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Off-road 'mudding' and liability for accidental injuries

Mudding has become a semi-national sport in rural areas where people are used to inventing their own brand of fun.

In order to go mudding, you need a few friends, neighbors or associates, a wet spot of rural land with plenty of mud and several all-terrain vehicles. Sport utility vehicles are okay, but tricked-out trucks generally take center stage, especially since many of their owners will add on after-market parts to enhance a truck's ability to withstand the activity. Over-sized tires, light bars and running boards are common additions, along with clever paint jobs and nicknames for the trucks themselves.

And, of course, there's usually an element of alcohol involved. While the drivers aren't supposed to be drinking, many mudding spots are well off the beaten path and the police aren't exactly given a road map to the destination. Liquor and beer generally flow freely among the bystanders -- who derive their enjoyment from watching man and machine challenge nature.

More often than not, man and machine end up losing. Smart mudding parties usually have a backhoe around to help pull stranded vehicles up out of the muck and mire.

Unfortunately, the combination of bravado and beer sometimes leads to serious injuries or even death -- broken bones, concussions, slipped discs, brain trauma and suffocation under an overturned truck are all possibilities. Emergency help and rescue teams are often too far away to be useful.

If a personal injury or wrongful death case results from a mudding accident, who is liable? There are several possibilities:

-- The organizers of the event. These events are sort of like country "raves," and organizers often handle the advertising, charge admission fees, sell the beer and offer food for a price.

-- The owner of the land. Mudding may be illegal (depending on local laws) and is sometimes held on public land. When it is held on private property, the owner definitely bears liability for having unsafe premises and permitting the dangerous stunts.

-- The driver of the vehicle or vehicles involved. It's possible that there's more than one truck in the mud at once, so liability could fall on one or both drivers for their negligence.

If you've been injured in a mudding accident or lost a loved one to this supposedly harmless fun, talk to an injury lawyer that has some familiarity with truck accidents.

Source: USDA Forest Service, "Mudding," accessed June 21, 2017

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 3 Convenient Locations:

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