Since it was introduced in 2003, the Yamaha Rhino ATV has been associated with a number of rollovers and accidents where riders suffered debilitating fractures when their arms and legs were trapped under the weight of the vehicle. Although aftermarket doors and additional passenger side hand-holds were offered free of charge last summer, Yamaha still has not issued a Rhino recall to add the safety features, and no substantial design changes have been made to address the instability issues.
The Yamaha Rhino is a newer type of ATV which is a cross between a utility vehicle and a four-wheel recreational vehicle. It is a heavy and powerful vehicle, featuring side by side seating, with a flat bed in the back. However, it was built on a small frame with a high center of gravity, which has caused the ATV to be prone to rollovers, even when operated at a safe speed on flat surfaces.
Reports of Yamaha Rhino rollovers began to surface soon after the vehicle was first introduced. For the first five years the ATV was on the market, it was sold without side doors, and many passengers suffered severe fractures and crush injuries to their legs when the vehicle overturned going around corners.
In September 2006, Yamaha acknowledged the Rhino problems and sent a letter to all registered owners advising that they should keep their arms and legs inside of the vehicle if it starts to tip over. At that time, they also provided warning stickers to be placed in the vehicle with instructions about what to do in a rollover. However, no official recall was issued to ensure that all vehicles received the new warnings and little was done to publicize the warnings.
With the 2008 model Yamaha Rhino, small doors were placed on the vehicles and additional passenger side hand-holds were added, which were designed to help riders keep their arms and legs inside of the vehicle in an accident. In August 2007, Yamaha also began offering free modifications to vehicles sold since 2003 to add the doors and handholds. However, once again, a Yamaha Rhino recall was not issued.
In March 2008, a Rhino recall was issued by Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A., but it was limited to 2008 model year Rhinos, and it only applied to defective brake calipers on the left front wheel which could potentially leak fluid, causing a loss of braking or control of the vehicle.
Many Yamaha Rhino ATVs sold before 2008 are still being used that do not have the necessary safety features which could reduce the risk of life-changing injuries if the vehicle rolls over. In addition, Yamaha continues to sell the Rhino without any substantial changes in design to address the inherent instability which allows the ATV to rollover under normal and customary usage. The ATV continues to have a high center of gravity with a narrow wheelbase and a powerful engine, which allows the Rhino to rollover at speeds as low as 13 miles per hour.
This article was written by guest contributor, Austin P. Kirk, Esq., who is a partner at Saiontz, Kirk & Miles, P.A., a national product liability law firm investigating potential Yamaha Rhino lawsuits throughout the United States. To speak with Austin Kirk, call 1 (800) 522-0102.