Our Attorneys Can Help You Win Your Lawsuit Against a Wheelchair Transportation Company
If your loved one was wrongfully injured in a wheelchair transportation van accident, our lawyers can help. At Senior Justice Law Firm, we focus our practice on advocating for the most vulnerable patient populations. We regularly sue wheelchair transportation companies for allowing passengers to fall, stopping short on the road, and for causing motor vehicle crashes.
If your parent or loved one was injured or killed inside one of these specialized transportation vehicles, call our wheelchair transportation injury attorneys today at 888-375-9998. We can help you and your family achieve justice.
Understanding Wheelchair Transport Injuries
As people age, they often begin to struggle with mobility. For many, this means the transition to using a wheelchair. It may also mean giving up abilities such as driving oneself to activities or appointments. When an individual in a wheelchair must rely on someone else to transport them, studies have shown that they are nearly 40% more likely to be injured than those without wheelchairs in the same situation.
Many wheelchair transportation vans pick up clients at their private residence. Additionally, wheelchair transport vans are used routinely by nursing homes and assisted living facilities to transport residents to offsite medical appointments and to recreational outings.
Wheelchair transport vans, which are equipped to help those with limited mobility to get around, can wreak havoc on vulnerable elderly patients. At any time, the driver could commit an error that results in harm to the frail senior riding in the wheelchair. These accidents often lead to serious injuries or even death, and they come in a variety of forms—nearly all of which are highly preventable.
Unfortunately, what may result in a bump or a bruise to you and I can be fatal to an elderly passenger. Broken hips, brain injuries and fractured pelvic bones are injuries our lawyers have litigated in wheelchair transportation injury lawsuits.
The Responsibility of Wheelchair Transportation Companies to Keep Passengers Safe
Transportation companies have been variably liable for injuries sustained by wheelchair users over the years. As a result, the Federal Transit Commission sponsored a research program with the Transportation Research Board, noting concerns “about individuals using wheelchairs who fall from the chair when a vehicle is stopped; and relative to disembarking passengers who utilize wheelchairs when the bus stop location is not fully accessible to, or ‘unsafe’ for individuals in wheelchairs.”
Transportation companies are considered “common carriers” and must perform due diligence to keep wheelchair users safe during the entire transportation process, from loading into the vehicle to departure as well as safety during the journey. This can be accomplished through the proper use of lifts, restraints, and brakes, but transportation companies do not always properly maintain these tools, resulting in injury to the wheelchair user.
Types of Wheelchair Transportation Injuries Resulting in Lawsuits
Nursing home residents are regularly transported in vans to the appointments and commitments that they have, such as doctor visits. Something as simple as an overlooked strap could lead to permanent injury or even death if the transport van must stop suddenly or turns too quickly. Those who rely on wheelchairs as a result of age-related mobility decline are typically unable to assist with correcting wheelchair issues during transportation; they no longer have the strength or reflexes to stop a chair from drifting, and they may not be able to see or notice an overlooked safety measure.
It is never the duty of the elderly passenger to inform the driver that they are not strapped in properly. This legal duty falls on the driver of the van.
One of the primary causes behind wheelchair transportation injuries is lack of experience by the transportation employee or other service member. All aspects of wheelchair transportation, from properly using the vehicle’s lift to adequately securing the chair in preparation for the vehicle to move, require experience and training.
Wheelchair Falls Caused by the Transporter’s Negligence
Among the types of injuries that occur during wheelchair transportation, many are caused directly by the transporter. This type of injury can occur in the manner of Charise Thrasher of Pittsburgh, PA, who was being transported when one of the people assisting her fell on her and broke her femur. Other injuries of this type can also arise from an individual who is pushing a wheelchair and causes the individual sitting in it to fall or tumble out, causing injury.
In fact, these types of falls caused by being ejected from the wheelchair or tipping the chair accounted for more than 65% of all wheelchair injuries seen in emergency rooms, according to some studies. It is easier than you may think to fall out of a wheelchair, especially when the transport van is going 45 mile per hour.
Injuries can also arise when the driver of the van is wheeling the client to and from the van. A transportation employee who accidentally hits the chair against a curb, crack in the pavement, or even the edge of the van lift can cause the chair to tip or jostle aggressively enough to unseat a resident. Similarly, leaving a wheelchair unattended while performing other tasks like lowering a lift or opening a van door can cause it to roll across uneven or sloped ground and tip over.
Falls Caused by a Faulty Lift in the Wheelchair Van
Lifts are one of the leading causes of wheelchair injury during transportation. A wheelchair lift is a piece of equipment that attaches to the entryway of a vehicle, such as a passenger door, and can lift a wheelchair into the vehicle. The lift is designed to descend from the vehicle and rest flat on the ground, where the wheelchair can be maneuvered on top of the lift; once secure, the lift’s motor will raise the platform and the chair with it.
Lift injuries are common, whether due to faults with the lift itself or with the operator. Wheelchair lifts require regular maintenance after approximately 750 uses—which will pass quickly with full-time transportation companies. The maintenance must be conducted by a qualified and trained professional to ensure that parts are replaced before they fail.
Faulty lifts can cause injuries if the lift breaks on the way up, which typically throws the wheelchair user out of the chair and can cause broken bones or head trauma. A piece of the lift breaking and striking the user can cause lacerations.
