Snowmobiles are a great way to experience the thrill of the outdoors, but they can be incredibly dangerous when not handled responsibly. Unfortunately, like every other winter sport, riding a snowmobile has inherent risks.
Every year, thousands of snowmobile accidents cause severe injury or even death. Learning how to ride correctly and using appropriate safety gear helps reduce the chances of an accident, but there is no guarantee that other people will help ensure your safety.
Negligence is a common cause of many snowmobile accidents. If you or a loved one were injured in a snowmobile crash caused by someone else, the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers could help you seek justice.
Contact our snowmobile accident lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options. Under our contingency agreement, you don’t have to pay attorney fees unless we win your case.
Snowmobile Accidents in Illinois
Illinois offers over fifteen snowmobile trails and requires only four inches of snow to ride snowmobiles on state-managed properties. The most popular trails include:
- Illinois State Trail Canal
- Rock Cut State Park
- Kankakee River State Park
- Franklin Creek State Natural Area
- Argyle Lake State Park
From 2020 to 2021, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported eight snowmobile accidents, including seven injury accidents and one resulting in property damage. While these numbers don’t seem like much, the people involved in these crashes sustained significant injuries.
Types of Snowmobile Accidents
A snowmobile accident can occur in several ways, including:
- Collisions: These accidents involve collisions with other snowmobiles, people, or inanimate objects.
- Ejections: A ‘fell off’ accident occurs when a rider gets thrown off their snowmobile, usually during a crash.
- Rollovers: Like regular vehicles, snowmobiles can roll over when riders lose control, run off the road, or collide with another object. These accidents are hazardous as the weight of a snowmobile can easily crush a person underneath.
- Run-Offs: A run-off accident is when a snowmobile rider accidentally runs off the roadway or trail. Severe cases involve riders getting ejected from their snowmobiles and rolling down steep hills, possibly crashing into large trees and rocks.
- Explosions: While rare, a snowmobile can combust or explode due to mechanical failure (e.g., a spark in the fuel tank), usually due to poor maintenance.
- Submersions: These incidents involve riders getting submerged in the snow, typically due to getting run off the trail or driving into a snow bank.
What Can Cause a Snowmobile Crash?
A snowmobile accident can happen to anyone, but it most frequently occurs when negligence is involved. The most common causes of snowmobile accidents include the following:
- Inexperience: In addition to a valid driver’s license for riders 16 and older, snowmobile riders need proper training and guidance to ride safely. Unfortunately, some operators forgo safety training or ride beyond their capacities, increasing crash risk.
- Excessive Speed: Snowmobile speed limits are usually at 35 mph unless otherwise posted on state lands. Riders must drive in a ‘reasonable and prudent’ manner to avoid injury, as speeding is a leading cause of snowmobile crashes nationwide. There is an increased risk of ejections and collisions when riding at high speeds.
- Inattention: Like any other vehicle, riding a snowmobile requires rapt attention and awareness of one’s surroundings, even when driving on an ‘easy’ trail. Distracted driving can easily lead to a devastating crash in mere seconds.
- Mishandling: There are a variety of snowmobile units on the market today. Usually, you should not drive one type of snowmobile the same way you would another, as they may require different handling methods. Riding a snowmobile without learning how to use it properly increases the risk of accidents.
- Lack of Safety Gear: In a snowmobile crash, a rider’s body can collide with fixed objects, such as rocks, trees, and solid ground. Furthermore, snow is not always soft and will not guarantee a safe landing. Thus, failing to wear proper safety gear (helmets, chest protectors, knee pads, etc.) increases the risk of severe injuries and death.
- Intoxication: Many people like to drink in the winter to warm up. Unfortunately, alcohol paired with winter sports is a recipe for disaster. Riding a snowmobile while drunk reduces a rider’s attention, control, and judgment, making an accident more likely.
- Risky Riding: Performing stunts on snowmobiles is reserved for highly experienced riders. Novice riders attempting to perform dangerous maneuvers may put themselves and others at risk.
- Off-Roading: Many states only permit snowmobiling on marked trails and set paths. Riding off the road can lead to unexpected situations, such as rough terrain or obstacles, that can lead to a crash.
