Articles Posted in ATV accidents

1173983_get_your_motor_runnin.jpgIn the past, we at the Wolfe Law Film have discussed the dangers of common activities like motorcycle or ATV riding. The injury and fatality statistics would no doubt be worse if the State of West Virginia did not require riders to wear helmets. Yet in neighboring Tennessee, there is a movement that bears watching: libertarians are pushing to have their state’s helmet law overturned.

They have succeeded to the point of putting the so-called Motorcyclist Liberty Restoration Act before the Tennessee legislature. The Act would end the requirement that motorcycle riders ages 21 and older wear a helmet. Proponents of the Act argue that even if the law saves lives — indeed, one proponent’s life was saved when he had a collision with an SUV — adults should still have the freedom to not wear a helmet if they choose. “Government is not our mom and dad,” says Representative Glen Casada, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Critics point out that there are obvious problems with this philosophy. First, the current law saves lives. The only state to succeed in repealing a helmet law — Pennsylvania in 2003 — saw the number of traumatic brain injury cases rise to more than double the previous rate. Second, the cost of injury is borne by state taxpayers as well as those directly involved in the accident. In Tennessee, if the brain injury rate were to more than double, the state would end up paying more than $1.12 million per year. This amount does not include long-term care, which usually comes with a significant price tag.

While opponents of the bill have begun to organize, the bill’s supporters claim that wearing a helmet should be a matter of common sense, not government nannying. What no supporter has addressed is whether taxpayers should have to pay for their choice to go without a helmet.

Although in West Virginia, there is no bill pending that would outlawing motorcycle helmets, legislators appear eager to ease helmet requirements. Recently, the House of Delegates passed a bill by 93-3 that would delete one of the performance requirements for helmets, stating that it was too difficult for state police to enforce.
Continue reading

atv.jpgThis blog has previously discussed the allure of all terrain vehicles (ATVs). They are rugged and exciting, and can take you through back country areas quickly and easily. However, they are also very dangerous. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because they have three, four, even six wheels, you will be protected from accidents: they have mortality rates comparable to motorcycles. Often the reason for the death and injury rate is the driver’s failure to wear a helmet. A person not wearing a helmet is three times more likely to suffer an injury from an ATV accident. Recently, an ATV accident claimed the life of yet another person in West Virginia.

Dakota Austin “Kody” Mullis, a 17-year old from North Carolina, was spending the weekend riding ATVs with family and friends in the Hatfield-McCoy trail system known as the “stair step.” At the end of the day, Mullis and his girlfriend decided to take one last ride before turning in. Since it was supposed to last 20 minutes, Mullis did not bring a helmet. “He never rode without his helmet, but this time he did,” his aunt noted. During a race up the trail in the twilight, Mullis and his girlfriend ended up losing control of their vehicles and hitting a guard rail. Both were thrown into an embankment, with Mullis being thrown nearly 50 feet into the air and finally hitting a tree. Although Mullis’s girlfriend alerted first responders, he was declared dead at Bluefield Regional Medical Center.

Doctors believe that even if Mullis had worn a helmet, the impact when he hit the tree and the ground might have been too great to survive. Still, no one will ever know. Now a North Carolina community is left to mourn a young man who would have been a senior in high school and was planning to join the military after graduation.

We at the Wolfe Law Firm express our deepest condolences to Mullis’s friends and family. There are so many “What ifs” in this situation. Mullis might have lost control of the vehicle through human error, though news articles suggest that he has used ATVs multiple times. It is also possible that this is more than just a tragic accident: there might have been something wrong with the vehicle itself. There is no information on how old Mullis’s ATV was or where he purchased it. If there is anything to suggest that the vehicle itself had a defect, his family might consider filing a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. In a product liability lawsuit, you would argue that the manufacturer was strictly liable because the ATV had a manufacturing defect (that particular ATV was unreasonably dangerous when it came off the assembly line), a design defect (all of that model ATV had control problems), or a warning label that failed to point out all foreseeable dangers. If the product is found to have a defect, the manufacturer will be liable even if it was not negligent — that is, even if it acted with reasonable care. You can still receive a money award in a product liability case even if you or your loved one was partially responsible for the accident — just as long as your fault does not rise to 50% or more in West Virginia.
Continue reading

1094665_quad_rally.jpgAll terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, provide people hours of outdoor entertainment, and are an excellent way to get around in the back country. Unfortunately, these vehicles can also be quite dangerous, and a recent story in the State Journal shows just how hazardous four-wheelers can be. This past week, there were two separate accidents involving people riding quads in Raleigh County, West Virginia that resulted in injuries for two riders. One accident occurred in Arnett and the other occurred in Fairdale — both involved male riders who were taken to the hospital for medical treatment, though the extent of their injuries was not reported.

