Yamaha Rhino ATV: An Accident Waiting to Happen

By February 19, 2008Product Liability

The Yamaha Rhino is the subject of many lawsuits and claims because it is poorly designed. One has to wonder how a vehicle—any vehicle—would be approved for sale without doors, and other alleged design flaws such as being top-heavy and having tires that are too narrow. Regardless, that seems to be the case with the Yamaha Rhino ATV, a recreational vehicle that is racking up injuries and even death.
And based on performance, it might even be mis-branded. ATV stands for All-Terrain-Vehicle. However, looking at the unit’s troubled history, it appears that the ATV fails to live up to its name.
Introduced to the market in 2003, the Yamaha Rhino ATV appeared to be doomed from the start. Critics of the unit claim that it is top-heavy with narrow tires, which makes the ATV prone for rollovers.
And when that happens, there is little in the original design to keep limbs safely contained within the unit, as there are no doors. If seat belts are not used, there is a far greater chance that the occupant will be ejected fully, or partially from the unit—deepening the injuries, or even causing them to be fatal.
There are many heartbreaking stories connected to the Yamaha Rhino ATV, and given that so many ATV riders are children—well, you can guess what is coming next.
Thanksgiving was anything by thankful for the Vargas family in California, after 12-year-old Ashlyn Vargas was killed after her Yamaha Rhino ATV flipped on a turn. Ashlyn, who believed in seat belts but had forgotten to buckle up, was thrown from the ATV. However, critics say that the unit would not have tipped over in the first place had it not proven top-heavy, or designed with a narrow frame that served to exacerbate the problem.
Another tragedy happened in June of last year, when a nine-year-old boy from East Texas died after being thrown from a slow-moving Yamaha Rhino ATV. J.T. Crow, who was a passenger in a Rhino ATV driven by his 12-year-old sister, died from severe trauma to the head after the Rhino ATV rolled on top of him. The child’s mother said that the ATV was traveling at a slow rate of speed just a short distance from the house when the accident happened.
The Crow family is filing a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer, over the loss of their son.
Even though nether child was wearing a helmet in the foregoing case, others wearing full helmets and properly strapped in have suffered neck injuries, and have had limbs crushed and in some cases amputated after the lack of doors and window mesh failed to contain limbs and heads when the rollover-prone ATVs, as they have been described, fail to stay upright.
In September of 2006, the manufacturer is reported to have sent a letter to all Yamaha Rhino ATV owners warning that the vehicle was prone to tip when negotiating sharp turns. While many Yamaha Rhino ATV owners might fail to concur with this observation in view of experiences where the vehicle has been prone to tip even on flat surfaces as low speeds, Yamaha is reported to have made the case for seat belt and helmet use, and to keep limbs inside the vehicle at all times as, it is assumed, compensation for the lack of doors.
However, the physics and dynamics of a sharp change in trajectory, which given a rollover can happen in the blink of an eye, can have a dramatic affect on limbs and the neck, which can be jerked in various directions without the capacity for the driver to know what is happening.
Finally, in 2007 the manufacturer offered to retrofit all new and used Rhino ATVs with doors and additional hand holds. However, those modifications do not address the alleged design flaw, which sees the unit top-heavy and tip-prone.
Many critics are openly calling for a formal recall, and wonder aloud why it hasn’t happened. So far the manufacturer, according to best information, has yet to extend a recall, or extend an invitation for a refund.
In the meantime, spring will soon be here. Once the remnants of winter clears away in the snow States, often the first priority is to get outside and get into the ATV.
We can only hope that there will be no further injuries or deaths, before definitive action is taken.
Written by Gordon Gibb with contributions by Jeffrey Lowe of the Lowe Law Firm