- Allowing Kids to Ride Alone: People 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult when riding a snowmobile. Snowmobiling requires strength, stamina, and knowledge that young teens and children do not have, and they can quickly get hurt when allowed on a snowmobile without an adult.
- Poor Maintenance: A snowmobile that is not properly maintained makes riding more dangerous. Failing to perform routine safety checks and make necessary repairs and replacements increase the risk of mechanical failure, fires, and explosions.
- Poorly Maintained Trails: A snowmobile accident can stem from hazardous conditions on the trail, such as a lack of signage or uncleared debris. Private and public entities may be liable for accidents caused by dangerous situations they know (or should have known about) but failed to address.
Snowmobile Accident Injuries
Snowmobile crashes often involve serious injuries, partly due to inadequate protection and environmental hazards. Common snowmobile crash injuries include:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries: TBIs occur when a sudden jolt to the head knocks the brain around inside the skull. These injuries include concussions, contusions, brain hemorrhaging, and skull fractures. A TBI can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, or instantaneous death in severe cases.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Spinal cord damage can lead to the loss of or altered sensations and muscle function. A spinal cord injury usually occurs when a rider gets thrown off their snowmobile or hits their back or neck against a hard object. Severe spinal cord damage can lead to permanent paralysis.
- Fractures: There is a high risk of broken bones in snowmobile crashes, as riders have little protection against significant impact. These orthopedic injuries range from mild to severe but usually require immediate medical treatment.
- Herniated Discs: A spinal disc has a soft inner center (nucleus) inside a tough exterior (annulus). A herniation occurs when part of the nucleus pushes through a tear in the annulus. This injury can lead to severe pain, numbness, weakness, and bowel or bladder dysfunction.
- Facial Injuries: Most riders wear face protection to avoid injury. Unfortunately, safety gear does not guarantee protection from head injuries. A significant impact on the face can lead to eye injuries, nose fractures, broken jaws, loss of teeth, etc.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Common injuries in snowmobile accidents include sprains and strains, which are relatively minor. However, severe cases can consist of complete tears of the ligaments, muscles, or tendons.
- Crushing Injuries: If a rider gets crushed under a heavy object (such as in rollover accidents), the extreme pressure on their body can lead to internal bleeding, organ damage, amputation, and death.
- Death: A severe snowmobile accident can lead to instant death. Similarly, a severely injured victim can eventually succumb to their injuries.
What to Do if You Get into a Snowmobile Accident
No one wants to picture themselves in any accident, but every snowmobiler should know what to do if it ever happens.
If you get hurt in a snowmobile accident, here’s what you should do:
- Pull Off to the Side of the Trail. If you can, take your snowmobile to the side of the rail to avoid further collisions with other snowmobile operators.
- Call for Help. Call the police if you or another person has sustained injuries. If someone needs immediate medical attention, call 911. Call a local snowmobile assistance and recovery company if your snowmobile is disabled.
- Document the Scene: Take pictures and videos of the accident scene, but stay out of the way of other riders. If you crash with another rider, exchange information with them. Don’t forget to write down their insurance policy number.
- Go to the Hospital: Some injuries don’t manifest into physical symptoms until days or weeks later. Seeking medical attention is crucial in ensuring you don’t have any underlying injuries (and receiving prompt treatment, if any). Go to the emergency room if you have head or back injuries, as this may involve damage to your brain or spinal cord.
- Contact a Lawyer. If someone else’s negligence caused the accident, you might be able to seek compensation from the responsible parties. You will need an experienced lawyer to help you through the legal process and ensure you receive fair compensation.
You can also report the accident to your state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Filing a Snowmobile Accident Claim
Victims injured in snowmobiling accidents could pursue compensation from at-fault parties if the accident resulted from someone else’s negligence. However, the burden of proof is on the person bringing the case.
To file a snowmobile accident case, you must prove the following are true:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you. All snowmobile operators must act reasonably and prudently to avoid injuring others. Similarly, snowmobile rental companies and private entities that own snowmobiling trails must take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of all riders.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. You must prove that the defendant committed a negligent act or a ‘breach of duty,’ e.g., speeding, driving while intoxicated, etc.
- You suffered a significant injury. To file a valid claim, snowmobile accident victims must prove that they suffered substantial physical, emotional, or financial harm.
