Wheelchair Accidents: Who’s Liable?

When we think of wheelchairs, we may think about the added mobility and freedom they can provide to injured and disabled people. We don’t tend to consider the estimated 300,000 serious wheelchair-related accidents each year.

When these tragic accidents occur, it can be hard to figure out who is responsible.

Accidents with Other Vehicles

Sadly, there have been too many recent stories about collisions between automobiles and wheelchairs, some of them fatal. Often when this happens, the accident will be investigated like a motor vehicle accident.

Determining fault and liability for motor vehicle accidents can depend on statutory violations. For example, if a driver or victim broke the law, by driving drunk or running a red light, they may be more likely to be held liable for the accident. Courts may also look at more general principles of legal liability like whether one of the people involved in the accident acted negligently or recklessly.

Wheelchair Malfunctions

With so many electric and motorized wheelchairs, there are bound to be wheelchair accidents due to a defect with the chair itself. When a wheelchair malfunctions or functions in an unexpected way, the manufacturer may be held liable under product liability law.

Manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe, and could be held strictly liable if a person is injured by their product. The three main types of product liability claims are based on:

  • Defects in Design: The product’s design is inherently flawed in a way that renders it unreasonably dangerous.
  • Defects in Manufacturing: The product is improperly manufactured in a way that departs from its intended design.
  • Defects in Warnings: The product lacked adequate instructions or warnings and the omission of the instructions or warnings renders the product not reasonably safe.

A wheelchair could be improperly designed, poorly manufactured, or lack the proper warnings and instructions, leading to dangerous or deadly accidents; in which case, the manufacturer could be liable for any injuries or damages.

If you’ve been injured in a wheelchair accident, you may want to consult with an experienced injury attorney in your area.

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