As the weather cools, Wisconsin residents and visitors begin the seasonal process of bringing their sleds out of storage and tuning dormant engines in preparation for the upcoming snow machine season. Before you head out on your first ride of the season, a Wisconsin snowmobile accident lawyer urges you to exercise caution and to follow all trail and road rules and regulations. Fatalities in Wisconsin snowmobile accidents have fallen slightly over the past ten years, but the rate of reported accidents has remained generally steady. Wisconsin snowmobilers should understand and follow the State’s rules and regulations in order to protect their interests and opportunities to recover damages if they are involved in an accident.
Perhaps most significantly, Wisconsin law requires sledders who are involved in an accident that results in injuries or fatalities to promptly report that accident to law enforcement personnel. Also, within ten days after the accident, the sled’s operator must file a written report with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Form 4100-174. An operator’s failure to make this report and to file this form can adversely affect his chances of recovering compensation for his injuries.
Wisconsin sledders should not assume that their experience will minimize their snowmobile accident risk. Almost two thirds of all snowmobile accidents in the State during the 2014-2015 sledding season involved operators that had more than 100 hours of experience or who were snowmobile safety certified. Experience may lead to a sense of complacency. Snowmobiling is an inherently risky activity and operators need to remain alert to all accident risks while sledding.
Alcohol was a factor in three quarters of the snowmobile accidents in Wisconsin between 2014 and 2015, including accidents that led to fatalities. Wisconsin conservation wardens and deputies devotes more than ten thousand hours per year patrolling Wisconsin’s snowmobile trails and roads, and they typically issue more than seven hundred citations per year to sledders who have not properly registered their machines, and for other violations. You can be arrested for operating a snowmobile while intoxicated in Wisconsin and you will be subject to similar fines and penalties as if you were driving your car while intoxicated.
Bs far, the largest percentage of snowmobile accidents in Wisconsin involve collisions with fixed objects, such as trees or rocks. Roughly a third of all Wisconsin accidents happen when a sledder is riding at speeds in excess of 40 mph. When you are out on your machine, you and all sledders around you owe the same duty of care to each other as when you are driving. Another operator who is negligent and who fails to adhere to those standards may be liable to pay you compensation for your damages and injuries. If you are in a snowmobile accident with another operator, you should collect the same information as if you were in an automobile accident. Exchange contact information with the other operator. Make notes of the weather and other conditions surrounding the accident, including time of day, your speed when the accident happened, and the condition of your and the other operator’s sleds. Your Wisconsin snowmobile accident lawyer will need this information to analyze your case and to help you recover the compensation that may be owed to you.
The inherent risks of snowmobiling in Wisconsin should not keep you from, enjoying your sport. In the unfortunate event of an accident, however, do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation on your rights and potential remedies from the accident. The attorneys at the Harnitz Law Office in Oshkosh have experience with Wisconsin’s snowmobiling culture. We can protect your interests and we do everything possible to get you back on your sled before the spring thaw.