Utility task vehicles (UTV’s) are two to six passenger vehicles meant for off-road fun or getting work done on farms or ranches. They are extremely useful, flexible, and potentially very dangerous vehicles. If you’re injured in a UTV accident, we may be able to help.
If someone else’s negligence causes your injuries, you may be able to obtain compensation. Contact the Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We can discuss your accident, Kentucky law, and your best options to proceed.
What’s a UTV?
Most UTVs have at least two seats, so they’re commonly called “side-by-sides.” They’re also labeled Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV’s) or Multipurpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicles (MOHUV’s), and All-Purpose Vehicles (APV’s).
A UTV has a steering wheel, bucket or bench seats and seatbelts, foot pedals, and a roll bar or cage. It may have all or two-wheel drive. It’s not an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) which is smaller, has handlebars, and you straddle it like a motorcycle. An ATV may accommodate two people, one sitting behind the other.
What Causes UTV Accidents?
UTV accidents are common. Generally, they’re not legal to use on public roads and highways. Depending on the conditions and where it’s driven, a UTV may go as fast as 75mph. Although they usually have a roll cage and seatbelts, an accident in one of these vehicles at highway speeds is almost guaranteed to result in serious or fatal injuries. They’re not designed to protect users from injuries at high speed.
The state doesn’t require UTV’s be insured like a car or light truck (though you may need some kind of coverage if you go on state land). If the owner is smart, they’ll buy coverage given the chances of an accident and injuries. If the UTV is financed, it’s probably insured.
UTV accidents can have many causes:
- The driver made mistakes. They may be inexperienced, over-confident in their skills, or underestimate the dangers of the vehicle. The UTV may be traveling too fast for conditions and flip over. It also may be in a place where it shouldn’t be, like on a street. The driver may be intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
- The UTV is poorly maintained or designed. A mechanical failure may cause a crash
Often injuries happen or are more made more serious because drivers and passengers aren’t using seatbelts. UTVs have high centers of gravity so are prone to flip over, especially in turns at higher speeds. If one flips over into a creek, river, or other body of water, someone in the vehicle could be trapped in the UTV and drown. When accidents happen far off road it could be hours before the injured party gets medical attention, possibly making a serious injury life-threatening.
Polaris Ranger UTV models have been recalled because of fire dangers caused by a defective fuel line. Dozens of burn injuries and two deaths are blamed on the problem, according to Salon.
When Might a UTV Accident Lead to an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit?
You might obtain compensation for your injuries depending on the situation. If you’re a passenger and injured because the driver negligently drove or maintained the vehicle, you may have a basis for a lawsuit. If the driver isn’t insured, they would need to have enough assets to make the legal action worth the effort and cost. If your injuries are caused by a design or manufacturing defect, the manufacturer and all those involved in selling the vehicle could potentially be liable.
How Can Riding a UTV Be More Safe?
Foremost Insurance Group has these suggestions for riders and passengers.
- Don’t Drink and Drive
Just like any other vehicle, the operator shouldn’t be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Depending on the UTV’s speed and the conditions where it’s driven, there may be little room for error.
- Know the Vehicle
If you own or drive the UTV, read the operator’s manual. Understand how it works, its limitations, and mistakes to avoid to stay out of trouble. UTVs aren’t toys, and people are killed in accidents involving them.
- Check the UTV Before You Start
Check the tires and your fuel level to reduce the chances of breaking down on the trail. Walk around the vehicle to see if anything looks wrong. After you start it, does the engine sound right? If not, see if there’s a problem. Make sure the brakes work before traveling any distance.
- Use Safety Equipment
Wear a certified helmet and goggles if the helmet lacks eye protection.
- Use Seat Belts
Many of those seriously injured or killed in UTV accidents are ejected from the vehicle because they weren’t belted in. They could hit rocks, trees, or pavement at high speed. You could still be injured in a UTV accident while belted in, but your injuries may be fatal if you don’t.
- Practice Makes Better
UTVs are fun to drive. They can take you where you’ve never been far more quickly than hiking, and if driven correctly, more safely than an ATV or dirt bike. Take an online UTV safety course, but like driving any vehicle, you learn the most through experience, which is key to mastering a UTV. Start by going into areas where driving is easy and slowly work your way up to more challenging trails.
- Keep to the Trail
Stay off the roads. The tires are designed for off-roading, so they won’t have the traction you’ll need for safely riding on streets. UTV’s are not designed to be ridden on streets so they may handle dangerously, especially at higher speeds, if that’s where you go. You also run the risk of colliding into a vehicle, something a UTV isn’t designed to survive.
Get the Legal Help You Need from a Personal Injury Attorney You Can Trust If You Are In An Accident
If you’re injured in a UTV accident, Tyler Fleck is here to help. He can answer your questions and discuss with you Kentucky law and how a court may apply it in your case. Contact The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We can talk about your accident and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.