How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Side-By-Side Accident

How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Side-By-Side Accident
How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Side-By-Side Accident

Like other types of all-terrain or utility terrain vehicles, side-by-sides are extremely popular with outdoor enthusiasts in Minnesota and elsewhere, thanks to the growing number of trails in the northeast part of the state.

Drivers registered more than 103,500 side-by-sides with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as more people find the vehicle—with its enclosed cab, heat, air conditioning, and other amenities—to be the answer to year-round recreation. In neighboring Wisconsin, there are a few more ATV meccas, with side-by-side operators enjoying nearly 60 miles of trails in Barron County and more than 330,000 acres of public land to ride on in Black River Country.

However, with the growing number of side-by-side users in the region, a growing number of accidents involve these vehicles. Individuals injured in side-by-side accidents often wonder how to file a personal injury lawsuit or if they can seek compensation for their injury through a personal injury claim.

Here is a look at who is eligible to seek compensation for losses in a side-by-side accident and how this process unfolds as well as how an ATV accident lawyer could benefit your case.

Who Is Eligible to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Side-by-Side Accident?

To obtain compensation through a lawsuit after a side-by-side accident injured you, you must show that someone else caused the accident. The most common cause of side-by-side accidents is negligence, meaning the at-fault party did not intend to cause an injury but did so due to their carelessness or recklessness.

The elements you must show to prove liability include:

  • The at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm for others in a given circumstance.
  • The at-fault party breached this duty when the at-fault party took unsafe or illegal actions.
  • This breach resulted in a side-by-side accident that injured the claimant.

While many side-by-side accidents are the result of operator error, there can be other sources of liability, including:

  • Adults who fail to supervise inexperienced side-by-side operators. During the first month of operating an ATV, a rider is 13 times more likely to have an accident than an experienced rider.
  • The failure of a landowner to regularly inspect the property in search of hazards such as open pits or degraded trails that could cause injuries to riders. Premises liability rules require the property owner to perform regular inspections of their property and promptly mitigate hazards they find.
  • A negligent motorist on a public roadway collides with a side-by-side operated on a street. Many states only allow the use of ATVs/UTVs on public roadways for limited reasons, such as when a public roadway intersects an off-road trail. Wisconsin also permits road use of side-by-sides for agriculture. In contrast, Minnesota permits roadway riding in several circumstances, provided the rider is either old enough to have a driver’s license or—if between the ages of 12-15—is accompanied by a parent or guardian on a separate ATV/UTV. Additionally, the rider must wear a helmet and goggles, and their vehicle must have brakes, a headlight, and a taillight.
  • A negligent operator of another side-by-side causes an accident due to racing or other recklessness. Unfortunately, ATV/ UTV owners are not required to insure these vehicles, and many people do not elect to obtain coverage. However, some homeowner’s insurance policies will cover the liability of a side-by-side rider who causes an accident that results in injuries to others.
  • The manufacturer of the side-by-side with a defective part that caused an accident. Many manufacturing issues can result in an accident. Product defects that create fire hazards are the most common reason for a side-by-side recall, followed by throttle issues that can cause a rider to lose control of the vehicle. Steering-related issues are another common reason for side-by-side recalls.
Side by Side Accident Personal Injury

What Is the Side-by-Side Claims Process?

Individuals injured in a side-by-side accident resulting from someone else’s negligence can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts incurred through personal injury claims. While this process can include a lawsuit, most personal injury claims settle before they ever reach the inside of a courtroom.

Here is a look at the steps involved in filing a personal injury claim after a side-by-side accident.

Hiring an Attorney to Assist You With the Claim

The personal injury claims process generally begins when the injured party seeks the assistance of a personal injury lawyer to help them with their claim. Finding an attorney begins with a free case evaluation, a time to ask questions about the legal process and receive information about the firm and its approach toward side-by-side accident cases.

How to Afford an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Side-by-side accident victims often neglect to seek compensation for their injuries because they believe they can’t afford an attorney. As a matter of record, you do not need an attorney for the personal injury claims process. However, having one is greatly encouraged, as they bring experience, a firm understanding of the law, and a legal team to help with the leg work, removing much of the complexity from the process.

