An off-roading adventure on an ATV appeals to many people, adults and children alike. Unfortunately, crashing these vehicles can result in serious injuries or even death. If someone else negligently injured you or a loved one in an ATV accident, you can seek compensation for your losses through an ATV injury claim.
How Negligence-Based ATV Accidents Cause Injuries?
Over three years, more than 1,500 people died in ATV accidents, and roughly 105,000 visited emergency departments annually for ATV and other off-highway vehicle injuries. Not all ATV accidents result in the right to seek compensation.
Here are some examples of how someone’s negligence could injure another person in an ATV accident.
- Accidents involving motor vehicles: If a car strikes an ATV as the rider attempts to cross a public roadway, the ATV driver has little protection from serious injury. In many places, drivers may not take ATVs on public roadways except in specific circumstances. For example, in Arizona, to legally operate an ATV on public roads, the owner must make the vehicle street legal, which involves registering it for highway use, equipping it with acceptable braking and headlights, and obtaining liability insurance.
- Failure to supervise children: If an ATV owner allows your child to ride without supervision or leaves their ATV where your child could get on without permission, they may be liable for the child’s injuries.
- Hazardous property: If a business or person allows others to ride ATVs on their property for commercial purposes and fails to ensure that their property is free from hazards that could cause injuries, they could be liable for negligence.
- Collisions with other drivers: If another person drives an ATV recklessly, drunk, or while distracted, they could be liable for crashing with another person.
Seeking Compensation for ATV Injuries or Death
Individuals injured in ATV accidents caused by someone else’s negligence can seek compensation for their losses through a personal injury claim. Those who lost a loved one due to a negligence-caused ATV accident can seek compensation for their losses through a wrongful death claim. Each of these claims follows a similar process, as outlined below.
Hiring an Experienced ATV Accident Injury Lawyer
Hiring an experienced lawyer is the first step in obtaining compensation for an injury or loss due to an ATV accident. Many people hesitate to hire a lawyer to help them because they do not think they can afford one or believe that the personal injury claims process is simple enough to figure out alone. Neither of these notions is correct, however.
Lawyers who assist ATV accident victims often work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that receiving payment for their services is contingent upon you obtaining compensation through a negotiated settlement or a lawsuit.
If you do not win your case, you owe your lawyer nothing for their work on your behalf. If you obtain compensation, your lawyer receives a percentage of your award, called a contingency fee.
You and the lawyer decide on the amount of the percentage in the contract you sign when you hire them.
The personal injury and wrongful death claims processes are complex. Each requires deadlines, paperwork, and investigation, evidence-gathering. Because of this, ATV accident lawyers not only work on a contingency fee basis but also provide free case evaluations, which is a time for them to explain the process in greater detail and outline assistance they can provide with the claim.
Investigating the Claim
A cornerstone of a successful ATV accident claim is proving that someone else caused the accident. After hiring a lawyer to help you with your claim, they will begin looking carefully at all the claim details to determine who is legally responsible for your losses.
They will also identify the liable party’s insurance resources available to provide compensation. Perhaps an auto insurance policy will pay if the accident involved another vehicle, homeowner’s insurance if the accident resulted from a hazardous condition on private land, or a commercial business liability policy if the accident occurred due to a company’s negligence.
In identifying the liable parties, your lawyer will also gather evidence to prove your claims, such as information from the police report, photos from the scene, or witness statements. They will also begin gathering the documentation needed to show your expenses and justify your claim’s value.
Establishing the Claim’s Value
When establishing how much your ATV accident claim is worth, your lawyer will consider:
- The severity of your injuries
- The level of recklessness exhibited by the at-fault party when the accident occurred
- Your expenses, such as medical expenses and wage loss
- Whether you sustained permanent injuries that prevent you from working in the future
Personal injury and wrongful death claimants can seek compensation for the economic losses they incurred due to the accident and the psychological effects of the accident, such as pain and suffering or the loss of support a deceased loved one provided for their family.
In personal injury claims, the lawyer usually waits until their client reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) before determining a claim’s value. MMI is when a physician feels the person’s injuries will not heal any further, even with continued treatment. It is also the point when the whole picture of your financial and psychological losses will be the clearest.
Making a Demand
After your ATV accident lawyer has established your claim’s value, they will submit a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company.
This demand provides:
- Details of the accident
- Documentation of your injuries
- A demand for payment of the claim’s value
Upon receiving the demand, the insurance provider will assign a claims adjuster to the case.
An insurance claims adjuster is an individual who analyzes claims and determines how much compensation to pay the claimant for their insured’s liability. The claims adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money by reducing or denying the claim.
Negotiating a Settlement
A claims adjuster only has a limited time to evaluate and respond to your claim. They can fully accept the claim, deny it, or make a settlement offer.
Usually, an initial settlement offer is much less than the claim’s value. Your lawyer will negotiate with the claims adjuster to get them to make a higher offer.
Most personal injury and wrongful death claims settle out of court. Litigation is expensive for all parties and presents uncertainty since the judge or jury decides the claim’s value. Many personal injury claimants prefer the settlement process to avoid the stress and uncertainty of court. Working with a lawyer with ample ATV accident litigation and negotiation experience is crucial. Your lawyer’s comfort and confidence in the courtroom can be vital to your claim.
Filing a Lawsuit
Even though most claims settle, your claim must adhere to the statute of limitations, a deadline for filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has a different deadline, so speak to a lawyer in your area to find out when you must file your lawsuit. Failure to file a lawsuit in court within the statute of limitations usually results in the loss of the right to seek compensation through the state’s civil court process.
Settlement negotiations can and often do continue even after a lawsuit gets filed. Negotiations can even continue after the trial starts, provided the court has not decided on the case. Work with a lawyer to ensure your claim is filed before the deadline.
After your lawyer files your ATV accident lawsuit, they will begin preparing your court case as they continue negotiating with the claims adjuster. Discovery is the next phase of the process. During discovery, your lawyer will have the opportunity to obtain evidence from the at-fault party and depose witnesses. Depositions are out-of-court testimony. They can help the lawyer identify new sources of evidence to prove the claim.
Other services provided by your lawyer during litigation include:
- Preparing exhibits of evidence
- Arranging for experts to testify to support your claim
- Preparing opening and closing statements for court
Collecting Compensation for Your ATV Accident
When your claim resolves through a negotiated settlement or a court award, it will likely take several weeks to receive your payment. The at-fault party’s insurance provider will process the award and send it directly to your lawyer. Your lawyer will deposit the funds into a trust.
From there, they will deduct the percentage of the payment owed to them for their services, per the contingency fee agreement you entered into with them when they began working on your claim. Additionally, if the contract specified that your lawyer handles other debts, such as medical liens placed on your settlement by health care providers, your lawyer will satisfy those debts.
You will then sign paperwork that finalizes the case, and they will disburse the remainder of the funds to you.
Figuring out how to navigate an ATV accident claim is complicated and stressful. Contact an experienced ATV accident lawyer for a free case evaluation. A lawyer will offer the help you need to move forward after a devastating accident.