Just last week, a 9-year-old boy died in a mudding accident east of Card Sound Road in Margate, Florida when his father, another adult passenger, and 6-year-old brother were riding off-road in a 1996 Jeep Cherokee when the car hit a five-foot-deep, water-filled ditch.
The dad and the adult passenger got out of the vehicle to push it out of the mud when they noticed the older boy was unconscious on the back seat. They quickly called 911 and the boy was airlifted to Miami Children’s Hospital with a very critical face injury.
Mudding is a dangerous sport where drivers of trucks and all-terrain vehicles drive off road into backwoods looking for wet meadows, fields, streams, big mud holes, and other muddy areas. It typically involves spinning tires and throwing off mud, as well as tearing up grass and other vegetation, all in the effort to see how fast they can get through the mud.
Given South Florida’s climate, mudding is a common activity in South Florida and an extremely dangerous one. This was not an isolated event. With an increased popularity in mudding comes more tragic accidents, including:
- In the beginning of last year, “BUCKWILD” cast member Shain Gandee and two others, were found dead inside an SUV about a mile from Gandee’s Sissonville home in rural West Virginia during a mudding accident. Autopsies confirmed they died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning when the vehicle was stuck so deep in a mud pit that its tail pipe was submerged and toxic gas flooded the cabin because of the clogged exhaust pipe.
- A Texas group of 5 tragically died in pickup truck from carbon monoxide poisoning when their pickup truck got stuck while mudding in a shallow pond at a small horse track. Authorities believe the truck sat idling in the shallow water for 15 to 30 minutes, before someone broke the truck window and pulled out the unresponsive victims.
Mudding can be a risky activity, and Gandee’s death serves as another reminder about the dangers. Some state and local laws have made mudding illegal in certain areas and during certain times. Some jurisdictions prohibit mudding on un-demarcated roads. Federal law says operating any vehicle off-road in a way that disturbs wildlife or vegetative in federal land is illegal and mudders caught violating the law can be fined.
Individuals who participate in mudding should also be aware that they may be held liable in a lawsuit for any property damage or personal injury that they may cause. The following parties can be held liable for mudding damages or injuries:
- The property owner is basically responsible for making sure their land is safe for guests, even certain uninvited ones, especially if the property is considered an attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance is a piece of property that maintains a dangerous condition which is likely to attract children. Owners of land that meet these conditions are required to post a warning or take affirmative action to protect children from the dangers of that attraction.
- The driver that caused the mudding accident is treated the same as a negligent driver of a car accident and may also include all the drivers involved if taking your vehicle off-road in the first place is judged as a careless act in and of itself.
- The party responsible for damages. If you are mudding on someone else’s personal property or government property you may be fined and held responsible to pay for any damages you caused. Damage can include disturbing the wildlife, destroying fields, or causing personal injury to any bystanders or animals.