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Snowmobiling can be an exciting winter activity in New Mexico. While snowmobiling is a fun sport, it can be dangerous and may cause injuries.
Accidents caused by snowmobiling may result in serious injuries and even death. If you have been involved in a snowmobiling accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a claim for damages.
What are Snowmobiles?
Snowmobiles are motorized vehicles used to travel on the snow. They can be used recreationally for fun or they could be used for work purposes. Snowmobiles involved in extreme winter sports may be equipped to handle high speeds, jumps, and racecourses.
Common Injuries Suffered in a Snowmobiling Accident
Snowmobiling accidents can cause catastrophic injuries because of the speed and the weight of the vehicles. Common injuries that may occur include:
- Brain trauma injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Wrongful death
Snowmobiling accidents can sometimes leave victims stranded in the cold snow for hours at a time before help arrives. This gives rise to other risks associated with the cold. Aside from the initial injuries sustained in a snowmobile accident, freezing and hypothermia are also risks and are medical emergencies.
Common Causes of Snowmobiling Accidents
Because of the speed and size of snowmobiles, injuries may result. Factors that play into snowmobiling accidents include:
- Tipping over or rolling over
- Lack of experience
- Night riding
- Reckless operation of the snowmobile
- Negligence of the driver
- Improper maintenance of the snowmobile
- Manufacturing defects
- Collision with trees or other objects
- Collision with another snowmobile or vehicle
- Weather conditions such as snow, ice, or water
If you were involved in a snowmobile accident that was caused by someone else, they may be responsible or liable to you for your injuries. Typically, the legal standards of negligence or recklessness will be applied, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Our New Mexico snowmobile accident attorneys may be able to help guide you.
Negligence or Recklessness
If another person was negligent, to recover damages, you must be able to show that they acted unreasonably and that because of their actions, you were injured. An example of a negligent driver would be one that fails to maintain their snowmobile in proper working condition or without proper instruction and collides with you. An example of a reckless driver would be one that drives a snowmobile at a very high speed near a crowded area where people are gathered and hits someone.
If the snowmobile injury was caused by a defect in the vehicle, then you may have a products liability claim against the manufacturer or retailer who sold the snowmobile.
There may be criminal liability involved as well. This would involve accidents caused by operating the snowmobile while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or going over the speed limit.
If a snowmobile accident occurred on someone else’s property, you may have a claim against them. If there was a defect on the land or a hidden, dangerous condition, then you might be able to pursue a claim against them.
If a plaintiff was 20% responsible for the accident, for example, then their compensation will be reduced by 20%.
What Damages May I Recover?
Compensation for injuries or other costs is referred to as damages. You may be able to recover different kinds of damages depending on the circumstances of your snowmobile accident.
Economic damages compensate for monetary losses. This may include hospital bills, lost wages, property damage to your equipment, and any out-of-pocket costs resulting from the accident.
Non-economic damages are subjective and will vary by each person. These include pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and other emotional distress in dealing with the accident.
In some cases, either your insurance or the other party’s insurance may compensate you for your injuries or damages. However, do not rely on insurance to cover all of your damages. It will be beneficial to have an experienced lawyer look over the facts of your case and determine what compensation you are entitled to.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides some helpful tips to consider before snowmobiling. Some trails are shared by cross country skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobile riders. Keep these shared trails safe by operating snowmobiles at a minimum speed and distance from others when riding. Be sure to check the guidelines and restrictions for riding with the local Forest Service in your area before riding.
Before riding, consider these tips:
Take a Snowmobile Safety Course
A snowmobile safety course is required for some riders under the age of 18, but it is helpful for anyone planning to ride a snowmobile to take a safety course. These courses will instruct you on how to ride safely and how to spot and avoid hazards.
Check Weather and Trail Conditions
Weather can change quickly, so it is important to check before you plan to ride. Some trails may be affected by the weather and may turn to ice if temperatures are too low.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Protective Gear
Dress warmly in moisture-wicking layers. Consider a snowmobile suit over your clothing layers. Avoid cotton as it can freeze if it gets wet. Wear goggles, a helmet, gloves, and boots.
Stay on the Designated Trail
Avoid riding over bodies of water and stay on a marked trail. Going off-trail may be unpredictable and contribute to accidents and make you harder to locate should you need help. Be responsible and abide by the posted signs and trail markers.
It is safest to ride with a partner and to pack a first aid kit, snow shovel, water, food, and extra clothing in case of emergency. Flares and other visual aids as well as a GPS device may also be helpful.
Additionally, do not go out alone, especially if you are inexperienced or unfamiliar with the terrain. If you do go out alone, try to do so in daylight hours and notify someone when and where you will be going, as well as an expected return time. Be sure to then let that person know when you have returned.
New Mexico Rules and Laws for Snowmobiles
New Mexico has requirements for off-highway motor vehicles (OHVs) that are designed to protect the safety of both the riders and others. Snowmobiles are considered OHVs. The law requires that OHV users register their vehicles if used on public land. New Mexico residents must purchase an OHV registration from the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).
It is illegal for any person to use an OHV to destroy property or operate in a way that damages the environment, plants, or animals. This includes creating excessive noise. OHVs may not be used to hunt wildlife. It is illegal to operate an OHV where prohibited or on private land without permission. Operating an OHV under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal.
Riders under 18 years old must wear protective gear such as a helmet and eyewear. Riders under 18 may never carry a passenger. Riders under 18 must be visually supervised when operating an OHV except for in certain circumstances where they have a valid license or safety permit and have completed a certified OHV course.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Snowmobile accidents can involve serious bodily injuries as well as major property damage. A personal injury lawyer that has experience handling snowmobile accidents will know how to guide you to help seek the maximum compensation possible for your damages. Our New Mexico lawyers are prepared to handle cases of this nature and may be able to assist you.
Zinda Law Group May Help You Seek Damages
At Zinda Law Group, our New Mexico snowmobile accident lawyers are experienced and are ready to handle your snowmobile accident case. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.
Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.