ATV Accident Attorney in St. Louis, MO
An ATV, or all terrain vehicle is a motorized off-highway vehicle with handlebars and a seat like a motorcycle, but with four tires that are optimized for control and safety when navigating unpaved roads. The term is more generally used to describe a number of small, open, motorized buggies designed for off-road use, and may also be known as a three wheeler, four wheeler, quad bike, or quad.
Early ATVs seated the passenger behind the driver, motorcycle-style. Later, ATVs began to hit the marketplace that seated the passenger next to the driver or side-by-side. ATVs are fun to ride, and useful for work or hunting, but too often injuries result from accidents. The vast majority of ATV accidents result in a serious injury to the head or spinal cord, including traumatic brain injury or paralysis. Most ATV deaths result from the vehicle overturning or hitting something.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the annual report of ATV-related injuries in 2010 was 115,000. An estimated 25 percent of that number was children below 16 years old. For the state of Missouri alone, there were a total of 326 reported deaths between 1982 and 2010.
ATV Accidents from Poor Design
The vast majority of ATV accidents are a direct result of poor design on the part of the manufacturer. A prime example involves the introduction of the three-wheeler in the early 1980’s. Despite knowledge of the risks associated with these machines, manufacturers continued to produce and sell millions of them.
In the early 1980’s, ATV manufacturers produced the three-wheeler which had associated risks, and even though none have been produced since 1987, many are still in use today.
More recently, the Yamaha Rhino has come under scrutiny for its poor safety design and propensity to rollover.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were over 135,000 ATV-related injuries in 2008 alone, including over 400 deaths.
In an ATV defect case, your source of financial recovery is from the ATV manufacturer such as Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, Arctic Cat or Kawasaki. Wage loss, medical expenses and damages for pain, suffering and disfigurement may be recovered. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded.
If you have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one as the result of an ATV accident, contact us about your ATV accident. You pay no fee unless we make a recovery on your behalf.
Case Study in ATV Injury
In 2000, Yamaha which is composed of three companies, entered the side-by-side market and developed a vehicle similar to the Kawasaki Mule and the John Deere Gator. In doing so, they decided that their best approach would be to design a more aggressive – faster, more agile side-by-side – with characteristics similar to a large ATV.
Three years of design and testing led to the first Yamaha Rhino 660 which was introduced to Yamaha dealers in June 2003. The dealers were told this was a vehicle with “terrain-ability”, a term used to describe the Rhino and indicating its versatility and ability to cover almost any type of terrain. The vehicle went on sale in September 2003, and Yamaha began to sell every vehicle manufactured which by the 2006 model was approximately 3,500 vehicles a month.
Rhino Safety Issues
Instability of the Yamaha Rhino has been demonstrated on 90% of the tests run by our co-counsel, both using a driver with riggers attached to the vehicle to prevent injury, and using an instrumented dummy with the vehicle being operated by remote control. The vehicle turned over at speeds as low as 13 miles an hour doing a J-turn. In addition, other tests have demonstrated the forces of the outboard leg of the driver using an accelerometer. These forces were clearly in excess of what would be needed to cause a driver’s leg to come out and fold under the vehicle as occurred in our cases.
Yamaha has been slow to acknowledge that Rhino ATVs have had rollover problems since the vehicles were first introduced in 2003. In September 2006, Yamaha sent a letter to the owners of Rhino ATVs warning that the Rhino was prone to tip while going through sharp turns. However, the wording of the Yamaha letter seemed to place much of the blame for Rhino rollover accident injuries on the victims for misusing the vehicle. Yamaha warned passengers of the Rhino ATVs to use seatbelts and to keep their hands, arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
The letter also included information on handling the Rhino if it should start to tip over. Since Yamaha sent the 2006 letter, it has become increasingly apparent that the actions recommended by Yamaha do little to protect passengers involved in Rhino rollover accidents.
Safety Modifications, No Recall
It wasn’t until 2007 that Yamaha appeared to finally take the Rhino’s safety issues seriously. In August 2007, Yamaha began offering free installation of doors and other modifications such as additional handholds to the owners of new and used Rhinos. These modifications were meant to prevent leg injuries after a rollover. The retrofit modifications were semi-successful as some lower limbs injuries are prevented; the heads and torsos of rollover victims are exposed to the forces of rollover.
While Yamaha recalled all of the Rhino sizes in March 2008 due to brake failure, none of the Rhino vehicles have ever been recalled for their rollover potential, and the company still has not offered refunds to the owners of the dangerous Rhino ATVs.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were over 135,000 ATV-related injuries in 2008 alone, including over 400 deaths. Read the full ATV safety report at www.cpsc.gov.
The Farris Law Firm can help if you or a loved one has been injured by an ATV of any make or model. Safety tips for ATVs injury prevention are available online.
Contact us at 314-A-LAWYER (252-9937) today for a free consultation.
*Yamaha and Rhino are trademarks of Yamaha Motor Corporation.
About the author, S.E. Farris
Spencer Farris is a personal injury lawyer at The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. See his profile on Google+