Unfortunately, television and movies have presented the idea that attorneys are only available for the rich. While some attorneys require a retainer to handle a case or charge excessive hourly rates, personal injury attorneys use a different billing method to ensure that anyone needing help has access to it, regardless of their financial status.

This billing method is known as the contingent fee. Under this arrangement, payment for your attorney’s services is contingent on their ability to obtain compensation for your injury through a negotiated settlement or a court award. You owe nothing for their services unless they accomplish that end.

Instead, when you hire a personal injury attorney, they enter into a contingent fee agreement with you. This agreement outlines the services they will provide and designates a percentage of the settlement or award they receive as payment. After the claim, the lawyer receives your compensation and withdraws their percentage from the total award before releasing the remainder to you.

Determining Liability and Insurance

One of the first acts your attorney will perform on your behalf is a thorough investigation of the accident to determine who was liable. They will also determine the insurance resource held by the at-fault party to claim against to compensate you.

Because the owners of side-by-sides are generally not required to insure the vehicle, the attorney will often look at other liability insurance policies, including:

  • Homeowner’s policies covering landowners allowing riders to use their property and providing liability coverage for damages caused by side-by-side use.
  • Farm policies that cover the side-by-side for agricultural use. 
  • Commercial business policies purchased by side-by-side rental companies, outdoor programs for youth, or on commercial trails.
  • Commercial liability policies of manufacturers or distributors that cover consumers who sustain injuries as a result of their product.

Many side-by-side accidents involve more than one source of liability, such as an accident in which a rider is negligent and the vehicle also has defective parts.

Valuing the Claim

To ensure that you receive enough compensation to cover the expenses and impacts of your injury, you must know how much your claim is worth. However, it isn’t merely a matter of adding up expenses.

Side-by-side accident claimants can seek compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, loss of earning capacity, and property damage due to the accident. They can also seek compensation for the negative impacts that the accident and their injury had on their quality of life, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, or the loss of enjoyment of life.

In addition to the actual monetary expenses incurred, other factors involved in a claim’s value include:

  • How much insurance money is available to compensate the claimant.
  • The severity of the injury incurred.
  • Permanent injuries that prevent the claimant from earning an income in the future.

Making a Demand to the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company

Once the attorney determines the claim's value and establishes liability and associated insurance resources, a demand is prepared and sent to the at-fault party's insurance provider. The provider assigns the claim to a claims adjuster, who evaluates the claim and determines how much the insurance company must pay the claimant, if anything.

The claims adjuster can either accept the claim, deny it, or offer to settle the claim for less than its established value.

Negotiating a Settlement

Initial offers from insurance companies for personal injury claims are often less than half of the claim’s full value. The claimant’s attorney can negotiate with the claims adjuster to get them to increase their offer. The insurer can make settlement offers from when the insurance provider is notified of the accident until there is a court decision on a personal injury lawsuit.

Filing a Lawsuit

If the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to pay the claim, your or your attorney can file a side-by-side accident personal injury lawsuit in civil court. There is a deadline for filing the claim in court, known as the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is often between two and four years from the accident’s date, depending on the state. While you must file within this period, the claim doesn’t need to be resolved by the statute of limitations expiration.

The Statute of Limitations and Why It Matters to Your Claim

Most personal injury claims—including those involving side-by-side accident injuries—settle before they go to court. The settlement process tends to be preferred by all parties as it offers them a chance to avoid the expense and time involved in litigation while retaining control over the outcome. However, the statute of limitations remains the most important deadline in your case.

Letting this deadline expire will generally result in:

  • The inability to use the court process to obtain compensation if the insurance company has failed to pay your claim.
  • The loss of the insurance company’s incentive to offer a settlement in the first place: to avoid litigation.

Collecting Your Settlement or Award

Russell Nicolet - Managing Attorney at Nicolet Law
Russell Nicolet, Personal Injury Attorney

After your case, your attorney will receive the proceeds of your settlement or award on your behalf. The law firm will keep the funds in a trust.

Your attorney will deduct the percentage agreed upon in the contingent fee agreement and satisfy any medical liens placed on the award by health care providers or group health insurers. They will then meet with you to finalize the case and release the remainder of the compensation, including an accounting of the services provided and the payment received.

If a side-by-side accident has injured you, don’t forgo the legal process to claim the compensation you deserve. Contact a personal injury lawyer near you for a free case evaluation