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Establishing Fault Following an ATV or UTV Accident in Tennessee


All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) can be great fun, especially in the hands of a properly trained and experienced driver. But negligent operation of an ATV or UTV can be devastating. Every year there are tens of thousands of injuries reported across America in ATV, UTV, and other recreational vehicle accidents. And if you or a close family member are among these victims, you have the right to seek compensation from the responsible parties.

Magistrate Allows UTV Accident Victim to Proceed With Lawsuit Against Lodge

As with many lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents, a negligent ATV or UTV driver may try to shift blame to the victim. This is where having a skilled Tennessee personal injury lawyer is important. Accidents are rarely simple affairs. There are often conflicting accounts of what happened, and the physical evidence may be inconclusive.

A judge may prematurely end a lawsuit by granting summary judgment to the defendant if the plaintiff fails to offer sufficient evidence to support his or her claims. Summary judgment should only be granted, however, if there is no way that a “reasonable jury” could find in favor of the plaintiff. This is a high bar to meet, as demonstrated by an ongoing UTV accident lawsuit from here in Tennessee.

The accident in question took place in 2009 at a hunting lodge in Monterey, Tennessee. The plaintiff was a passenger in a UTV driven by an employee of the defendant. According to deposition testimony, the driver got into the vehicle and started the motor, at which point “the vehicle suddenly lurched forward and struck a tree.” The plaintiff’s arm was “severely injured” as a result, and he sued the defendant for negligence.

The plaintiff testified he could not recall the precise events that took place “between the time [the driver] entered the vehicle and the accident.” The plaintiff said, “All that I know is I was sitting there like that [in the UTV], and the next thing I knew, I was in pain,” referring to his injured arm.

For his part, the driver testified the accident was the plaintiff’s fault. Specifically, the driver said the plaintiff put his foot on top of the driver’s foot, which was already on the UTV’s accelerator, and that is what caused the vehicle to suddenly lurch forward. The driver said he thought the plaintiff “was having a heart attack or something,” and denied that he was driving too fast or recklessly.

The federal magistrate judge presiding over the pretrial hearings in this case denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Noting the facts remained in dispute, the magistrate said a jury could find that the driver’s negligence “is the more probable cause of the accident,” despite the plaintiff’s inability to remember exactly what happened. Indeed, under the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”), the jury could find there is no other reasonable explanation, i.e., the accident must have been caused by the negligence of the person operating the vehicle.

Do You Need Legal Help Following a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Of course, it is always ideal to have as much concrete evidence as possible establishing a defendant’s negligence. An experienced Knoxville personal injury attorney can thoroughly investigate an accident and uncover any potential evidence that may be helpful at trial. If you need legal assistance following any type of accident, contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a consultation.


Memorandum and Order, Nelson v. Wilderness Hunting Lodge, LLC, Case No. 2:16-cv-00021 (M.D. Tenn., July 10, 2017).

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