ATVs are a popular form of entertainment in the mountains, providing a thrilling way for riders to experience nature. Of course, West Virginia is home to an extensive All-terrain Vehicle (ATV) trail system. As the popularity of ATVs has grown in West Virginia, however, laws now permit ATVs not only on trails, but also on city streets.
While ATVs can be exciting, they are inherently dangerous. If you or a loved one was injured in an ATV accident, you may seek compensation for your injuries. The experienced Morgantown ATV Accident Lawyers at Wagoner Desai has experience handling ATV-accident claims, and we are committed to seeking justice for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
ATV Accidents by Numbers
Given its smaller population compared to other states, West Virginia produces a huge proportion of ATV injuries across the United States.
In one recent year, 264 ATV-related fatalities took place and emergency departments treated more than 81,000 ATV-related injuries across the United States. West Virginia ranks third among states for the most reported ATV-related fatalities.
In a recent two-year period, 97 reported ATV deaths took place in West Virginia, the largest number of fatalities in any state within the same time period. And we expect to see more such accidents. A recently enacted West Virginia law allows “street-legal” ATVs and other side-by-side vehicles to drive on roadways alongside much larger motor vehicles.
Risks of ATVs
ATVs present a high risk of injury or fatality partially because riders can drive the vehicles on rough, untamed terrain seeking a thrill. Riders might engage in seemingly reckless behaviors to increase the thrill of the off-road experience.
Injuries may also be common because the law only requires riders and passengers under the age of 18 to wear helmets. As many as 95 percent of ATV crash victims in West Virginia did not wear a helmet at the time of the accident.
Victims in ATV accidents may suffer these injuries:
- Head and brain injuries: Without a helmet, ATV accident victims can suffer head lacerations and fractures of the skull or facial bones. Additionally, collisions involving ATVs commonly result in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). A TBI may cause a coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
- Spinal injuries: Damage to the spinal cord causes different symptoms with varying degrees in each injured victim. The spinal cord allows the brain to communicate with the body, so injuries may cause a loss of strength, sensation, and bodily function, muscle weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
- Neck and back injuries: If an ATV accident victim sustains a neck or back injury, they may require long-term physical therapy to manage their pain.
- Internal damage: A forceful impact on the body may cause internal damage to organs including the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Internal injuries can be difficult to diagnose, as they may not immediately exhibit symptoms—but internal bleeding can kill people.
- Dental and facial injuries: Often, ATV-accident victims strike their faces on vehicles or other hard objects, which can cause dental injuries, such as cracked or chipped teeth or facial fractures. The injury may require plastic surgery.
- Broken bones: Fractured and broken bones are common in ATV accidents; severe breaks often require surgery or physical therapy.
- Cuts, bruises, and sprains: Seeming minor cuts and sprains can still cause extreme pain and disruptions to victims’ lives.
Following an ATV accident, first and foremost, seek medical assistance. Injured victims must prioritize their health and safety. After obtaining a medical evaluation, contact law enforcement to file an accident report. The officer’s accident report will include pictures of the accident scene, witness information, and any citations for violations of traffic laws.
Who Is At Fault for the Accident?
When another’s negligent actions contribute to your injuries, you may hold the responsible party liable for any accident-related damages.
Parties whom you may hold responsible for an ATV accident include:
- Negligent ATV drivers: If you were a passenger on an ATV or your ATV collided with another ATV, we can determine whether the ATV driver acted negligently. Any violation of traffic laws or regulations may provide strong evidence of driver negligence. For example, speeding, failure to obey traffic signals, distracted driving, and driving under the influence may all indicate negligent driver behavior. More than 20 percent of all ATV accidents involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Negligent vehicle drivers: Since ATVs now share the road with other motor vehicles, negligent drivers of cars or trucks may cause ATV accidents. Any violation of traffic laws may indicate negligent driving.
- Negligent vehicle manufacturers: If a vehicle defect or malfunction causes an accident, the manufacturer of the vehicle or its parts may share responsibility for accident-related damages.
Determining which parties may share liability for an ATV accident can be a complicated process. At Wagoner Desai, we are committed to working with our clients to investigate the unique circumstances of their individual cases.
What Should I Include in a Demand for Damages?
Every injured victim should prepare a comprehensive damages assessment, to calculate the losses they have incurred as a result of the accident. Medical expenses are compensable losses.
Additionally, injured victims should consider the following impacts after an ATV accident:
- Loss of income: If your injuries require you to miss work, work a reduced schedule, or perform in a lesser capacity than before the accident, you may recover compensation for lost wages. If you suffer permanent limitations or a disability because of your injuries, a demand for damages should also include an estimate of future lost earnings.
- Property damage: If the accident damaged or destroyed your property, including your vehicle, you can hold the responsible party liable for the costs of repair or replacement.
- Emotional distress: Emotional distress is common after any traumatic incident, including an ATV accident. While these damages for injuries like anxiety, depression, and PTSD are harder to quantify, you may still seek recovery for them.
- Loss of enjoyment: If your injuries prevent you from participating in activities that previously brought you joy, you may recover compensation for your loss of enjoyment.
- Punitive damages: In West Virginia, a plaintiff can only recover punitive damages if the responsible party acted with actual malice or with conscious, reckless, and outrageous indifference to the health and safety of others. Punitive damages punish and deter similar behavior. The state caps punitive damages at $500,000 or four times the compensatory damages awarded to the injured party.
We know that a demand for damages must reflect all impacts and losses suffered by the injured party. Our firm is dedicated to assisting clients in calculating the full scope of their losses after an accident.
Contact Wagoner Desai Today
The team at Wagoner Desai regularly fights for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they need. If you were injured in an ATV accident in Morgantown, West Virginia, or the surrounding area, call us today for a free consultation and case evaluation at (304) 470-2056 or write to us using our online contact page.
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