Columbia ATV Accident Lawyer
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Auger & Auger have been fighting for victims of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents for over four decades. We know the physical and emotional injuries that can stem from these accidents and believe that at-fault parties should be held accountable for their actions. We will fight tirelessly for your rights to win the maximum amount of compensation you are due.
ATVs are popular in Columbia and throughout the state. They are used for recreation and hunting, fishing, and farming. It’s important to understand that these large, useful machines can be dangerous. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) points out that 90% of the injuries sustained by children in ATV accidents are due to the inability to maneuver these oversized ATVs.
Kids Are No Match for ATVs and Quads
As parents, we can emphasize to our youngsters that ATVs and quads are not toys and dangerous on all paved roadways. Setting an example will make a difference. A lack of physical strength combined with inexperience makes children more prone to ATV accidents than adults. Even though regulations, guidelines, and laws have been implemented in South Carolina, research has shown that the number of children experiencing fatalities from ATV accidents has remained the same for years.
Dr. William Hennrikus with Penn State College of Medicine says, “Too many young children are driving these machines, which are equivalent to a motorcycle in many ways.” A current research study showed that 55% of children treated after an ATV wreck sustained injuries at the cervical spine or lower. These children suffered at least one bone fracture, most often along the major bones in the leg. As your Columbia ATV accident attorney, we understand how devastating such a severe injury would be to a child.
Between 2014 and 2016 in South Carolina, 30 people were killed in ATV accidents. In 2015, children under 16 accounted for 17% of fatalities across the country — approximately 26,700 more were treated for serious injuries. South Carolina has enacted Chandler’s Law in an earnest attempt to decrease these statistics.
Chandler’s Law of South Carolina
Legislators in Columbia and throughout the state have begun to take ATV safety more seriously. Chandler’s Law was passed in May 2011 in honor of Chandler Saylor, a boy who passed away after an ATV accident at a friend’s house. Chandler’s parents and the general assembly worked to pass this law that sets forth rules for ATV child safety.
Officially known as the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Act, Chandler’s Law details several specific requirements for ATV use by children. Highlights include:
- Parents or legal guardians may not permit a child under 6 to operate an ATV.
- It is illegal for a person under 16 to carry a passenger.
- A child 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent while operating an ATV.
- Children 15 and younger must wear a helmet and have a safety certificate.
- It is illegal to remove the Age Restriction Warning Label from an ATV.
Who Is Responsible When Someone Is Hurt on an ATV?
This varies depending on the situation, but under South Carolina laws, there are several things to consider. In some situations, the owner of the ATV or the property where the accident occurs may be liable. Other times the manufacturer may have been negligent, such as when a defective part caused an accident. Sometimes, your own homeowners’ insurance may provide coverage.
The first thing you should do when trying to determine how to deal with medical costs and property damage is to contact a Columbia ATV accident attorney for a free consultation. They can suggest potential insurance coverage you may not have considered. Additionally, your lawyer will ask questions to help them determine if another party was negligent and liable for your injuries.
What is Negligence?
In a personal injury case like an ATV accident, there are three basic principles:
- The defendant (the liable party) must have a duty of care. This usually involves taking reasonable measures to keep others safe.
- The defendant failed to carry out this duty.
- As a result of this failure, you were injured and suffered damages (in this case, due to an ATV crash).
How does this apply to ATV accidents? Most likely, your collision will fall into one of three categories of negligence:
This often involves a parent or other adult allowing a young child or teenager to use an ATV when they are too young or inexperienced. For example, let’s say you drop your 12-year-old son off at a friend’s house. You know the friend’s parents and believe they will always take good care of your child. Unfortunately, you later get a call that your son and his friend were riding an ATV and crashed into a shed. Your son now has a broken arm and a mild concussion.
Understandably, you’re very upset about your son’s injuries. It may take several months for his injuries to heal, and the hospital bills just keep coming. You feel that his friend’s parents are responsible and should help with the cost, but they say it was just an accident. Are they at fault?
Possibly. Under negligent entrustment laws, they could be found negligent if they knew the kids were going to ride the ATV, and that they weren’t old enough or well-trained in driving such a vehicle. If the parents thought your son and his friend were in the living room watching movies, but the kids decided to sneak out and take the ATV without telling them, it’s unlikely that they are liable for negligent entrustment. On the other hand, if the parents gave the kids the ATV keys and told them to have fun riding it, then they might be liable.
