ATVs are designed to provide drivers and passengers with adrenaline-pumping thrills as they drive off-road. Of course, drivers assume a certain amount of risk when driving an ATV. Any off-road vehicle has the potential to roll over while driving on rough terrain at high speeds, and ATV drivers and passengers guard against this by wearing protective clothing, helmets, or using a five point harness.
But no driver should expect their vehicle to spontaneously burst into flames during operation. Yet that is exactly what has happened to an alarming number of ATV users. These fires can seriously injure, maim, or kill those who are trapped by them.
If you or a loved one were injured by a spontaneous ATV fire, you can trust in the skilled attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt. We can help you quickly determine if the manufacturer is at fault for the accident, and bring them to justice if they are found negligent.
ATVs provide thrills and excitement for users
What Causes ATV Fires?
In January of 2019, Jason Henke was riding his 2015 Polaris RZR when it “suddenly burst into flames”, causing burns to his arms and face. But this wasn’t the first time Mr. Henke had experienced a spontaneous fire. His first Polaris RZR had also caught fire, and when Mr. Henke reported it, Polaris refused to offer him a refund. Instead they gave him a new vehicle, indicating it would be safe.
- Leaking fuel lines and tanks
- Overheating engines
- Inadequate heat shields
- Misrouted fuel tank vent lines
- Engine misfires
- Exhaust heat
- Faulty voltage regulators
Property Damage, Amputations, Burns, and Death
When passengers and drivers of ATVs use a 5 point harness, they do so to keep themselves safe in case of a rollover. But when a vehicle bursts into flames, the 5 point harness becomes a trap, making it difficult for occupants to escape and worsening their injuries.
Occupants of ATVs that have caught fire have reported serious consequences, including, but not limited to:
ATVs have been spontaneously bursting into flames
The Polaris RZR
Polaris introduced the RZR (pronounced “razor”) in 2007, the first off-road vehicle designed specifically for recreational use. In 2010, with competition from other manufacturers stepping up, Polaris decided to save money by developing its own new engine for the RZR, the ProStar.
This new engine placed the exhaust pipe mere inches behind passengers, and dangerously close to key components with poor ventilation. Each new version of the RZR from that point on was faster and more powerful. And with each new version, the reports of fires and fatalities rose.
In 2011, Polaris held a meeting where their company’s head of product safety told them a recall was necessary due to the increasing reports of fires. But instead, Polaris instructed dealers to affix an aluminum sheet to damaged panels. Without a recall, Polaris was not required to inform customers, or the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about the dangers their vehicles posed.
Who Is Liable When an ATV Spontaneously Bursts Into Flames?
Polaris did finally issue a global recall of hundreds of thousands of vehicles in 2016, and was slapped with a whopping $27.25 million dollar fine by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They knew that Polaris had been aware for years that its vehicles were at risk for spontaneous fires.
Polaris could have spent those years fixing underlying structural problems, but instead they spent millions of dollars on public relations trying to convince consumers their vehicles were safe. Lawsuits have accused Polaris of negligence and warranty breaches, as well as failure to warn riders of fire hazards. When a company repeatedly ignores safety concerns, they should be held accountable for the pain and suffering they have caused.
If you or a loved one were injured in an ATV fire, the first step a lawyer will take will be to help you determine who the responsible party is. If the vehicle malfunctioned or was defective, you may have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer. The skilled attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can help you determine if you have a case, while you spend time focusing on your recovery. Contact us today by calling 1-866-869-5318 or by filling out our form.