What If I Was Injured By An ATV or Dirt Bike on the Street?
Dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), which are not legal in many communities including the city of Philadelphia, are also proliferating this summer. Notably, in June, well over 3,000 dirt bike and ATV riders gathered in West Philadelphia for a weekend of riding, keeping local law enforcement busy and neighbors annoyed with the noise and daredevil antics.
The presence of these vehicles, while not legal in the city, is a conundrum for law enforcement, firstly, because they are immensely popular with teens so they are everywhere; and secondly, because city laws restrict police from chasing down riders to confiscate the bikes.
The hazards presented by a group of what are primarily adolescent riders doing wheelies on a busy intersection means they are hazardous to themselves and other people nearby, so legal or illegal, they could still get into an accident.
To make this a more complicated issue as schools close for the summer and teens have more free time, these bikes are in fact, legal, in many communities surrounding Philadelphia, but for their originally intended purpose, which is off-road use.
With modifications, one of these bikes can be licensed and insured in the state of Pennsylvania, just as a motorcycle would. New Jersey has tightened its rules on these off-road vehicles being modified for street use, so riders there are only operating legally if they are off-road.
It is very possible that a rider from another community in Pennsylvania who is visiting the city of Philadelphia or New Jersey, and hits a pedestrian or gets into an accident with another vehicle there on the street, could have a vehicle that is registered and insured. The vehicle is just being used improperly by the driver if it is driven where it is not allowed to be.
Companies sell street legal kits for about $250 to make the bikes pass what in Pennsylvania will be a motorcycle inspection for registration. These parts can also be bought at an automotive parts shops and likely can be installed there as well.
Once a vehicle is registered, it can be insured. The parts missing on a dirt bike/ATV that are needed to get through the motorcycle inspection so it can be registered:
- Seat Belts
- Tail lights
- Brake lights
- Turn signals
There are also legal paperwork requirements in PA to be able to get the bike registered:
- The vehicle title
- A class M license
- Passed inspection
What If I Am Injured by a Dirt Bike in an Off-Road Area?
Of course, if the dirt bike or ATV is being driven only in an off-road capacity, the rider needs off-road insurance and to go through state-sponsored off-road safety courses, which are available online.
Those injured in an accident involving an ATV or a dirt bike, should contact a personal injury lawyer. It may seem like there are no solid angles to recoup the losses, particularly for an accident that happens in a community that has outlawed these bikes, but there may well be a path to get just compensation for medical care and damages, just as there would be if one was in an accident with a motorcycle.
As off-road trails may be owned by a private company or person, and fees may be charged for bikers to use the trails, a premises liability case can be built for a poorly-maintained property, which may well have contributed or caused the accident.
What If the Dirt Bike/ATV Was Driven By an Unlicensed Minor?
The same reason that there are more teens driving ATVs and dirt bikes is the reason that they can be so problematic on the roads: these vehicles were not designed for street riding or commuting and many of those riding them do not have a license to operate a motor vehicle.
Some may not be old enough to get one. In Pennsylvania, drivers need to be at least 16 years old to ride a dirt bike/ATV or a motorcycle (which the dirt bike/ATV will be considered if it was modified, inspected and registered for road use). In New Jersey, dirt bike/ATV drivers need to be at least 14 but motorcycle drivers need to be 17.
Many dirt bike and ATV riders are under 18, so there is a solid chance that the rider is under the age for licensing.
For those who have been injured by the negligent actions of a driver on one of these bikes, there are still avenues for compensation for the medical bills and damages caused by the accident: the parent’s homeowners’ insurance and or possibly, premises liability for unsafe conditions that lead to the accident.
The homeowner’s insurance may sound like an unlikely resource, but it would apply for a negligent adolescent driver who may not be licensed for a motor vehicle, driving a motor vehicle that is likely not registered for street use.
McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb Fights for Victims of ATV/Dirt Bike Accidents
The team of personal injury lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb are experienced trial attorneys who understand how to use the existing laws governing ATV and dirt bike use to the advantage of victims in accidents with these popular vehicles. Contact one of our offices at 215-515-7644 or 302-308-7013, or online, to receive a free initial consultation with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer. We assist clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania including the Philadelphia region, Chester County, Delaware County and Montgomery County as well as in Delaware and New Jersey.