ATV accidents occur regularly throughout the United States, many of them leaving riders with severe and often life-changing injuries. These consequences can frequently be caused due to a defect in the land that ATV is being driven on.
But let’s face it: sometimes people ride ATVs on property when they don’t have permission to do so. What does this mean for the injured person? The law looks at these injuries differently depending on whether permission was given, whether the property owner knew the ATV rider was on the property, and other situations. Let’s look at a few and see what sets them apart.
When a person is invited to use personal property to ride an ATV, that person is considered an “invitee.” This is most common on ATV courses, where people pay money to ride on the course. In a situation like this, the property owner is responsible for making sure there are no defects in the property, like holes or ditches that aren’t clearly marked, or making the rider aware of any potentially dangerous areas that they should avoid.
A licensee has permission to use a landowner’s property for his own convenience, curiosity or entertainment. There is usually no business transaction, simply permission granted by the owner to ride on the land. The important detail here is that the landowner is aware that the ATV riders are using their land and allow them to do so.
When a landowner gives permission to a licensee to use the land, they become responsible for any defects in the land that could cause an accident. If they allow a licensee to use their land knowing that there are defects that can cause accidents, like large holes in the ground, they may be responsible for damages.
If an ATV rider is riding on someone else’s property, and the landowner doesn’t know they’re on the property, then the ATV rider is considered a trespasser. Whether or not a landowner knows the person is riding there is very important. If a landowner knows people are on the property without permission, they’re still responsible for taking care of the defects—or at least making the riders aware of them.
Trespassers are responsible for any accidents or injuries caused by land defects. This is because the owner isn’t aware of their presence, and never gave them permission to use the land. When a landowner isn’t aware, they aren’t able to properly take care of or warn about any land defects.
State and National Parks
Many people use State or National Parks for joyriding ATVs. These parks are open to the public and—if explicitly stated—are often used for extreme motorized sports. With State and National Parks, visitors assume all responsibility for any accidents.
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