Going for a ride on your ATV, UTV, or snowmobile is an entertaining way to be active and enjoy the great outdoors around La Crosse, Wisconsin. There are about 650 miles of groomed trails in the La Crosse area, with connections to Wisconsin and north to Canada. You can use hundreds of miles of trails to explore the woods, spectacular lakes, and rivers.
Recreational vehicles are fun, exciting, and great for working or exploring the outdoors. However, they are powerful and can be extremely dangerous. The Department of Natural Resources has reported hundreds of ATV, UTV, and snowmobile crashes in recent years. These vehicles are different from cars: the operator and passengers are much more vulnerable, meaning that injuries are often catastrophic.
If someone's negligence injured you or a loved one in an ATV or snowmobile accident, you might be able to hold the at-fault person or entity accountable and obtain the compensation you deserve. The award-winning La Crosse personal injury lawyers at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers provide customized service and dedicate themselves to our clients' cases. Contact us today to speak with our legal team about your case.
- Overview of ATV/UTV Rules and Regulations
- Common causes of ATV accidents
- Overview of Snowmobile Rules and Regulations
- Common causes of snowmobile accidents
- Injuries from snowmobile and ATV Accidents
- Liability in ATV and snowmobile accidents
- Causes of action
- Compensation for accident injuries
- Time limits after an ATV, UTV, or snowmobile accident
- Make Us Your La Crosse ATV and Snowmobile Accident Lawyers
Overview of ATV/UTV Rules and Regulations
Both ATVs and UTVs are heavy-duty off-roading vehicles. ATVs tend to be smaller and faster, while people use larger UTVs for working. ATV and UTV owners operating within the state need to register their vehicles as public, private, or exempt from registration.
Wisconsin’s law requires every operator involved in a deadly crash or one that causes injuries to report the incident to law enforcement officials and submit a written report to the Department of Natural Resources. Most people who reported accidents in the past several years were between ages 10 and 59, with 18 percent of victims being between 10 and 19.
No person under the age of 12 may operate an ATV. Certified operators may transport other passengers. Operators born on or after January 1, 1988, must have a valid ATV safety certificate and keep this certificate with them when using public areas such as trails. Note that ATV Safety Institute (ASI) certificates are not valid in Wisconsin. All ATV/UTV operators and passengers below the age of 18 must wear a helmet that meets DOT standards, designed for an ATV or motorcycle. The rider must wear it with the chin strap fastened. A bicycle helmet will not fulfill this provision.
Wisconsin utility task vehicle (UTV) laws largely mirror the state’s ATV laws. Therefore, you must register the vehicle and take a safety certification course. However, even those with a safety identification card must be at least 16 years old to drive a UTV in Wisconsin.
These are just some of the many rules that regulate ATV/UTV usage in Wisconsin. Check with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources if you have questions or need more information about operating an ATV or UTV in La Crosse.
Common causes of ATV accidents
People incorrectly assume that ATVs are safe off-road because they can handle rugged terrain that a car cannot. Accidents frequently occur when other drivers speed or encounter unexpected obstacles. Although ATVs weigh less than a car, they still weigh several hundred pounds and can cause significant injuries in an accident.
Like motorcycles, ATVs offer very little protection to riders from external forces. People riding an ATV have far less protection than those in a car. Sometimes, riders get thrown from the vehicle or pinned under the ATV in an accident. Accidents are often caused by:
Not all ATVs should carry more than one passenger. If the vehicle only has a seat for one rider, an additional rider could throw off the vehicle’s balance, causing an accident.
Sometimes, accidents occur when an obstacle appears suddenly in a driver’s path. An accident can occur if the driver cannot maneuver around the blockage or stop in time.
Rollovers are the most common cause of an ATV-related injury. In many accidents, the vehicle flips over, causing severe injuries such as traumatic head injuries. It may be a front rollover, rear rollover, or side rollover. Collisions with other drivers, inadequate warnings on trails, and steep embankments can cause rollover accidents.
Overview of Snowmobile Rules and Regulations
While people initially used snowmobiles for transportation and emergency use in areas with heavy snow, snowmobiling is now a popular winter sport.
Wisconsin law defines a snowmobile as:
- An engine-driven vehicle specifically for snowmobiling
- With a specified type of tread and skis or runners
- Used on snow-covered surfaces
- All snowmobiles, including a child-sized model, must be 48 inches wide or less.
Snowmobiles can weigh more than 600 pounds and travel more than 90 miles per hour. In Wisconsin, a snowmobile on a snowmobile trail must display a valid registration and snowmobile trail pass unless it falls under an exemption.
