As winter loosens its grip on the central plains, many people will be tuning up their bicycles, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles for another season outdoors. Unfortunately, Missouri recreation and sporting accidents occur all too frequently.

For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2011 there were more than 100,000 ATV-related injuries. A third of the accidents involved children under the age of 16. The most common injuries were of the hands and arms, followed by traumatic brain injuries.

Earlier this year, an 11-year-old Missouri boy was killed after an ATV flipped on top of him as he was going up a hill. The CPSC estimates that between 2001 and 2007, on average 149 kids and 556 adults died in ATV crashes each year.

Dr. Jeffrey Sawyer, a member of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons has noted the prevalence of ATV-injuries to children over the years in his practice. Many of injuries he treated happened in rollover accidents that pinned the rider. Children did not have the strength to correct the path of the 600-pound vehicle. A study he conducted found the mean age of a rider was 12.8 years old. AAOS guidelines recommend a minimum age of 16, so that children have the necessary depth perception and cognitive abilities to drive four-wheelers.

The AAOS along with Dr. Sawyer have advocated for legislative changes and advised surgeons to carefully watch for secondary injuries. For example, treating a broken femur, but failing to catch a head or abdominal injury could have tragic consequences.

Missouri ATV laws

In order to lawfully operate an ATV in Missouri, the vehicle must be registered with the Department of Revenue. Children under the age of 16 are not allowed to operate ATVs unless accompanied and directly supervised by a parent or guardian. Riders and passengers under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.

While helmet use is not required for adults, the Missouri State Highway Patrol recommends that regardless of age protective headwear be worn at all times.

Helmet use is an effective way to avoid a serious head injury. A cautionary tale comes from Mississippi where a young man nearly died after his ATV flipped during a race. If he would have been wearing a helmet, the injuries would have been minor. Instead after two years he continues to deal with seizures, vision problems and short-term memory loss caused by the serious brain injury.

Premises liability, negligent supervision and homeowners insurance coverage issues may come up following a serious ATV-related injury. An experienced Missouri personal injury attorney can provide counsel based on the details of your case. Monetary compensation may be available to cover lost wages and medical bills, as well as pain and suffering.