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Rick Shapiro
Rick Shapiro
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North Carolina (NC) Teen Killed in ATV Accident

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It was the last ATV ride of the day for a 17-year-old from North Carolina, and he didn’t wear his helmet. Sadly, that omission proved fatal for the Ashe County, NC, teen when he lost control of all-terrain vehicleon a steep path in West Virginia (WV), hit a guardrail, was thrown down an embankment and struck a tree.

The Jefferson Post reported that the boy had spent July 30, 2011, on part of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail known locally as the stair-step. Friends say he always wore a safety helmet, but he left it behind one essential time.

As experienced Carolina personal injury lawyers, we are well aware of the dangers ATV riders face. Rollover accidents are a particular hazard with ATVs and any three wheeled vehicle is inherently dangerous, although most ATVs now have four wheels.

ATV accidents have in the past led to lawsuits. An ATV manufacturing defect could give cause to an action. Many serious accidents occur when children are allowed to operate adult sized ATVs, another potential trigger for a lawsuit. One brand of ATV, the Yamaha Rhino, has been the subject of recalls and wrongful death lawsuits following a spate of rollover accidents.

The Yamaha Rhino has been linked to more than 50 accidents and no less than 46 driver and passenger deaths, CBCnews reported. According to Concerned Families for ATV Safety, 40,000 minors and teenagers have been seriously injured or killed in ATV rollover accidents in the US. Teenagers appear to be particularly at risk. The organization points to a new national report on ATV accidents that reveals there was a staggering 150 percent increase in injuries to children younger than 18 between 1997 and 2006.

The number of moderate to severe brain injuries suffered by these teenagers has tripled in that time frame, too. It’s unclear why the number of injuries and deaths are rising but it may be linked to the fact ATVs are becoming bigger and more powerful.

Just over two months ago, a 14-year-old girl died on the afternoon of May 23, 2011, from injuries suffered in a tragic ATV accident in in Williamsburg, Virginia (VA). The victim was apparently thrown from her ATV. Once again she was not wearing a helmet.

In Virginia, our attorneys note there were 171 ATV-related deaths from 1982-2007. Helmets don’t offer complete protection against death or traumatic brain injuries on inherently dangerous ATVs but had these young people wore them, they would have at least given themselves a better chance of survival.

New ATV laws were introduced in West Virginia (WV) in 2004 following concerns aver a high death rate that was averaging 23 fatalities a year. It is mandatory for riders to wear helmets in West Virginia (WV) but the law in North Carolina (NC) was recently weakened allowing adult riders to forgo helmets and eye protection when riding on private property.

DM

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.