Recreational Vehicles

ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicles while UTV refers to Utility Terrain Vehicles.  Both are off road vehicles used for both work and recreational purposes. ATVs come in both three and four wheel varieties (with a few even having up to 6) with the four wheelers also sometimes referred to as Quads.  Under Iowa law by definition they are vehicles of up to 1000 cc (cubic centimeters of displacement) and no more than 1,200 lbs.  They also by definition under Iowa law have seats designed to be straddled and handlebars for steering control.  On the other end of the spectrum are UTV’s which have between 4-8 wheels or in some instances, even a rubberized track.  They are bigger and more powerful than ATV’s with engines of up to 1,500 cc and a weight of up to 2,000 pounds.  Seats in UTV’s are side by side and not intended to be straddled and the vehicle is controlled by a steering wheel. For a UTV, think of a four-wheeler being crossed with a pick-up truck. Other names sometimes used to refer to off road vehicles include three wheelers, recreational, recreational use and recreational utility vehicles, side by sides, Rhino’s, Rangers, and Gators.

ATV’s UTV’s and off road motorcycles are all governed by the same general law in Iowa with a few minor distinctions.  The applicable law is generally found in Section 321L of the Iowa Code.  Just as with other automobiles, owners of off road vehicles in Iowa are responsible for any injuries and damages they cause.  Additionally and once again just as with cars, owners are also responsible for any injuries or damages caused by someone they allow to operate their ATV or UTV.  What this ultimately generally means then is that the insurance policy that covers the vehicle is typically available to compensate some and their family if they are injured or killed by an off road vehicle, so long as it wasn’t stolen. 

Off road vehicle accidents are more similar to motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents in one important fashion, the severity of the injuries that occur in these accidents.  Given that off road vehicles can be operated at speeds similar to highway vehicles but on uneven and sometimes treacherous terrain, it is probably no surprise that accidents are commonplace.  Additionally, given that off road vehicle don’t have many, or as sometimes any of the safety features that cars do, it also probably comes as no surprise that the injuries sustained can often be severe or fatal.  Traumatic Brain injuries, spinal cord and neck, fractures and dislocations are common injuries seen in off road accidents.  GRL law has litigated and successfully resolved claims for Iowans that have been hurt and killed from an ATV accident.

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