Off-Road Vehicle Accidents in California’s Deserts: A Personal Injury Perspective

by Staff Blogger | December 18th, 2023

Off-road activities in California in regions like the Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area are gaining popularity among residents and tourists. These adventurous activities provide a thrilling opportunity to discover the state’s unique terrains.

However, off-roading can be risky, leading to serious injuries. A national report found that there were 526,900 emergency room visits due to off-highway vehicles between 2016-2020 and 2,211 deaths between 2016-2018.

If you’re hurt in an off-roading crash, you may be entitled to compensation. Our California off-roading accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers can help you determine if another party is at fault for your injuries and help you seek a fair settlement.

Risks of Off-Roading

Off-roading in California is an exhilarating experience, given its range of terrains. However, this varied landscape introduces specific challenges for riders and passengers. Among the potential dangers to be cautious of are:

  • Unpredictable weather. Desert regions can experience extreme temperature fluctuations and flash floods, making off-road conditions treacherous.
  • Rough terrain. The diverse landscape of California, with its loose gravel, deep sand, and steep inclines, is challenging, even for experienced drivers.
  • Collisions with stationary objects. Dense forests and rugged trails often hide obstacles like trees, posts, and large rocks, increasing the collision risk.
  • Inadequate safety gear. Many off-roaders underestimate the need for full protective gear, exposing skin and vital areas to potential harm from contact with the ground or objects like rocks and trees.
  • Vehicle collisions. Off-roading trails can be narrow and winding, and with limited visibility, it’s easy to come across another vehicle unexpectedly.
  • Passenger injuries. Uneven and bumpy trails can result in sudden jolts, where unsecured passengers risk being thrown around inside the vehicle.
  • Failure to mark hazards. Trails might have hidden drop-offs or sudden ditches that are not always clearly marked, catching drivers off guard.
  • Negligence of fellow off-roaders. Some drivers can be overconfident or careless, taking risks that endanger others on the trail.
  • Faulty vehicle equipment. Off-roading vehicles made with subpar components, like tires, brakes, or steering, can be dangerous. If these parts fail on off-road trails, they can cause serious injuries.

Liability Issues for Off-Roading Accidents

If you suffer severe injuries in an off-roading accident, you may incur costly medical bills and lose out on wages during your recovery. In off-roading accidents between 2016 and 2020 in the U.S., 19% of accident victims were hospitalized for their injuries.

If your injuries were due to another’s negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for the damages. In off-roading accidents, the following parties may be responsible:

  • Off-road vehicle drivers. Every off-roader has a responsibility to drive safely, prioritizing the well-being of themselves, their passengers, and fellow adventurers. If they engage in negligent behaviors, such as speeding on narrow paths or driving while under the influence, and cause injury to others, they can be held liable.
  • Equipment manufacturers. Faulty gear or vehicle components can lead to accidents. If an equipment malfunction is due to a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer could be held accountable.
  • Property owners. If the off-roading trail is on private property and there are unmarked hazards or unsafe conditions, the property owner may be liable.
  • Event organizers. In organized off-roading events, if adequate safety measures were not implemented or participants were not adequately briefed, the organizers could be at fault.
  • Vehicle maintenance companies. If a vehicle recently underwent maintenance and a crucial part failed due to poor service, the maintenance provider might be held responsible.
  • Government entities. In cases where public lands or trails lacked proper signage and maintenance or had other hazardous conditions, a government body might be liable.

Safety Measures for Off-Roading

Safety should always be a priority when engaging in off-road activities. Consider the following measures to reduce potential hazards:

  • Vehicle inspection. Regularly check your vehicle for any maintenance issues, ensuring brakes, tires, and lights are in optimal condition.
  • Use safety gear. Always wear protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, and appropriate clothing. Helmets are required for riding ATVs in California.
  • Drive within your skill level. Only attempt overly challenging terrain or maneuvers with the necessary experience or training.
  • Stay within designed speed limits. In California, off-road vehicles must travel under 15 mph on main roads in parks and within 50 feet of campsites or where people or animals are concentrated.
  • Stay on designated trails. Avoid creating new paths or driving on unmarked terrain to reduce environmental impact and the risk of unknown hazards.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Driving in an off-road vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in California. Do not consume alcohol or take any illicit or prescription drugs before getting on an off-roader.
  • Attend off-roading courses. Training sessions can offer invaluable skills and techniques for various terrains and situations.
  • Use a spotter. When navigating challenging obstacles, having someone outside the vehicle guiding you can help prevent an accident.
  • Keep communication tools. Carry a radio or satellite phone, especially in areas with poor cell reception.

Seek Legal Counsel After an Off-Roading Incident

If you’re hurt in an off-roading accident due to another’s actions, you need legal counsel to help you get compensation. At Berg Injury Lawyers, we understand the complexities of off-road accident claims and are dedicated to ensuring victims receive the settlement they deserve.

We have experience with all areas of personal injury law, including driver negligence and property liability issues. Contact us today for a free consultation where we can review your case.