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ATV and UTV Personal Injuries and Safety Issues

Last week CBS News reported that the Yamaha Rhino utility terrain vehicle (UTV) is at the center of at least 440 wrongful death and personal injury cases across the nation.

Justin Miller, who lost his left hand after a Rhino accident in May 2008, said, “The Yamaha Rhino started to rock and it tipped over on my left side, crushing my wrist.” Miller says that he was driving less than 15 miles per hour on flat ground when his 1100-pound Rhino rolled over. He also told CBS News reporter Armen Keteyian that was wearing a helmet as well as his safety belt.

The popular Rhino was introduced in 2003, and more than 150,000 have been sold to date.

“The public needs to be aware that already 59 people have been killed in these vehicles,” said Inez Tenenbaum, head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). “It’s very high risk. This vehicle has a high center of gravity and it will turn over.”

Tenenbaum cites hundreds of reported injuries, including broken bones and crushed legs, arms, and heads. Many of these injuries occurred on level ground at low speeds. Last March Yamaha agreed to a “free repair” program to improve the handling and reduce injuries. But people continue to get hurt, and the CPSC continues its investigation.

“We’ll continue to look at this, and if we have to take stronger measures, we will,” said Tenenbaum.”

Yamaha defends the Rhino, saying that virtually all accidents are due to operator errors like driving too fast or failing to wear seat belts or helmets. However, CBS News showed a video of a Yamaha dealership employee tipping over in a Rhino in the dealership parking lot at a low speed. Even Yamaha executives have been injured in Yamaha Rhino rollover accidents!

Justin Miller wishes he had known about the Rhino safety concerns before he started riding it. “A lot of people and a lot of kids before me have died,” he said. “And if we had known that, we would have never bought this product.”

The first wrongful death trial for the Yamaha Rhino is scheduled to being later this month.

In related news, last week also saw the recall of nearly 4,000 Polaris Ranger side-by-side ATVs due to an electrical defect that can cause the tail light to melt or burst into flames. The CPSC has received reports of at least 46 incidents where the tail light overheated and melted. In 22 of those cases, the tail light caught on fire. Recalled models include the Ranger 700 EFI 6 x 6 and the Ranger 700 EFI Crew. If you own one of these ATVs, contact a dealer for a free repair.

Have you or someone you know been involved in an ATV accident? If so, please let us know what caused the accident? Was it operator error or a design defect (or a combination of both)?

If you’ve been seriously injured in a Yamaha Rhino accident or another UTV or ATV accident due to a design defect, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation.