A 57-year-old man died just two miles from home in a Maine snowmobile accident after striking a snow drift and suffering ejection. Authorities are investigating the deadly snowmobile crash, and unfortunately bracing for more, as the state’s 14,000 snow trails have been busy in recent weeks. With 800,000 registered snowmobiles in the state, this $300 million-a-year industry in Maine is popular, but rife with hazards. Many Maine snowmobile registrations are held by those who don’t reside here, but come solely to ride. (No trail passes are required, but all residents and non-residents must register for ride permission.)
One study published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research revealed there are an estimated 200 deaths and 14,000 injuries a year attributed to snowmobile accidents, with excess speed, alcohol, driver inexperience and poor judgment the leading causes indicated.
In the experience of our Maine snowmobile injury lawyers, the biggest factor in deadly snowmobile accidents has been speed. These 660-pound vehicles can reach top speeds of 100 mph, and too often, riders push those limits. Perhaps part of the problem is Maine has no designated speed limit for those on snowmobiles.
Instead, 12 MRS Section 13106(11) stipulates snowmobiles cannot be ridden “at a greater than reasonable or prudent speed” given the existing conditions. While this can be the basis for a finding of liability if, for instance, one snowmobile operator harms a passenger or another operator in a collision, how does one determine what is “reasonable and prudent”? Bangor snowmobile accident attorneys know the term is subjective, and that can create some challenges for someone filing a claim. The law also contains provisions that make it clear operators must use special care when approaching intersections, railway grade crossings, taking a curve, approaching a hill crest or traveling any narrow or winding trail or when special hazards exist, such as pedestrians, skiers or other traffic. Reckless operation of a snowmobile that creates serious risk of bodily harm to someone else is considered a Class D crime.
How Likely Are You To Win a Snowmobile Injury Lawsuit in Maine?
Chances of pursuing a successful lawsuit for snowmobile accident injuries in Maine will depend a great deal on the circumstances. Representing riders injured in snowmobile accidents poses a unique set of challenges, and it will be important for your Bangor snowmobile injury attorney to have a good idea of what the conditions were like at the time of the accident. For instance, was it snowing? What was visibility like? Was the rider equipped with all the proper gear (and if not, whose responsibility was it to ensure they were)? Was there some malfunction of the snowmobile equipment or some aspect of its condition/ maintenance that contributed to a serious snowmobile accident? What about the operator – was he/she over the age of 14, as required by law? Was the operator sober? Racing/operating recklessly?
Even if there isn’t a statutory basis on which to predicate a snowmobile accident claim for injury damages, an experienced injury or wrongful death lawyer will be able to examine best practices for snowmobile operators from places like the Maine Department of Conservation, which publishes not just Maine snowmobile law, but also trail ethics, safety tips and guidelines. Private snowmobile clubs or organizations might also be a source.
The majority of Maine snowmobile accidents occur on property that is privately-owned but on which riders are granted access for recreational purposes. The recreational use statute, also known as the landowner liability law, protects private landowners by significantly curtailing their responsibility for injuries of those they allow to use their land to engage in recreation. The idea is that without them, access to snowmobiling and other outdoor recreational activities would be severely reduced. Landowners aren’t required to keep their land safe and they aren’t required to warn those who enter of potential hazards. (There are exceptions if the landowner charges an admission fee or maliciously fails to warn of a dangerous condition.) For this reason, it can be difficult to build a case for liability against a private landowner for snowmobile accident injuries but there are circumstances that warrant it.
If you are the victim of a Bangor accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine wardens urge rider safety following first snowmobile death of season, Jan. 7, 2019, WGME Fox 23 Maine