Those engaged in the sales, service or use of off-road vehicles should be aware of a growing trend in litigation.
As many of us here in West Virginia are aware, side by side utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) have gained popularity recently. UTVs are designed to carry a driver and a passenger, as well as a substantial cargo. Unlike in an ATV, the rider and passenger are seated side by side, as in a car or truck. Many UTVs are designed to fit in the bed of a pickup truck. This is of obvious benefit to, among others, hunters, people who fish and outdoor workers. UTVs are also designed for an open air ride, to simulate the effect of an ATV and allow easy entry and exit from the vehicle. This means that body parts can be exposed in a roll. This also means that a UTV is narrower than a truck or car and therefore more likely to roll when maneuvered carelessly.
Unfortunately, the very attributes that make UTVs attractive and functional have made them a target for plaintiffs' lawyers. Prompted by the high profile recalls of several of the leading models, plaintiffs? lawyers have redoubled their efforts to solicit cases involving all models of UTVs. The plaintiffs' lawyer will generally file suit against the manufacturer, the retailer and sometimes the owner of the UTV. In West Virginia, there is one ATV for every four people, one of the highest rates in the country. West Virginia also leads the nation in ATV based fatalities. Given these numbers, West Virginia will likely have a disproportionate number of UTV users and UTV based accidents. With the increasing use of UTVS, we can anticipate that the number of UTV based lawsuits will increase as well.
The lawsuits we have seen thus far have been centered on the UTV?s propensity to roll in tight, high speed turns. Plaintiffs' lawyers claim that the manufacturers are liable due to their failure to design a vehicle to stay upright in such turns and their failure to provide adequate safety features to protect the occupants and their body parts in the event of a roll.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss these matters further, please use one of the links below to cotact an attorney.
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
Chief Marketing Officer