Improperly Secured Patient in a Wheelchair Van Negligence Case
One of the single most common causes of injury for wheelchair users who are being transported occurs when the wheelchair is not properly secured within the vehicle. Did you know that certain wheelchairs are specifically rated as transport safe? Like the cars that we drive every day, certain chairs have better safety ratings than others when it comes to sustaining damage during a crash. Wheelchairs that are not transit rated may crumple or bend in unfavorable ways that could severely injure a patient who is not adequately secured and protected from a collision.
However, transportation companies may also make mistakes in securing the wheelchair within the van. Wheelchairs must be secured to the floor of a vehicle using straps; performing this process incorrectly can cause a host of issues. The four-point strap system dictates that two straps should be affixed to the front of the chair and two to the back—this prevents the chair from twisting, sliding, or tipping over during the course of normal driving, like turning corners.
One of the main issues when strapping a wheelchair to the floor of a vehicle is that the straps must be affixed to the frame of the chair. However, many transportation companies take the easy way out and attach straps to the most accessible parts of a chair—the foot rests, arm rests, and head rest. These are simple to strap, because they stick out and are easy to reach. Unfortunately, all of these areas are detachable and may come loose during a drive, cause the strap to come off and the chair to tip or spin unsecured.
Another common issue that causes injury during transport is the use of seatbelts. It can be difficult to properly wear a seatbelt while in a wheelchair, and so many transportation companies will simply buckle the seatbelt across the arm rests and other devices of the wheelchair. However, a seatbelt is intended to function by resting firmly across the pelvis, where the force of movement can best be dispersed. When a wheelchair transportation employee improperly buckles a seatbelt, the patient may be severely injured by the force exerted against the seatbelt in areas where it is not intended. Imagine a van stopping suddenly and you being pushed forward into a seatbelt that was sitting improperly across your forearms or ribs; the force could break bones or even fail to adequately prevent you from being jolted out of the chair.
Defective Equipment used by Wheelchair Transportation Companies
Chair lifts are not the only type of equipment used in wheelchair transportation that can be faulty or defective, although they are the most common culprits. Other potential issues could arise from old or worn restraints within the van; the areas where straps attach may become worn down or weak with age and repeated use and could detach from the floor when sudden force—such as during a turn—is placed upon them.
Similarly, the straps themselves may begin to fray or wear, and a quick tug against them when rounding a corner or making a quick stop could be sufficient to cause them to tear or snap.
Improper Transition to or from the Wheelchair, resulting in a Fall
It is sometimes required during wheelchair transport that an individual is transitioned into or out of a wheelchair. This may occur if someone is mobile enough to use a walker to approach a transport van but requires a wheelchair for the rest of the journey. Some residents may also need to switch into a transport-safe chair. The process of transitioning into or out of a wheelchair can cause significant injury, especially if the person assisting is not familiar with the proper technique.
Moving an older individual who is using a wheelchair can cause serious injury if careful attention is not paid to the position of the spine, pelvis, and neck. Similarly, a person’s wrists and ankles are commonly trapped in painful positions as a result of moving into or out of a chair.
Poorly Fit Restraints as the Cause for a Wheelchair Injury Lawsuit
Restraints used to secure a wheelchair to the floor of a transport vehicle must hold firmly in order to prevent the chair from shifting during driving. When restraints are worn out or the wrong size, they may not tighten securely to the wheelchair or the floor, causing the chair to drift. In some situations, restraints can even come loose if they fit poorly. The resulting jostling and drifting can cause injury on its own—most commonly if a resident finds their hands or feet suddenly pinned between the side of the vehicle and the moving wheelchair. However, restraints that have slipped off due to poor fit leave the wheelchair able to drift freely, which can lead to tipping.
What to Do If Your Loved One Is Injured by a Wheelchair Transportation Company
It is never easy to hear that a loved one or family member has been injured, but to learn that the injury was preventable is even harder.
Wheelchair transportation injuries can cause lifelong complications and even death. Falls are a common cause of life-threatening medical challenges such as subdural hematomas or brain bleeds, as well as broken bones that aging bodies cannot cope with as well as their younger counterparts.
Wheelchair transportation companies have one job, and that is to arrive safely with your loved one. When that trust is broken, a wheelchair transportation injury lawsuit is appropriate.
Free Wheelchair Transportation Company Lawsuit Evaluation
Our law firm represents victims of wheelchair transportation falls.
Transportation companies have a responsibility to be diligent and careful, not only when handling any individual in a wheelchair, but also when inspecting and maintaining their equipment. If you believe that your loved one was injured when being transported in a wheelchair due to negligence on the part of the transportation agency, be sure to consult with one of our elder abuse attorneys.
Our lawyers have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for families who were impacted by a wheelchair injury. Wheelchair transportation injuries are not an acceptable part of caring for aging individuals, and the company may be liable for their behavior or failure to properly maintain their tools. By brining a wheelchair transport lawsuit, you are making sure this kind of carelessness does not happen again.
Begin your investigation into what happened today. Let Senior Justice Law Firm guide you on your journey to justice. Live chat with our office now and share as much case detail as possible with our intake department. Alternatively, call us now for a free case consultation at 888-375-9998.