- Make sure your insurance covers the risks of off-roading. A typical auto insurance policy may not cover off-roading. Many drivers may be focused on mechanical faults that could happen, but they should also think about the sort of expenses that might be associated with a significant injury while in the back country. For example, does an insurance policy cover a helicopter airlift in the event of an injury in an area that is inaccessible to a conventional ambulance? If not, does the driver have a plan to cover such costs?
- Take steps to prevent injury. Drivers need to make sure that they and their passengers are safe. Depending on the kinds of activities that will be pursued while off road, wearing helmets and installing specialized safety equipment, such as roll bars and harnesses, may be necessary.
- Comply with the rules of the “road.” Even though a vehicle may be able to virtually anywhere, it’s important to only drive on land that is approved for off-roading use. Trespassing is only one of the ways a driver can end up in trouble. Driving on land that is subject to environmental protections, for example, could expose the driver to substantial fines and even criminal prosecution. Should an accident occur while driving in an unauthorized location, the fact that the driver was driving unlawfully may limit an insurer’s obligation to honor coverage and may be used by the property’s owner to seek compensation.
- Mechanical failures could give rise to products liability lawsuits. A vehicle designed for off-road use, like an ATV, or equipped with off-roading gear, like a customized pickup, typically has features that are designed to withstand the rigors of the sport. When an accident is caused by failure of a piece of equipment that can be traced to a defect in its manufacture or design, the option may exist to file a lawsuit against the equipment’s manufacturer and marketer.
- Assumption of risk can limit recovery options. For someone injured in an off-roading accident the ability to recover compensation will often require overcoming the defense of assumption of risk. Assumption of risk can apply in cases where the plaintiff knowingly took part in a dangerous activity and got hurt in a foreseeable way.
Off-road driving is a popular pastime in Nevada. But as anyone who has spent significant time driving the state’s back roads knows, there are risks associated with leaving the pavement. Understanding how those risks can lead to legal liability is important for anyone who plans to pursue off-roading as a hobby. Off-roading exposes vehicles to mechanical failures that aren’t likely to happen on ordinary roads. Here are some ideas that are worth thinking about: