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A Christmas week snowmobile crash in Flint left the operator in critical condition after running into the side of a passenger vehicle on a city street. It’s believed that speed was an issue—on top of the fact that snowmobiles are not allowed to be used in the city (as in most urban areas of Michigan). It’s not known if there were other factors in the late morning December 26 crash, or if either driver would be charged with any offense.
But this crash also raises a lot of important issues. With more than 200,000 snowmobiles registered in Michigan, accidents are bound to happen, even if every operator follows all rules and regulations.
Snowmobiles (and their operators) don’t face all the same requirements that are imposed on other vehicles and their drivers. For instance, unlicensed drivers as young as age twelve can use snowmobiles, as long as they’ve passed a safety course. Snowmobiles are allowed to run on local roads as posted, but they’re not supposed to be on interstates and most state highways, or inside most town and city limits.
These vehicles need to be registered and permitted, with a few exceptions, but an owner doesn’t have to carry the kind of liability insurance required for a car. Many owners will add coverage to an existing policy, but others don’t.
Snowmobiles aren’t considered to be motor vehicles under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law. Since snowmobile drivers don’t pay into the no-fault system, they’re not usually protected from personal injury lawsuits if they cause a crash, nor are they eligible for no-fault benefits if they’re injured in a crash.
However, if a snowmobiler is hurt in a crash caused by another vehicle that is covered through the no-fault system, such as a passenger car, the injured sledder might be able to make a claim for compensation under no-fault.
There’s little recent data, but annual figures point to about 200 deaths and 14,000 serious injuries that can be attributed to snowmobile crashes. In the 2016–17 winter season, Michigan counted five snowmobiling fatalities, but that was a remarkably low count: In the previous winter, twenty-four fatal crashes were recorded.
Fatal crashes aren’t necessarily the best indication of the liability issues that will arise in property damage and injury crashes, but it’s a safe bet that just in Michigan there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of snowmobile crashes each winter that could lead to lawsuits.
If you’ve been harmed in a snowmobile accident, we might be able to help. Whether you were on a snowmobile and struck by a car or truck, or in another vehicle that was hit by a snowmobile, our team knows where to begin.
Give the experienced Michigan snowmobile accident attorneys at Christensen Law a call today at 248-213-4900 or contact us online through the form below. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all new clients, so you have nothing to lose.