Maine ATV Accidents May Involve Product Liability, Premises Liability Litigation

A two-year-old Livermore girl was hurt in an ATV accident with her father, the Bangor Daily News reported.
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The girl was reportedly not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. The father said he was driving a 2012 Polaris 400 ATV along the Androscoggin River when the throttle lever stuck behind an aftermarket heated handlebar grip. Both father and daughter were ejected.

While a dose of common sense never hurts when riding ATVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and other such vehicles, the fact is all-terrain vehicles are often inherently dangerous by design.

We can make several observations in this case. First, the ATV was new. Secondly, the use of aftermarket parts apparently contributed to this accident. The manufacturer of the grips could be found partially responsible for this accident if it’s determined the grip interfered with throttle function. Too often, manufacturers of such aftermarket products are focused on profit — not on the safety and compatibility of their products. The manufacturer may also share responsibility.

Maine is an ATV rider’s paradise. The Department of Conservation reports most of the state’s hundreds of miles of trails are on private land and are maintained by local clubs. Maine has made this process quasi-formal through a system of cooperative agreements between ATV clubs and private landowners. Landowners must understand their obligations and the potential liability to which they are exposing themselves by permitting riding on their property.

In some cases, an experienced injury attorney in Portland may pursue a landowner through a premises liability claim. There are also several state owned or leased rail beds, including the Bangor and Aroostook Trail, which are available for use.

New riders should always take a rider safety course. Wearing the proper gear and respecting the risks that come with riding can also help reduce your chances of being injured in an accident. The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports an average of more than 600 riders are fatally injured in ATV accidents each year. More than 100,000 a year are seriously injured.

Maine has reported more than 20 fatal accidents in the last several years. Young children are most at risk. Last month, the Portland Press Herald reported the death of a 4-year-old boy in an ATV accident. Just days earlier, the Maine Sun Journal reported the death of a 24-year-old woman, after her ATV went airborne and landed in the Crooked River near Naples, Maine.

In fact, game wardens in Bangor are warning it has already been a particularly deadly autumn for ATV accidents across the state. Parents are also reminded that Maine law requires riders under the age of 16 to be supervised at all times when riding all-terrain vehicles.

Taking an ATV safety course in Maine is an excellent way for riders to familiarize themselves with the state’s laws and best practices for ATV safety. Course topics include proper operation and safety, laws, emergency and survival tactics, map and compass training and environmental and landowner ethics.

Portland Injury Attorney Peter Thompson can be reached at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

Additional Resources:
Man, 2½-year-old daughter hurt in ATV accident in Livermore, Published by Bangor Daily News, Sept. 3, 2012.

High Season for Road Construction Accidents in Maine, Published by Peter Thompson & Associates, Sept. 12, 2012.