The recent injury of a Sanford girl in a UTV accident highlights the risk of these and other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) as we head into autumn.About 500 people a year are killed in ATV accidents, according to federal statistics, and more than 100,000 are injured seriously enough to seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms. About 25 percent of victims are under 16 years of age. In all, nearly 15,000 riders have been fatally injured since ATVs became popular in the 1980s.
CBS13 reports hundreds participated in a Sanford fundraiser for the 8-year-old girl, who broke her neck and jaw and suffered numerous skull fractures after falling from her UTV. The local Maine ATV Club sponsored the event.
Autumn is the most dangerous time of year for accidents involving utility and all-terrain vehicles for various reasons. Experience and familiarity bring more aggressive riding, often on newer, larger, and more powerful ATVs. The ground is hard, and vegetation is reaching maximum growth, which reduces visibility and creates hazards of its own.
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife offers an ATV safety course that covers proper operation, safety, and maintenance, as well as laws pertaining to ATVs, survival and first aid, map and compass training, and environmental and landowner ethics.
Maine law provides certain protections for an owner, lessee, manager, or occupant of a property (or holder of an easement), in that such a party does not have a duty of care to keep a property safe for use by others for recreational or harvesting activities. Title 14 MRSA, 159-A – Limited liability for recreational or harvesting activities, holds that is true regardless of whether a landowner/holder has granted specific permission for use of the premises for such activities.
The law notes Maine has a wealth of activities that draw people out of doors and on to public and private lands throughout the state. But from hang-gliding to dog sledding, landowners in many cases will not be held liable if you injure yourself while participating in recreational activities. As with every area of the law, however, there are numerous exceptions, including willful or malicious failure to warn against dangerous conditions, or injuries caused by actions of persons to whom permission to pursue recreational or harvesting activities was granted. In other words, you may still have a claim against another at-fault party, as might be the case in the event of a collision or when an ATV passenger is injured.
Nor does the law protect the rider from the consequences of violating trespass laws. One Maine law holds riders accountable for damages to private property, including forestry, produce, and other agricultural products. Those violating no-trespass signs may face charges of criminal trespass under a different law.
Our child injury lawyers in Maine know most riders respect the risks and ride responsibly. The question of liability following a serious or fatal accident is a complex legal matter best handled by an experienced personal injury law firm.
If you are injured in a Maine ATV accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
2016 Annual Report of ATV Deaths and Injuries, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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