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Who is liable for a snowmobile accident?

Blessed with indescribable beauty, Colorado has all kinds of ways to connect to the season and the scenery as we turn our attention to snowfall and dressing in layers. The skiing brings in countless visitors, the game attracts hunters and the many trails provide unique and picturesque snowmobiling. The state itself has over 3,000 miles of dedicated snowmobile trails.

Snowmobiles are a great way to get close to nature and off the beaten commuter highways. It's a leisure and recreation vehicle that's governed by the state. All vehicles need to be registered and drivers must be of proper age (starting at age 10 with many restrictions).

Snowmobile accidents happen

While they're a great way to get in touch with the outdoors, snowmobiles are also dangerous. They can malfunction, flip, collide with cars and encounter other accidents. They weight 400 or more pounds and can travel at high speeds.

Most often, a snowmobile accident is a one-vehicle accident caused by the driver or conditions. As with any other injury-causing accident, this makes liability less clear than a multi-vehicle crash. However, just like with ATVs, single car accidents, bicycles, skateboards and more, conditions might mean that the crash wasn't your fault.

Insurance coverage

The first thing to do if you've been in a snowmobile crash is to check your insurance policy, or the policy belonging to the vehicle's owner. The driver may have coverage specific to snowmobiles, though many do not. Insurance companies are notorious for protecting their bottom line and often underpay on claims, so even if there is coverage and an offer is made, it may not be enough.

Reckless driving

If you were a passenger, the driver may be at fault. If the person helming the handlebars acted in an improperly, they are responsible for the results. While this is very likely a friend or relation, a serious injury requires serious conversation about damages, recovery and compensation.

Malfunction or maintenance

When a snowmobiles malfunction because of bad design, poor construction or recalled equipment, the manufacturer or mechanic is liable for damages caused. As with any vehicle or consumer product, if it's sold on the open market there is an expectation that it's safe for use.

Snowmobile rentals are common in mountain country and any machine that you borrow from a provider needs to be in tip-top condition. If wear and tear or mishandled maintenance caused your accident then the rental company is at stake.

Trail conditions

Many snowmobilers zoom along road ditches and private land, but when in state parks and elsewhere, the trails need to be groomed properly and free of hazards that may cause a collision. A driver needs to steer with care and caution against the elements but sometimes negligent caretaking leads to injury.

Other vehicles and wildlife

Humans are unique animals. It's fun to go for a solo ride but sometimes moving in a herd presents a new experience. Snowmobiles can collide with other snowmobile drivers, with cars as you cross intersections, and even with animals like deer, horses and raccoons, causing surprise movements and spills. Similar to the driver-passenger scenario above, if another driver causes an accident then they may be liable.

Being closer to nature puts one closer to nature's unpredictability. External factors come in all shapes and sizes, natural and manmade. A winter joyride can reduce stress and reconnect with the outdoors in a way few activities can, but it can also take a serious wrong turn under the wrong circumstances. If that happens, there may be options to help settle recovery and responsibility.

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