ATV Accidents


What is an ATV?

All terrain vehicles (ATVs), also known as a quads, three-wheelers, four-tracks, four-wheelers, off-highway vehicles (OHVs), or quadricycles, are vehicles designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles. The rider operates the ATV like a motorcycle, but the extra wheels give more stability at slower speeds. 

The California, Vehicle Code (CVC) defines an ATV as fifty inches or less in width; nine hundred pounds or less, unladen; three or more low pressure tires; a single seat designed to be straddled by the operator, or a single seat designed to be straddled by the operator with room for no more than one passenger; and with handlebars for steering control.  In California, ATVs are generally not permitted on highways or streets. California has eight State Vehicular Recreation Areas, or SVRAs, operated by the Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division of California State Parks, the largest program of its type in the nation.

ATV Accidents

ATVs are most often used for recreational off-road activities and are often marketed as vehicles that provide fun for the whole family, including young children. However, ATVs, as with any powerful motorized vehicle, can be very dangerous if misused.  

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2017 “Annual Report of A TV-Related Deaths and Injuries” there were at least 14,653 ATV-related fatalities occurring between 1982 and 2016. California was the state with the second highest number of reported ATV-related fatalities. 

Tragically, children younger than 16 years of age accounted for 22% (3,232) of all the ATV-related fatalities during this reporting period, and 44% of those children (1,411) were younger than 12.  Furthermore, in 2016, there were an estimated 101,200 ATV-related, emergency department-treated injuries in the United States and an estimated 26% of these involved children younger than 16 years of age.  Medical literature indicates that children are more at risk for ATV-related injuries than adults. 

Pediatricians and medical groups say children do not have the strength, coordination or judgment needed to handle these powerful vehicles safely. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Consumer Product Safety Committee (“CPSC”), and many consumer groups recommend that children under 16 not ride on ATVs. However, the California Vehicle Code permits persons under 18 and under 14 to ride under certain conditions. All persons under 18 must take a safety training course under the direct supervision of a certified all-terrain vehicle safety instructor or be under the direct supervision of an adult who has in their possession an appropriate safety certificate. Children under 14 years of age must satisfy those conditions and must be accompanied by and under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. The OHMVR Division provides funding for ATV safety certificate training for those aged 6 through 17. California also requires all ATV riders to wear an approved safety helmet when riding on public lands. 

Serious injuries caused by ATVs include:

  • head injury 
  • traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • spinal cord injury and paralysis
  • back injury
  • chest injury
  • amputation of limbs
  • broken bones and fractures
  • organ damage
  • soft tissue injuries
  • burns
  • deep cuts/lacerations 

Causes of ATV Accident

The vast majority of ATV accidents are due to rider error, including negligent or reckless behavior, or not obeying safety rules. In such cases a negligent driver may collide or cause injury to another rider or bystander. In such cases, the rider who caused the injury may be held legally liable for the harm they caused. Examples of negligent riding include:

  • Driving an ATV on a paved surface, such as a street or sidewalk. ATVs are designed for off-road use only. 
  • Riding double on an ATV that is designed for a single rider.
  • Riding by an inexperienced rider or allowing a young or inexperienced rider to ride without appropriate supervision.
  • Performing reckless or dangerous stunts or maneuvers.
  • Not paying enough attention to your surroundings or riding in unfamiliar areas
  • Failing to follow laws or obey the rules

In some cases ATV accidents are not caused by the negligent actions of a rider but due to dangerous terrain or conditions of the course. In such instances it may be the land owner or operator who is responsible for injuries. Property owners who allow others to ride on their property must adequately inspect and maintain trails and warn riders of known hazards. 

In other instances an accident may be due to an ATV's dangerous design, mechanical defect, or lack of adequate instructions or warnings.  Design defects that could contribute to an ATV accident include: defective steering controls, faulty wiring, fuel leaks (fire hazard), bad brakes, open driver or passenger compartments, lack of handholds or restraints, and a high center of gravity and narrow wheelbase that can cause rollovers. If a manufacturer knows that its ATV is dangerous and does not warn consumers about risk, the manufacturer may be liable for injuries caused. In 1988 due to safety concerns by the U.S. government, manufacturers stopped production of the three-wheeled ATV models.  However, many three-wheeled ATVs are still being used today. Furthermore, some models of ATVs commonly used today are still prone to rollovers, often resulting in serious head trauma. The CPSC maintains a searchable database of recalled ATVs. As of August 2019 there were over 100 recall listings on the CPSC website related to ATVs. ATVs recalled since 2015 include various models from: Yamaha, Arctic Cat, CFMOTO, BRP, Polaris, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Hammerhead, and Gibbs.


One serious psychological consequence often associated with ATV accidents is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To read more about this, please click here.

What to do if you or a loved one was injured in an ATV accident

Preserving as much evidence as possible will help your attorney to prove your case, so write down as much as you can while the details are still fresh in your memory. Be sure to get names of any witnesses to the accident. You should note all injuries and damage to all vehicles and property. Take photos if you have a camera. Draw a diagram of the accident scene. Note the time it happened and the weather. Obtain medical care and all necessary medical tests. Keep all medical records. Keep copies of all insurance information. Note the make and model number of your ATV. It is prudent not to discuss the accident with anyone except law enforcement, your doctor or your lawyer. 

It is critical to seek advice from an ATV accident lawyer as soon as possible. In order to build a strong case, your attorney will need to investigate and obtain information from you about your accident. Your legal team can help you to keep track of legal and medical documents and make sure deadlines are met. The law sets time limits for filing a personal injury accident or product liability claim. A delay may threaten your chances for a successful claim.

We are a highly regarded Los Angeles law firm with a proven track record of successfully handling accident cases in Southern California. We invite you to contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation so that you can discuss your case and learn more about our legal practice. After reviewing your situation, we will let you know whether we think you have a case, and if so, what kind of settlement might be possible. We will go over the legal process and help you to make the right decisions for you and your family.

Contact Taschner Law today for a Free Consultation and see how we can help!

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