The Alton Telegraph reported March 20 that a ten-year-old girl was killed in an ATV accident in New Douglas, IL. As a southern Illinois ATV accident lawyer, I was saddened to read that another child has lost her life on one of these vehicles. Montana Niccole Garner of Livingston, Ill., was a passenger on the four-wheel adult-size ATV, driven by her friend, a twelve-year-old girl. As the girls drove the ATV around on private farmland owned by Montana’s friend’s family, close to Montana’s own home, they tried to make a turn. The ATV flipped and landed on Montana. Montana was aided by emergency personnel, who took her to Community Memorial Hospital in Staunton and then flew her to a St. Louis area hospital. Sadly, she was pronounced dead at the second hospital. Montana’s friend suffered minor injuries as well.
This was not the first fatal ATV accident to occur in this area. There have been several in the last few years, according to local police. Captain Brad Wells of the Madison County Sheriff’s department said, “This appears to be strictly an accident.” Nevertheless, he suggested that accidents could be reduced if people followed the warning stickers on ATVs that give the recommended ages for drivers. Wells also said that ATV riders should wear safety gear. But even with safety gear, tragic accidents can happen on ATVs. As I wrote last August, a seven-year-old boy died in an ATV accident even though he was wearing a full-face helmet. In that case, investigators suspected that the ATV’s throttle was stuck, causing the ATV to speed out of control, ultimately hitting a curb and throwing the boy from the vehicle as his father ran after him to try to save him.
In Montana’s case, the ATV’s throttle was not suspected of malfunction, but as a St. Louis ATV accident lawyer, I wonder whether the ATV that Montana and her friend were riding was one with a defective design that makes rollovers very likely. ATVs have many of the features known to make vehicles likely to roll over, including a high center of gravity, high-speed capability and intended use on uneven ground. A rollover-prone vehicle that weighs up to 700 pounds strikes me as a prime candidate for carefully-thought-out safety features put in place by the manufacturer, and tight government safety regulation. Unfortunately, the federal government regulates ATVs as toys, not vehicles, so they don’t get the benefit of more stringent vehicle safety requirements. And few manufacturers include these types of safety features voluntarily. Dangerous ATV designs and manufacturing defects have resulted in brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, and death for children and adults. And children under 16 account for nearly 25% of ATV-related deaths and 33% of injuries.
ATV accidents shot up by almost 180% between 1995 and 2004. Certainly, this is due in part to the increasing popularity of ATVs. But how much of this increase is also due to ATV manufacturers’ failure to ensure that their products are safe for riders and passengers? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and state laws regulate ATVs and handle recalls of defective ATVs, but they are evidently unable to slow the rate of ATV accidents. In fact, since Montana and her friend were riding their ATV on her friend’s family’s land, it may have been perfectly legal for a twelve-year-old and a ten-year-old to operate the ATV, even if the ATV’s manufacturer did not recommend it. Knowing that state laws allow for situations like this, ATV manufacturers have an extremely important responsibility to make sure that their products are safe for all conditions under which they can legally be operated. Missouri and Illinois law require that manufacturers ensure that their products are safe when they offer them for sale, in order to avoid hurting innocent people who use them, like Montana and her friend. When manufacturers fail to meet that obligation and consumers are hurt through no fault of their own by the defective product, state law allows victims to demand accountability.
With the help of an experienced Missouri ATV accident attorney, victims of defective products like poorly designed ATVs can hold the manufacturer legally responsible for causing catastrophic injuries or death. If you or a loved one have been seriously hurt by a possibly defective ATV, you should call the Lowe Law Firm to learn about your legal rights and the potential to recover the costs of the accident. For a free consultation, please call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400, or contact us through our Web site.