Those at least 12 years old and born on or after January 1, 1985, must have a valid Snowmobile Safety Certificate to operate a snowmobile in most areas. Riders under the age of 12 are not required to carry a certificate. However, a parent or guardian must accompany these riders at all times when riding in public areas. Check with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for more rules.
The Wisconsin Basic Snowmobile Safety Code states that everyone should “Use a full-face helmet with goggles or a shield.” Data shows that 26 percent of the operators involved in a snowmobile accident were between the ages of 50-59 years old, 27 percent of those injured were between the ages of 50-59 years old, and 42 percent of those killed in an accident were between the ages of 40-49 years old.
Common causes of snowmobile accidents
The nature of snowmobiling makes it both exciting and risky. After all, snowmobilers travel in extreme weather conditions, often at high speeds, on snow-covered terrain. Factors contributing to an accident may include:
Alcohol and drug use
People operating a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs have impaired driving ability, judgment, and reaction times. Alcohol is a leading cause of serious crashes. If an intoxicated snowmobiler injures you in an accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries.
Many snowmobile operators love to go very fast and fail to use caution. They may not see trail markers or hazards when they drive too fast. Watch out for other riders who may be speeding since they can cause serious accidents.
Poorly maintained trails
A smooth, well-groomed trail can help keep riders safe. Unfortunately, property owners may not regularly groom and maintain their trails, leaving deadly obstacles in the path.
Injuries from snowmobile and ATV Accidents
Operators and passengers on an ATV or snowmobile are far more vulnerable to an injury than those in a car.
In an accident, they may experience these injuries, even if they wear a helmet:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries or paralysis
- Internal organ damage/internal bleeding
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Severe lacerations or amputations
- Drowning and near-drowning
- Exposure injuries, including hypothermia and frostbite
Liability in ATV and snowmobile accidents
It is critical to determine who may be responsible for your injuries to file a compensation claim properly. More than one person or entity may be at fault for your accident. The facts and circumstances of your accident will show who is responsible for your accident.
Liable parties may include:
- Another ATV or snowmobile operator;
- Other people who were on the trails;
- The ATV or snowmobile rental company (or their maintenance contractor); and
- The government agency responsible for maintaining the trail
If you feel unsure about who may be responsible for your ATV, UTV, or snowmobile accident, speak to the legal team at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers. Our team can help you identify the liable party based on the facts of your case and the evidence available when you work with us.
Causes of action
Most personal injury cases arise from the theory of negligence. Negligence is a failure to behave with the level of care that an ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances.
There are four essential elements necessary to prove negligence:
- The defendant owed a legal duty to the victim
- The defendant breached that duty
- The other party’s breach caused the victim’s injury
- The victim suffered an injury
If you believe that another party’s negligence injured you in a snowmobile, ATV, or UTV accident, contact the legal team at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers. Once hired, our team can advise you of the legal theories available in your case so that you understand your options before you make big decisions.
Compensation for accident injuries
Crashes can result in severe injuries that have long-term and heartbreaking consequences.
In a snowmobile, ATV, or UTV claim, victims may seek compensation for:
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Assistive medical devices, like wheelchairs or crutches
- Modifications to vehicles and homes for a disability
- Long-term care services
- Loss of wages and loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer may suggest other types of compensation to pursue as well. Working with the legal team at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers can help you account for all of your losses before submitting a claim to ensure that you do not leave anything on the negotiation table.
Time limits after an ATV, UTV, or snowmobile accident
A statute of limitations sets the deadline for filing a lawsuit after an ATV, UTV, or snowmobile accident. Once it expires, a victim may not file suit. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits is three years from the accident date. However, sometimes the deadline is even shorter, such as when the case is against a municipal entity. Therefore, you should always consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss the deadline and lose the right to pursue your case.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, ATV operators involved in accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries must report their accident within 10 days to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The statements you make in an accident report can affect your claim, so speaking with an experienced ATV, UTV, and snowmobile accident lawyer before you file can help protect your rights.
Make Us Your La Crosse ATV and Snowmobile Accident Lawyers
If an ATV or snowmobile accident injured you or a loved one, your life might never be the same. You may face mounting medical bills and an uncertain future for you and your family. Working with a lawyer can help you figure out your options and make a plan for the future. For more information or a free consultation, consult the experienced, zealous attorneys at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers. Call (651) 358-2741 or contact us online.
La Crosse Office
205 5th Ave S Suite 209
La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: (651) 358-2741