UTV Defects and The Harms They Can Cause

What is a UTV?

People across the country use UTVs on a daily basis. UTV stands for Utility Task Vehicle or Utility Terrain Vehicle. UTVs are also commonly referred to as Recreational Utility Vehicles or Side-by-Sides. UTVs have grown in popularity throughout the United States due in large part to their wait for it…utility! The number of UTVs sold in the US on a yearly basis has essentially doubled over the last 10 years.[1]

UTVs are commonly used for activities ranging from transporting supplies on a ranch to exploring the desert sand dunes outside of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, while these machines can be both useful and a lot of fun, they can also be extremely dangerous. Poor design choices and safety shortcuts incorporated in a number of UTV models can result in devastating injuries and quickly change an exhilarating, adrenaline filled day into one you’d rather forget.

UTV Rollovers

One of the more alarming risks associated with UTVs is their propensity to rollover. Despite their image as an off-road and adventure vehicle, UTVs present a serious rollover risk when they encounter adverse terrain or higher rates of speed. A survey conducted in 2016 collected newspaper reports of side-by-side crashes in nine Midwest states between the years 2009-2011.[2]  During that two-year period, 79 crashes were identified and 104 people were injured in those crashes.[3] 50% of those crashes were rollovers.[4]

Unfortunately, despite their proven rollover risks, many UTVs do not perform well in rollover crashes and riders suffer the consequences. Riders in UTV rollover crashes often suffer severe and debilitating injuries. Rider injuries are commonly the result of two design flaws in the UTV. The first is poor occupant containment. In rollover events, UTV riders are often completely or partially ejected from the occupant compartment. In full ejections, riders can suffer severe injuries ranging from broken bones to traumatic brain injury or even death. A common injury in partial ejection events is limb amputation. During the rollover, the rider’s arm or leg can leave the occupant compartment and be crushed by the weight of the vehicle. Simple alternative designs like side window cargo netting can greatly improve UTV occupant containment. However, such designs are not widely incorporated by the UTV industry.

UTV Fires

The other regular design flaw in a number of UTV models is a significant fire risk when the vehicle is in a rollover. Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of UTVs have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission because of a fire danger.[5] The fire risk stems from the UTV fuel system design, specifically the fuel vent line. In a rollover event, the design can allow gasoline or gasoline vapors to spill out and ignite if exposed to an ignition source. In those cases, riders can suffer painful burns which often lead to dramatic scars.

Though UTVs can be both useful and a lot of fun, they present serious risks and can be extremely dangerous. If you or a loved one is injured or killed in a UTV crash, call an experienced attorney as soon as possible. It is crucial that you speak to someone who can investigate the crash and identify what happened and why. The team at McCartney Stucky has years of experience doing just that in product defect cases in a multitude of industries and are ready and prepared to help those in need.

[1] UTV Market Trending Up, Motorcycle & Powersports News, March 9, 2018, available at https://www.motorcyclepowersportsnews.com/utv-market-trending-up/

[2] States: Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

[3] Jennisen, et al, Characteristics of Side-by-Side Vehicle Crashes and Related Injuries as Determined Using Newspaper Reports from Nine U.S. States, Safety 2016, 2, 10; doi:10.3390/safety2020010

[4] Id.

[5] Christopher Jensen, Fire Danger Persists for Polaris Off-Road Vehicles, Fair Warning, March 8, 2018, available at https://www.salon.com/2018/03/08/fire-danger-persists-for-polaris-off-road-vehicles_partner/

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