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Riding Mower Accidents on The Rise

The Zero-Turn-Radius Rotary Mower

Earlier this month, two fatal accidents involving zero-turn-radius mowers occurred in neighboring Ohio counties within a week. In both cases, the lawnmower rolled over and pinned the driver underwater. Unfortunately, these tragic accidents happen needlessly and all-too-frequently. As warmer weather approaches, lawnmower sales will inevitably increase and it is important to discuss a few simple ways to avoid this kind of tragedy.

A Zero-turn-radius (ZTR) rotary riding mower is a type of lawn mower that is able to make a turn of equal degrees upon its own track. Zero-turn-radius riding mowers were designed to out-steer most lawn tractors at an increased speed with ease of maneuverability. Often used by commercial landscapers on golf courses or parks, the ZTR mower is fast becoming the lawn mower of choice for residential and private home use.

Manufacturers of ZTR mowers often tout the benefits of being able to cut grass in tight spaces and effectively cut close to trees and other objects in your yard; thus, eliminating the need for other landscaping equipment, such as trimmers, and saving time for the consumer. However, built for speed, the high-powered zero-turn-radius rotary mower has characteristics that make it more prone to rollover when they encounter small holes or slight grades in the terrain. These rollovers can lead to catastrophic injuries such as broken or fractured bones, severed limbs, burns and most seriously death, as we witnessed in Ohio earlier this month.

Consumer Safety: What to Know about Zero-Turn-Radius Riding Mowers

Fortunately, many of the injuries from riding lawn mower accidents can be easily prevented by manufacturer-installed guards, roll bars, and seatbelts. When consumers purchase these mowers, they should make sure that they are equipped with Roll Over Protective Structures, also known as ROPS. The purpose of ROPS is to prevent the user from being thrown from, crushed or pinned under the machine to reduce injury risks and increase survival chances. Unfortunately, ROPS are optional equipment upgrades on many mowers and tractors and are often not purchase or used.

Manufacturers have long known the high incidence of lawn mower accidents and the propensity of riding lawn mowers to rollover during normal use. Yet many manufacturers have chosen not to install these safety frames to protect operators when such accidents inevitably occur. If inadequate safety systems contributed to severe injuries or wrongful death in a lawn mower accident, a product liability case may exist.

In addition, ZTR drivers should use extra caution when riding on slopes and near water as these mowers turn over easily and usually weigh several hundred pounds. An unexpected ditch bank collapse sufficient to cause an overturn can be obscured by high vegetation and result in injury for even the most experienced operators. It is also important to remember that ZTR controls are much more responsive than those of an ordinary riding mower lawn tractor. Therefore, any quick movement with either hand for any reason can result in a sudden and unexpected turn - including turns that lead off an embankment or down a slope.

The personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Rourke and Blumenthal have the necessary experience and resources to successfully litigate the growing number of riding lawn mower accident cases in Ohio and across the country. If you or a loved one has been injured in any kind of lawn mower accident, contact our attorneys today to discuss your case or set up a consultation.