- The defendant’s actions directly caused your losses. In addition to your injuries, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence led to other losses, e.g., medical bills, lost income, loss of quality of life, etc.
Our snowmobile accident lawyers will help determine if you have grounds for filing a personal injury claim. Upon confirming your eligibility, we will help you through the claims process.
Most snowmobile accidents occur due to the negligence of an individual or entity. Liable parties may include:
- Another Snowmobile Operator: An injured person can file a claim against the at-fault rider if the latter’s negligence led to the accident.
- A Motor Vehicle Driver: If your accident occurred in an area where riding a snowmobile near roadways is legal, a negligent driver of a motor vehicle could be liable for your injuries.
- The Snowmobile Manufacturer: Under product liability law, the manufacturer of a defective snowmobile or parts could be responsible if their product leads or contributes to a crash.
- The Rental Company: Rental companies must properly maintain their snowmobile or snow machine units. If a malfunctioning snowmobile caused your accident, you could hold the rental business liable for your damages.
Proving liability in a snowmobile accident can be challenging. Fortunately, our snowmobile accident lawyers have extensive knowledge of what can serve as substantial proof in these cases, including:
- Photos and videos of the accident scene
- Medical records
- Surveillance footage
- Maintenance records of the snowmobiles involved
- Police reports
- Incident reports
- Previous citations or violations, if available
- Evidence of product defects
- Witness testimonies
- Expert testimony
Our snowmobile accident lawyers can help you recover financial compensation for the following losses:
- Medical Bills: Out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment, including emergency transportation, hospitalization, medication, surgery, therapy, and future medical expenses.
- Disability: Mobility aids, rehabilitation costs, loss of future earning potential, and other related damages if you become disabled from the accident.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional harm, e.g., physical pain, mental distress, anguish, etc.
- Lost Wages: Income, wages, benefits, and business opportunities lost due to your accident.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for quality or enjoyment of life lost due to your injuries and their effects.
- Property Damage: Repair or replacement expenses for lost or damaged property, including your snowmobile unit.
- Scarring and Disfigurement: Therapy, surgery, emotional pain, and other related damages if you become permanently scarred and disfigured from the accident.
- Wrongful Death: Funeral expenses, pre-death medical bills, loss of companionship, loss of financial support, and other related damages if your loved one dies in a snowmobile accident.
- Punitive Damages: Additional compensation on top of compensatory damages used to punish wrongdoers for gross negligence and deter similar behavior in the future.
Dealing With The Insurance Company
If the at-fault party has coverage, you can file your claim with their insurance company. Otherwise, you may need to file a claim against your policy. Your snowmobile accident attorney will determine which insurance company you should file your claim.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies want to pay as little as possible to injured victims. You will likely face insurance adjusters that want you to settle for a value less than what you deserve. They may try to use different tactics, such as making unreasonable demands for documents, denying their liability, and delaying the claims process on purpose.
Our lawyers have handled countless personal injury cases involving these problems. Your lawyer will ensure you receive a fair settlement through negotiation or, if necessary, a lawsuit.
Why You Should Hire a Snowmobile Accident Lawyer
Snowmobile accident victims don’t always seek legal assistance for personal injury cases. But although a lawyer is not required, having a skilled attorney by your side can secure compensation faster and easier.
Our lawyers will be responsible for the following:
- Investigate how and why your accident occurred
- Identify liable parties and determine how they were negligent
- Calculate the extent of your damages
- Collect evidence to support your claim
- File your claim with the appropriate insurance company
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf
- File a lawsuit and represent you in court, if necessary
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with The Best Personal Injury Lawyers Nationwide
Under personal injury law, negligent snowmobile riders, rental companies, and private entities that own trails may be liable for accident victims’ damages. If you or a loved one were injured in a snowmobile accident caused by someone else, you could be entitled to compensation.
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you obtain the justice you deserve. Once you schedule an initial consultation, we will help you understand your legal rights and determine the best option to recover maximum compensation for your damages.
Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form for a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our personal injury attorneys handle all accepted cases on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay legal fees unless we win your case. You don’t have to worry about hidden fees or paying for consultations upfront!
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources | Snowmobile Tracks
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources – Snowmobile Crashes