All-Terrain Vehicle Injuries

An alarming number of people get injured or killed each year while driving or riding on all-terrain vehicles, off-road vehicles, and side-by-side vehicles. These vehicles are fun and can help people get outside, but when safety concerns are ignored the results can be tragic. Off-road vehicles are inherently less stable, are prone to roll or tip over, and typically lack the safety features of cars and trucks. While most all-terrain vehicles are used off roads—where accidents do happen—when used on roads meant for cars, they can be even more dangerous. Children are at high risk of all-terrain vehicle injuries.

Negligent all-terrain vehicle drivers who harm passengers or other third parties; parents and adults who fail to monitor children driving ATVs; and motor vehicle drivers, product manufacturers, and others may be liable for injuries that occur in off-road vehicle accidents. Graham & Graham frequently handles these types of injury claims and can provide a free case review.

Off-Road Vehicle Crash Statistics

Off-road vehicle (ORV) is a broad category that includes all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), such as four-wheelers, and side-by-sides (SxS), also called a utility task vehicle (UTV). Collectively, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which tracks injury and fatality data for these types of vehicles, refers to them as off-highway vehicles (OHVs).

No matter what they’re called, these vehicles are involved in a lot of bad crashes. There are about 650 deaths and 100,000 injuries involving ATVs every year, according to CPSC. The most recent CPSC data shows that:

  • From 2015 through 2017, 2,258 deaths were associated with OHVs.
  • From 2015 through 2019, an estimated 524,600 injuries associated with OHVs were treated in hospital emergency departments; an average of 104,900 per year.
  • Since 1982, CPSC reports 15,250 ATV-related fatalities.
  • The most common injury diagnoses were fractures, contusions, and abrasions.
  • The body parts most commonly affected were the arm, shoulder, head, neck, leg, and torso.
  • All-terrain vehicle injuries and deaths are heavily weighted toward young males, especially those under 16 years old.

Operating ATVs and OTVs on Roadways and Private Property

As their name suggests, ORVs are designed for off-road use only. However, they are frequently used on paved roads. The CPSC notes that riding ATVs on paved public roadways, where off-road vehicles are harder to control and at a higher risk of colliding with cars and trucks, is highly associated with fatalities. A study published in the research journal Safety found that over half of SxS crashes occur on roadways.

You are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on private property in Ohio without the owner’s permission.

In Ohio, it is illegal to operate ORVs and ATVs on any state highway. You may be able to operate an ORV or ATV on a county or township road, but you should make certain for the particular road on which you intend to ride. Regardless, Ohio law requires anyone operating an ATV on the roadway to be a licensed driver.

Drivers as young as 12 may operate an ATV on private property in some cases. However, you are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on private property in Ohio without the owner’s permission. Ohio’s “recreational user” law protects private land owners from liability in most—but not all—cases.

Common Causes of ATV Injury Crashes

Like car accidents, the majority of ATV accidents result from driver error. Some of the most common causes off off-road vehicle crashes include:

  • Loss of control
  • Riding the wrong size ATV (children in particular should not ride vehicles made for adults)
  • Carrying passengers
  • Riding on the road
  • Failure to use helmets and other safety equipment
  • Alcohol use
  • Driving at night

Vehicle Defects

ATV and SxS operators aren’t always to blame for accidents. Sometimes, a certain vehicle make and model is found to have a defect that makes it inherently dangerous. In 2009, the CPSC announced that it had investigated accidents involving the Yamaha Rhino off-highway recreational vehicle. Hundreds of lawsuits accused Yamaha of producing a vehicle with a design defect that caused it to roll over. Yamaha introduced a voluntary recall program to address the issue.

More recently, the Polaris RZR has been linked to fires and deaths. The New York Times tells the story of a man whose RZR caught fire, leaving him in a coma with third-degree burns. Polaris has settled several lawsuits related to fires in the RZR SxS. In March 2021, Polaris recalled several types of recreational vehicles due to fire hazard, after previously recalling UTVs for a seat belt problem.

Free ATV Accident Case Review

If you, a friend, or family member is injured in an ATV accident, you should seek a qualified opinion from an attorney to determine if there is a right to recover damages. Often times, all-terrain vehicle injuries present complex legal issues that a non-attorney may not understand.  Graham & Graham offers free case reviews and accepts injury cases on a contingency-fee basis, so you pay no upfront legal fees. To discuss an injury caused by an all-terrain recreational vehicle crash, call 1-800-621-8585 or fill out a case evaluation form.

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