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Ohio’s colder months turn it into a winter wonderland, and that means snowmobile season. Hopefully, your winter fun doesn’t come with any unintended consequences. If it does, however, you need to know the law surrounding snowmobile use in Ohio. When a snowmobile crashes, who’s liable?
Each state has snowmobile laws to govern the operation and registration of the vehicle. In Ohio, a snowmobile is “any self-propelled vehicle designed primarily for use on snow or ice, and steered by skis, runners, or caterpillar treads.” Snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles are carefully regulated by state law.
In Ohio, you must be at least 16 years old and hold a driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile alone. Individuals under the age of 16 may operate snowmobiles with a guardian of at least 18 years of age with a driver’s license.
Like a car, a snowmobile must be registered with the state. Snowmobiles must have certain safety features as well, including at least one headlight allowing the driver to see 100 feet in the dark, and at least one red tail light that can be seen from at least 500 feet away in the dark. Snowmobiles must also have sufficient brakes; Ohio state regulations state that the the vehicle must be able to go from 20 mph to a stop within 40 feet.Chapter 4519, Ohio Revised Code
Ohio state law also limits where and how you can use a snowmobile. For example, you can’t drive on any limited-access highway or freeway except in an emergency and you can’t drive on any state-owned land unless specifically permitted to do so.
You can’t use a snowmobile to hunt any game and you can’t drive a snowmobile with a loaded weapon or a weapon without a case. You also can’t drive without your lights at night. For those offenses, you may be charged a fine of $50-$500 and you may be sentenced to 3-30 days in jail.
It may be easy to think of a snowmobile as a toy, but a snowmobile is a motor vehicle and can be extremely dangerous. There are snowmobiles on the market with engines up to 1200 cc; these large sleds can produce up to 150 hp and reach top speeds of 150 mph.
Some riders modify their snowmobiles to accelerate faster or to reach greater top speeds. The vehicles can weigh anywhere from about 400 lbs to more than 700 lbs. That’s a lot of weight moving very quickly, which means snowmobiles crashes can be severe.
Snowmobile accidents may happen when the vehicles crash into each other or other objects. Crashes can also happen when snowmobiles hit pedestrians or when riders fall off their snowmobiles. Icy conditions may cause slipping and sliding, making accidents more likely.
The sleds themselves may malfunction due to either manufacturing defects or poor maintenance, causing crashes and injuries. Finally, some people may travel over frozen lakes or rivers in their snowmobiles. If the ice cracks, the snowmobile and rider may fall through, which can be fatal within just a few minutes.
If you’re involved in a snowmobile accident, are there legal ramifications? If the crash was simply an accident, you may not be entitled to any compensation. However, that’s often not the case. A snowmobile accident may be caused by the negligent or reckless behavior of another person.
If that’s the case, they may be legally required to pay for your injuries and for repairs to your property. The other party may be another snowmobile driver. However, the other party may also be the store that rented you your snowmobile or the manufacturer of the snowmobile.
If you rent a snowmobile that is improperly maintained, causing an accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the rental company. You’ll need to show that the maintenance failure was the cause of the crash, and not user error or some other circumstance. If the snowmobile had a manufacturing defect, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer.
For example, back in September of 2014 Yamaha recalled thousands of snowmobiles with a manufacturing defect that caused fuel leakage. That kind of defect can cause serious injuries and give rise to claims against the manufacturers.
Winter weather can always be dangerous, and no one wants to be in an accident. For snowmobile safety, you should always wear proper cold-weather gear, goggles, and a helmet while operating a snowmobile. If you own your own sled, ensure that you keep up with a proper maintenance schedule. If you’re renting a snowmobile, make sure that you choose a reputable rental shop and have the employees explain the operation of the snowmobile to you and your party before you set out.
Check the conditions of the trails and ice you plan to travel on. Make sure that you’re familiar with cold-weather first aid procedures and have a phone, radio, or another method of communication with you at all times so that you can call for help if you need to.
Finally, never drink alcohol if you’re going to use a snowmobile. It’s just as dangerous as driving a car while intoxicated.
Personal Injury Claims in Ohio
If you’re injured in Ohio by the fault of another person or company, you may be entitled to compensation. You can claim compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages while you were out of work due to the injury, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life due to permanent damage.
You can also claim compensation for any property damage that occurred during the accident. In order to get that compensation, you’ll need to claim it. If your accident involved the careless or dangerous behavior of another rider, you may get that rider’s insurance information and deal with the claim through your insurance companies.
If your accident involved improper maintenance or a manufacturing defect, you’ll need to file a lawsuit against the rental shop or manufacturer.
We Can Help
If you were injured in a snowmobiling accident in Ohio, we can help you get compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and other expenses. Call or visit us today at one of our locations in Ohio for a free consultation. We’ll discuss the circumstances surrounding your accident and we’ll help you decide how best to pursue compensation. We’ve been helping accident victims get the money they deserve for years and we’re ready to help you, too.