Clarion County residents love ATV season thanks to all of the trails and off-roading sites located throughout the county. In fact, residents across the state enjoy ATV riding on the approximately 800 miles of designated public ATV riding trails that Pennsylvania has to offer. ATV riding season in Pennsylvania is unofficially between the months of May through September and unfortunately, May through September becomes ATV accident season as well.
As ATV accident attorneys know, injuries sustained in ATV accidents are usually severe and sometimes deadly. While ATV riding in Pennsylvania is not governed by automobile rules of the road, it is still governed with similar accident concepts related to negligence/causation/liability. Common causes of ATV accidents are described below.
Operator errors are responsible for many ATV accidents. Negligent operation can cause an accident between two ATVs or can cause a single vehicle accident injuring the driver and any passengers also riding on the ATV. In these cases, the negligent driver may be responsible for injuries and damages sustained by other people in the accident.
Dangerous property conditions
Dangerous property conditions on public or private property are also a common cause of ATV accidents. Property owners and managers are responsible for keeping their property free from dangerous conditions that may cause injuries to visitors and guests. Dangerous conditions may include large, unexpected holes in the ground, barricades or other obstructions on a trail, or unexpected ponds and other water hazards. Property owners who discover dangerous conditions have a duty to warn guests and visitors of existing dangers and to remediate the conditions as soon as possible.
It is not uncommon to see recalls issued for ATVs and ATV parts. When ATV defects lead to injuries, sometimes the manufacturer or seller of the ATV may be liable for resulting injuries and damages. Examples of ATV defects include faulty brakes, dangerous designs leading to tip over accidents, and steering mechanism failures.
Children, especially young children, are not equipped to recognize and appreciate the dangers of ATVs and they often do not have the physical strength to operate them. Pennsylvania law provides that no one under 8 years old is permitted to operate ATVs on state owned property. Children between the ages of 9 and 14 are required to take a state safety course and obtain a certificate in order to operate ATVs anywhere but their parents’ or guardians’ property. Furthermore, children ages 8 and 9 are restricted to ATVs with an engine size of 70cc or less. When children are injured in ATV accidents, parents sometimes make negligent supervision claims against the person who was caring for their child at the time. Examples would be when a child was at a friend’s house for a playdate and was injured in an ATV accident or when a child was being cared for by a babysitter at the time he or she suffered ATV accident injuries.