Such accidents can be caused by riders operating four-wheelers in an unsafe manner, but mechanical malfunctions can also occur and cause crashes. We do not know exactly what brought about the accidents reported in the article above. However, if they were caused by a defect in the quads’ manufacture or design, the two men who were hurt may have valid product liability claims. Such claims can be brought against the ATV manufacturer or the dealer where they bought their vehicles, but proving liability in such cases is not easy. In order to succeed, injured parties must show that the allegedly defective ATVs in question were not reasonably safe for their intended use.

A skilled West Virginia products liability lawyer has the legal knowledge and advocacy skills to help those who have been injured by defective products. If you have been injured by a malfunctioning product of any kind, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can perform the necessary investigation into your accident to gather the evidence needed to make sound and compelling legal arguments that will get you the compensation you deserve.

Hunting season is upon us and because the use of firearms will increase as a result of the season, it is important to remember to be safe when stalking your next 12 point buck. Each year there are hunting accidents in West Virginia, and many of those accidents could be prevented by following some basic hunting safety tips. Hunters are aware of the law that requires them to wear blaze orange clothing to avoid being mistaken for a deer or other wildlife, but bright clothing is only one precaution among many that allows you to hunt safely. In addition, you should treat every gun as if it were loaded and never point a gun at anything you do not want to shoot. West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources (DNR) requires that every hunter complete a hunter education course before purchasing a hunting license, but it is always a good idea to review the safety tips in the Ten Commandments of Gun Safety before getting out there this season.

1320190_fighting_deer.jpgGun-related injuries and deaths are not the only danger to hunters. Whether you are hunting on private or public lands, you should always be aware of your surroundings. The hunting premises itself may pose a significant risk of injury from unsafe trails or other property hazards, particularly for hunters who use ATV’s to get around. For those hunters who use tree stands, checking to ensure that your equipment is maintained and in good working order should be a priority, as an equipment failure could result in a serious injury.

If you or anyone you know has been injured in a hunting accident, you should seek legal counsel immediately. A knowledgeable West Virginia personal injury attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your situation to provide sound legal advice and options for recovering for your damages. Hunting accidents don’t happen often, but when they do, an attorney can help.

According to Bridgeport CBS-affiliate WDTV, West Virginia has the most ATV accidents of any other state in the country. On April 27, 2010, the station featured a story about two West Virginia University graduate students who visited middle school students to teach them about ATV safety. They showed the students how to wear goggles and helmets, and how to pay attention to their surroundings as they drive.

As summer approaches in West Virginia and the weather gets warmer every day, it’s important to remember to practice ATV safety on recreational rides. Helmets are a must, especially for underage drivers, who make up 70% of ATV accidents.

It’s also important to know and obey the local laws regarding ATVs in West Virginia. For example, it’s illegal to ride with another person on your ATV. This dangerous activity is responsible for 10% of serious injuries sustained during ATV accidents. Additional passengers can create distractions and can also prohibit the driver from handling the ATV in a safe way. It’s also illegal to drive ATVs on highways and main roads unless you’re simply crossing over to another path.

atv_driver.jpgBetween 1982 and 2005, West Virginia had the fifth highest number of ATV-related deaths in the United States, with 339 fatalities during this period. This number was the highest per capita in the US, with the total number only behind four much more populated states including California and Texas. The latest reports show that between 2006 and 2008, 134 more people died due to ATV-related crashes in West Virginia, bringing the state’s total to the highest in the nation overall for this period.

Since 2008, a growing level of public outrage over ATV-related deaths has caused state legislators to take notice, particularly in the cases involving minors. Currently, West Virginia state law requires ATV riders to have under 18 to take a rider safety awareness course and to wear helmets at all times. Riders under the age of 18 are also banned from having minor passengers on board their ATVs.

For riders of all ages, headlights and taillights must be used between sunrise and sunset. ATVs cannot be driven on paved roads with a center line or roads with more than two lanes, except to cross or to get from one trail to another. Although helmet use is not a state requirement over the age of 18, they are strongly recommended for all riders and passengers.

The West Virginia Supreme Court reversed an Order of Circuit Court of Brooke County holding that an automobile insurance policy excluding an off-road ATV from uninsured motorist coverage does not provide coverage where a passenger was injured while riding off road ATV.

Nationwide all-terrain vehicle crashes in 2006 totaled more than 500 deaths with 20 percent of that number being children. West Virginia, along with Pennsylvania, California, Texas and Kentucky reported the highest number of ATV deaths since 1982. Most of the deaths and injuries are to children resulted from them riding on adult-size ATVs.

The West Virginia Court recognized in the recent case that the primary purpose of mandatory uninsured motorist coverage is to protect innocent victims from the hardships caused by negligent, financially irresponsible drivers.