These situations may be complicated, and often it comes down to whether or not you can prove the other party knew about the ATV use. If you’re unsure whether or not you have a case, please talk with an attorney to learn more.
This is a situation where an adult allowed a child younger than 16 to ride an ATV without supervision, regardless of the child’s knowledge of riding. In the above example, the friend’s parents may have let him ride with supervision. They think he’s experienced enough to ride on his own, and even with a friend, so they don’t worry too much when the ATV disappears into the woods behind their house. Later the ATV crashes, and your son is hurt. In this case, the friend’s parents could be liable for negligent supervision.
Sometimes the issue isn’t with a rider who is too young or lacks knowledge about safe ATV operation but with the ATV itself. If the vehicle’s owner loans or rents it out to someone without disclosing that it needs repairs or hasn’t been well-maintained, they could also be negligent.
For example, you might go to a local campground that rents out ATVs and decide to get one for riding on the trails. The employee asks you a few questions about your riding experience, and you assure them you’ve taken a training course and ridden many times before. You sign some paperwork, including a release form, and they toss you the keys. An hour later, you’re out on the trail having a great time when you suddenly realize you can’t steer the vehicle anymore – it simply isn’t responding. You apply the brakes, but before you come to a stop, you crash into a rock and are thrown off the ATV. You wake up in the hospital with multiple injuries and miss several weeks of work. When you call the campground office manager, they tell you there was a problem with the steering on your ATV – as if you didn’t know that by now. Were they negligent?
It’s possible. If the employee who rented you the ATV knew that someone else had reported steering problems and that the vehicle hadn’t been serviced yet, they may have been negligent. Or, if they knew that none of the ATVs had been examined or serviced in more than a year, they might also be negligent.
Dealing with Insurance Companies for ATV Accidents
Insurance adjusters are constantly looking for ways to save the company money, and one of the best methods is simply not to pay claims. They have a lengthy list of reasons to deny claims for each type of accident. With ATV crashes, they may say that they don’t cover accidents where certain safety regulations were ignored (such as not letting kids under 16 drive an ATV or allowing a younger child to ride without a helmet). If you or a family member were hurt on someone else’s property or ATV, the insurance carrier may claim that you or the family member were at fault. The excuses are endless, and arguing with the insurance adjuster will probably do more harm than good – they record phone calls and pick out random things you say to hold up as evidence of your “fault,” no matter how far-fetched.
Accordingly, we recommend that you don’t try to deal with the insurance company yourself. Instead, contact a Columbia ATV accident attorney for assistance. We’ll negotiate with the insurance carrier on your behalf and do everything we can to secure the settlement you deserve.
However, there are some situations where insurance coverage is not possible. In certain cases, it is true that the insurance policy language precludes coverage of the particular kind of accident you or a loved one had. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to give up. There are several other options we will consider to help you recover your damages:
- Other insurance policies. If one insurance policy isn’t right for this accident, we’ll consider other types of coverage that sometimes apply to ATV accidents.
- Suing the liable party. Just because the parents who let your son ride off on an ATV unsupervised don’t have appropriate insurance coverage for his injuries doesn’t mean they’re off the hook. You can sue them personally for the damages your son suffered, including medical bills and pain and suffering. Or you may be able to sue the campground that knowingly rented you a poorly maintained vehicle if their insurance policy doesn’t cover “lack of maintenance” accidents.
- Sometimes a third party may be liable, including a manufacturer who sold defective vehicles or a repair company that made an error in maintaining a vehicle. If this defective ATV or maintenance mistake caused your accident or contributed to worsening your injuries, you may have a case against the third party.
Unsure if anyone is liable or if it was just an accident that couldn’t have been avoided? Many people have these doubts, but don’t do guesswork – speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn the full scope of options available to you.
Auger & Auger Is Your Best Advocate
The aftermath of an ATV accident can be difficult, to say the least. When it is your child that is injured, you want immediate justice. After they have received important medical attention, your next move is a phone call to our Columbia ATV accident attorney. We will not only review the details of the crash with you and your child but conduct an extensive investigation of our own.
As a family-owned firm, we put our efforts to the test with our zero-fee guarantee; our team works on a contingency basis to make exceptional legal representation possible for everyone.
With nearly 50 years of combined litigation experience, the team at Auger & Auger has built a solid reputation across South Carolina. We like to think that our client testimonials speak to the fact that we strongly believe in the rights of accident victims. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us today!
Call (803) 470-5298 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!