It never ceases to amaze me how the poor judgment of an adult can lead to disastrous consequences for a child.
Particularly with the use of recreational activities, adult carelessness frequently contributes to situations where a child is harmed because the adult watching him or her failed to provide necessary instruction to a child regarding:
- Safe operation of a vehicle
- Hazards in the area
- The importance of using safety equipment.
When supervising adults permit a child to engage in a potentially dangerous activity, such as the use of all-terrain-vehicles (ATV’s), they have a duty to take the necessary safeguards to ensure the child’s safety. If they can not or choose not to provide instruction or take necessary safety precautions for the children, the activity should not be allowed. Period.
My office consistently receives inquires regarding children who have been injured or who have died in an all-terrain-vehicle accident (atv). Although we can argue about whether children should be riding atv’s in the first place, our investigations into the incidents typically reveals that the real contributing factor to the incident is the lack of adult supervision.
The most common examples of inadequate adult supervision contributing to ATV accidents amongst children include:
- Allowing very young children (under 10 years old) to ride unassisted
- Allowing children to ride atv’s that are too big or too powerful for their size
- Not supplying helmets or another protective equipment
- Encouraging children to ride in areas that are unsafe for atv usage
- Failing to advise children of dangers on property (bricks, holes, fallen trees, ect.)
- Setting up hap-hazardly constructed jumps and ramps
I was saddened to see a recent example of a child killed while operating an ATV in Connecticut. Yet again, it seems that the poor judgment of an adult played a huge rule in this devastating event. According to news reports the seven-year-old died following an ATV accident in which the vehicle rolled on top of him. Police investigating the incident determined that the child was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.
Could the helmet have prevented this situation from occurring?
Of course neither myself, nor anyone can accurately determine how the outcome of this incident may have been different had the child been wearing a helmet. However, statistics tell us that helmet usage reduces the incidence of traumatic brain injury (tbi) and death by more than 60%. Most ATV manufacturers recognize this simple preventative measure and recommend helmets for all riders.
Certainly, the adult(s) who we supervising this young person were negligent in failing to provide this boy with the proper (and necessary) protective equipment to make his ATV use safer.
Can a cause of action be maintained against the owner of the ATV and / supervising adult?
Probably. I have worked on a number of ATV accident cases where we have successfully recovered damages for injuries and death under an insurance policy covering the owner of the ATV, property owner, or a camp for failing to provide helmets as recommended by most ATV manufacturers.
Unfortunately, many of these situations occur at the home of a friend or family member. However, when there is insurance to cover the loss, we can frequently resolve these matters prior to trial, and in some situations prior to the commencement of a lawsuit.
Young Children and ATV’s Dangers
Children (under 16-years-old) experience a disproportionate number of injuries when operating ATV’s. Some sobering statistics from ATVSafety.gov include:
- Over the last decade, more than 100 children die every year in ATV accident
- In 2008, 37,700 children were injured severe enough to require emergency room treatment
- More than 9.5 million 4-wheel ATV’s were in use in 2007 and the number of vehicle in use continues to grow at more than 10% annually.