and more stability than the average quad. Side-by-sides also come equipped with seatbelts, which may make some drivers and passengers feel more confident that they will come out fine even if an accident does occur.

Unfortunately, all those safety precautions may not prove adequate to protect against substantial injury after a dangerous collision.

Drivers may engage in several potentially risky behaviors, not just traveling at high speeds but attempting terrain that the side-by-side cannot handle or trying to cut turns too tightly. On the trails, away from the safety of the laws of the road, drivers may attempt maneuvers that they would never attempt in a traditional passenger vehicle. As a result, they may end up causing much more severe injuries.

Product Defects

It is little surprise to ATV owners, including side-by-side owners, that manufacturers may put out ATVs with serious product defects. Unfortunately, each year, many side-by-sides are recalled from the market due to dangerous defects that could pose a substantial danger to their drivers.

Product defects can lead to devastating accidents, often out on the trails, where ATV riders may have difficulty getting the help and support they need following a collision.

Overheating Engines

An overheating engine can pose a significant hazard for ATV riders. An overheated engine may catch fire, resulting in devastating injury for everyone in the vehicle. Side-by-side passengers may have to get out of their seatbelts and pile out of the vehicle, increasing the odds that they will end up burned before they can get out. An overheating engine may also cause the vehicle to stall or fail, often at a dangerous moment when the driver needs that power most.

Fuel Line Defects

A fuel leak can pose a severe hazard to the passengers in an ATV and others in the area. Not only does a leaking fuel line mean that you may not have the fuel you need to get home, which can leave the rider stranded in the middle of the woods with no help, but it may also mean a significant fire risk. Not only can a leaking fuel line mean a fire that can catch the side-by-side, but it may also increase fire risk along the trails.

Brake Problems

Losing the ability to brake can prove devastating when you try to navigate on the trails. Side-by-side drivers should, reasonably, travel slower on the trails than they would when driving out on the road. However, brake problems can make it difficult for drivers to stop predictably, especially if they must stop in a hurry due to an unexpected hazard on the trail.

Brake problems can send the side-by-side ATV careening into a ditch, straight into a tree, or another hazard on the trail as the driver struggles to stop but cannot promptly bring the vehicle to a standstill. Brake problems can also make it harder to slow the vehicle when needed.

Steering Issues

When an ATV has steering issues, it can be difficult for the driver to maneuver the vehicle safely. Often, drivers have a hard time predicting steering issues. They may crop up unexpectedly after the driver has already taken the vehicle out. In other cases, steering issues might occur intermittently.

Steering issues in an ATV can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the driver to maneuver the vehicle safely. As a result, the rider may end up involved in a devastating collision with a tree, other ATV, or object in front of the vehicle on the trail.

Rollover Risks

Side-by-side ATVs naturally pose a greater overall rollover risk than the average quad. Side-by-sides generally weigh more than a side-by-side, and they have a more top-heavy design that can significantly increase the risk of a rollover accident. Furthermore, side-by-sides may feel safer, in general, to riders, who may attempt hills and slopes that they might not otherwise try.

A rollover accident can cause devastating injury to the passengers of the vehicle. While side-by-side ATVs usually have rollover bars to help provide additional protection to the vehicle’s inhabitants, a hard rollover can still cause substantial damage to the vehicle and its passengers. A rollover may also result in significant head, back, and neck trauma, especially if the passengers have not seated themselves safely in the vehicle.

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Maintenance Problems

ATVs may, in general, need more maintenance than passenger vehicles intended for use out on the road. In many cases, ATVs see rugged terrain and heavy use. They may toss up more dirt and debris or face rougher conditions than the average passenger vehicle.

As a result, they may need regular looking over. ATV owners should carefully examine their vehicles after each use to ensure they do not need additional maintenance to help protect riders on the trails. Lack of maintenance may pose several potential problems.

Lack of Oil Replacement

Like passenger vehicles out on the road, ATVs require regular oil replacement to keep them running as smoothly as possible. Failure to replace the oil can increase the risk of fire on the trails. Dirty oil may also have a greater risk of damaging the engine, leading to engine failure on the road.

Coolant Problems

Inadequate coolant can pose several problems for an ATV. The engine requires coolant to keep it cool and in working order. If the ATV owner fails to keep up with the coolant, it could result in overheating, which may increase fire risk and raise the odds of a dangerous engine shutdown.

Tire Blowouts

A tire blowout can pose a severe problem for an ATV. Side-by-sides naturally handle more rugged terrain than vehicles intended for the road, and they may go out over rocks, snow, and limbs on the road. They may also need to climb steeper angles than the average passenger vehicle can handle. A tire blowout under those conditions can prove catastrophic, sending the ATV spinning out of control and making it very difficult to manage.

Axel Breakage

Over time, the heavy use required of an ATV can make it more likely that an axel will break. Unfortunately, they often break under extra strain, as when traveling over challenging terrain.

Inadequate Lighting

In some cases, ATV accidents may occur because of inadequate lighting. Frequently, ATV riders will hit the trails at night or need to return home in dim light as the day ends. Bad lighting on the ATV can make it much more challenging to navigate that dangerous terrain. ATV riders may also head into darker areas of the woods, requiring more lighting.

Some ATV riders may forget to check their lights before heading out on the trails. Burnt-out headlights or headlights that do not remain in working order can increase the risk of a side-by-side accident, including the risk that the driver will run into another vehicle or an obstacle in the trail. Inadequate lighting may also make it harder for other riders to keep track of the vehicle, especially in poor lighting conditions.

Who Bears Liability for a Side-by-Side ATV Accident?

Liability for a side-by-side ATV accident may depend on what factors contributed to the accident.

  • The owner. The owner of the ATV needs to keep up with needed maintenance on the ATV to decrease the odds that the ATV will suffer a mechanical failure that could result in devastating injury.
  • The driver. Often, ATV accidents occur because of devastating driver errors. When the driver behaves negligently or recklessly, the driver may bear liability for any injuries caused by the incident.
  • The manufacturer. Sometimes, manufacturer errors, including design defects and other problems, can substantially increase the risk of a devastating ATV accident.
  • A mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle. Before they let the side-by-side leave the shop, mechanics should certify that they have completed any needed repairs and that the ATV can safely take to the road. Failure to take care of those critical issues could result in a devastating accident, for which the mechanic may bear liability.

If you suffer injuries in a side-by-side ATV accident, a lawyer can help you determine who bears liability for the accident and the steps you need to take to receive compensation.

Did You Suffer Injuries in an ATV Accident?

Russell Nicolet - Attorney for Side-by-Side ATV Accidents  in Wisconsin & Minnesota
Russell Nicolet, Side-by-Side ATV Accidents Lawyer

Any time you suffer injuries in an ATV accident due to the negligence of another party, from the driver to the manufacturer, you may have the right to compensation for your injuries.

Contact an ATV accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to get a better idea of what compensation you might deserve and how you can navigate that road to compensation.

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