Utility terrain vehicles (“UTVs”), also known as utility task vehicles or side-by-side vehicles, are primarily used for work purposes. Due to the size of UTVs, they are often purchased by businesses to perform on-site tasks, such as transporting patrons to a particular area, hauling small loads of cargo, and/or similar types of tasks. 

For example, you may have seen a UTV transporting visitors at an amusement park or on the golf course (i.e., a golf cart). Though it should be noted that while a golf cart provides a decent reference as to what a UTV normally looks like, whether it conforms to the actual requirements of a UTV is debatable and may depend on the laws of individual states.

UTVs are sometimes called side-by-side vehicles, or SxS for short, due their capacity to hold two, four, and in some cases, more than four passengers. Thus, they tend to be wider and are better equipped for carrying supplies. 

On the other hand, all-terrain vehicles (“ATVs”), also referred to as four-wheelers or quads, are mainly used for recreational purposes and sporting events, such as riding on designated ATV trails, performing tricks, or in off-road and racing contests. Although the majority of ATVs are built for a single rider, some ATV companies have started releasing models that are fit to handle two riders or an operator and a single passenger. 

Additionally, in many states, it is illegal to operate an ATV when there is more than one person riding in the vehicle. However, this too will depend on state laws and whether a particular ATV is designed to hold side-by-side riders.

Lastly, one other difference that should be kept in mind about UTVs and ATVs is that UTVs tend to be more powerful and faster than ATVs, but are not as deft at taking turns or maneuvering as smoothly as ATVs. Thus, it is important that you consider these factors before purchasing such vehicles.

Are There Any Injuries or Accidents Associated with Side-by-Side Vehicles?

As with any vehicle, side-by-side vehicles have certain features that lend themselves to the potential risk of accidents or injuries. Some common examples of injuries or accidents that may be associated with side-by-side vehicles include the following:

  • Similar to cars, a person should not operate a side-by-side vehicle if they are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other medications that cause side effects which could lead to an accident (e.g., sedation, impaired judgment, etc.).
  • Some states permit persons to operate side-by-side vehicles on roadways. This increases the likelihood that if a side-by-side vehicle is not driven properly, then it could collide with other motor vehicles. The injuries resulting from such an accident could be worse for those riding in a side-by-side vehicle since they often are built as open-air enclosures. In other words, they are not encased in metal like most cars. 
  • Side-by-side vehicles may be subject to flip or roll-over accidents if they are moving too fast or are loaded down with heavy cargo. Roll-overs can also occur if one side of the vehicle holds more weight than the other. 
  • Depending on the model, UTVs usually have more safety features than ATVs do. However, even if a UTV offers equipment like seatbelts, it does not necessarily mean that a rider will wear it. In which case, a rider’s injuries may be worse if they fail to use a seatbelt. 
  • It is generally recommended that persons who are not properly qualified or trained to operate side-by-side vehicles refrain from using them until they meet the proper requirements. This is especially true for children who do not know how to drive or for individuals who are unfamiliar with the steering and brake systems on these vehicles.

In the event that a driver or passenger does get into an accident or suffer any sort of injury while riding in a side-by-side vehicle, they may be able to recover damages by filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for the incident in question.

Are There Any Legal Issues Involved in UTV Accidents?

Similar to standard motor vehicle collisions, there are several legal issues that may arise in the case of a side-by-side vehicle accident. 

For example, the driver of a side-by-side vehicle could be charged with driving under the influence (“DUI”), or simply, drunk driving, if they are intoxicated while operating the vehicle. The driver can also be sued in civil court by parties who were injured in the DUI accident. This means that an impaired driver could possibly face both civil and criminal penalties. 

Side-by-side UTV accidents can also be caused by a manufacturing or design defect. In this instance, the injured party or owner of the vehicle may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the designer or manufacturer of the UTV. If the plaintiff is successful in bringing a case, they may be able to recover monetary damages from the manufacturer or designer for any losses that resulted from the accident. 

Another legal issue that might come up in a case involving a UTV accident is when the owner of a vehicle ignores a manufacturer’s instructions or safety warnings regarding cargo loads and/or driving with other passengers. 

For instance, if a manufacturer provides clear instructions that warn against overloading the vehicle or riding with more than the allotted space for passengers, then the driver of the UTV can be held responsible for injuries in a UTV accident. 

A party may also be able to sue an individual for negligence or reckless driving. For instance, if the person operating the UTV was driving in a reckless or negligent manner that led to an accident, then the injured parties can sue them for damages. 

On the other hand, a driver or other rider who was involved in a UTV accident may be able to sue the operator of either another UTV or a standard car if the driver of either vehicle was driving in a reckless or negligent manner that ended in an UTV accident. This can happen when a UTV is traveling along a public roadway or if the UTV is transporting cargo at a job site near other side-by-side vehicles. 

Finally, persons who operate UTVs and blatantly disregard standard road rules, driving laws, and/or safety regulations in their state, which then causes a UTV accident to occur, can be held responsible for such behavior. This could lead to them receiving tickets or citations, needing to pay both civil and criminal fines, and potentially, having to serve jail time if the circumstances are serious enough.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Side-by-side ATV Lawsuit?

As discussed above, side-by-side vehicles like UTVs and ATVs possess several features that can make them vulnerable to certain risks. For instance, due to their open designs, the injuries from a UTV or ATV accident can be quite severe. Thus, it may be in your best interest to hire a local car accident lawyer if you need to file a side-by-side vehicle lawsuit or are being sued for causing a UTV or ATV accident.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to guide you through the process and can assist you in drafting and filing any necessary legal paperwork. Your lawyer can also explain the relevant laws in your area and can discuss how specific laws may affect the outcome of your case. Additionally, if you need to attend a hearing in court or some other meeting related to your case, your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation as well.