Northern Wisconsin hosts many wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities. Now that winter is here, the sound of snowmobile engines won't be far behind. Unfortunately, Wisconsin saw 166 snowmobile accidents that resulted in injury in 2017, and 16 fatalities. You may wonder if you could have a personal injury claim from a snowmobile accident. The answer is yes, but success depends on how the accident happens.
Who was negligent?
When looking at personal injury claims, most accidents come down to a question of negligence, and that applies to snowmobiling accidents, too. Basically, did somebody cause an injury because they were not as careful as they should have been? That somebody could be the snowmobile operator, another driver or even the snowmobile manufacturer if a faulty snowmobile caused the accident. At a minimum, the standard for care for someone operating the snowmobile means following Wisconsin's snowmobiling laws.
In addition, more than one person can be negligent. For example, if you started to pass another snowmobile, but that snowmobile swerved and caused you to have an accident that injured you, you could sue the other operator for negligence. But a jury could find that you were partially at fault because you were passing too closely. You can still win your case, but the jury might deduct the percent of your damages for the amount of fault it thinks you shared, as long as it was less than 50 percent.
You should be aware that intoxicated snowmobilers cause many accidents each year. Of the 16 fatalities last year, 13 involved alcohol. Snowmobiles are vehicles, and drinking and operating a snowmobile is just as illegal as drinking and driving a car.
If you have an accident
The first thing you should do if you are involved in a snowmobiling accident is to make sure everyone is okay. You have a duty to help an injured person if you are able. If the crash involved another snowmobiler, exchange information just like you would with a car accident. You must report any accident that causes an injury or death to law enforcement. Sometimes snowmobiling takes place in areas that don't have great cell reception, so you may have to travel to call a first responder for help.
Get checked out by a doctor right away, even if you don't think your injuries are severe. Some injuries worsen over time. If you think someone else may be responsible for your snowmobiling accident, you may have a personal injury claim against them.