In 2016 in Bergenfield, New Jersey, a man and his aide never expected an accident that would change both of their lives – one involving a wheelchair, nonetheless. In this serious accident, a vehicle came up and struck the man in his wheelchair along with his aide, the man who was pushing him across the street when the whole accident unfolded. The man in the wheelchair suffered upper body injuries and the man who was pushing him suffered cuts to the face as well as a broken arm.
The problem is that wheelchair accidents are not unheard of and can usually be prevented. In the case of the man struck while getting from one sidewalk to another, the driver could have watched where he or she was going as to not strike the man and his aide, as they were pedestrians. However, wheelchair accidents can also happen due to other forms of negligence as well. The truth is: One wheelchair accident is an accident too many!
At any time, between 1.6 and 2.2 million American rely on wheelchairs to assist with mobility when they have impairments that do not allow them to get around by foot. Many of these same Americans, when involved in a wheelchair accident, will unfortunately suffer injuries such as fractures, contusions, and lacerations. In 2003 alone, more than 100,000 wheelchair injuries were treated in emergency departments in the United States. This may seem like a large number but it becomes even larger when you realize that this is double the amount than what was seen in 1991! Across all age groups, tips and falls took the number one spot for the most common injuries.
Common Accidents in Wheelchairs
- Unlocked brakes
- Over reaching
- Sliding off
- Tipping chair
- Unassisted transfers
- Poor fit
In many cases, the wheelchair not fitting the person can cause some serious issues. A lot of the time, this is because the seat is not deep enough, which causes the chair to tip when the resident leans forward. Many more riders will fail to rise safely from the wheelchair, posing more issues. They may not be supervised when they are engaging in certain activities, which could cause them to fall out of the wheelchair and not be able to receive the help they need. People may attempt to get out of their wheelchairs because they are uncomfortable from pain or fatigue, they are bored and have a lack of engagement from others, or are confused and don’t actually want to leave the chair. People of all ages, sizes, and genders are involved in wheelchair accidents each year, which is why it is important to target the reasons why these accidents happen and put a stop to the numbers!
Where Age Matters in Injuries
In studies that have been conducted over the years, children are involved in seemingly as many wheelchair accidents as adults and the elderly. However, the reasons why they are injured and why these accidents occur vary greatly from those who are older. Young wheelchair users ranging from 6 to 17 years old are more likely to be injured outside homes in environments where stairs, ramps, or curbs become a factor. Children also participate in larger numbers when it comes to outdoor activities like sports, where injuries may happen more frequently. Adult supervision could change the course of many of these accidents, as with supervision comes less of a chance to engage in exploratory activities that could hurt the wheelchair user.
Wheelchair Injuries in the Elderly – Pressure Sores
Of course, many wheelchair injuries happen when the user is involved in an accident, such as when it tips over or the occupant leans too far and falls out. However, injuries may also occur when an elderly person is confined to a wheelchair for too long of a time without getting up. This is when pressure sores wreak havoc on the body, causing pain and even more serious issues as time goes on. 95% of all pressure sores are preventable, and many will occur in a hospital or nursing home setting due to negligence.
The truth is that pressure sores can be preventable in many cases, when steps are taken to keep them at bay! Here are some of the ways that the elderly and caretakers keep people from getting pressure sores in these settings:
- Moving or lifting oneself to take pressure off areas that have been under pressure like in a sitting or lying position
- Performing pressure reliefs every 15 to 30 minutes
- Have a caretaker move the person consistently to reduce pressure
- Learn about proper padding and positioning to turning in bed properly
Another way to prevent these sores is to always keep the skin clean and dry. In many cases of negligence caused by nursing homes in the past, a patient was left in soaking clothes or bed sheets for too long, causing pressure sores to sprout up and go unhealed. Every day, an elderly person should bathe with mild soap and rinse and dry thoroughly. Along with this, they should always immediately wash and dry skin and change clothing if urine is released onto the clothes.
Who is Liable For a Wheelchair Accident?
It may be difficult to figure out what to expect from a case due to the fact that wheelchair accidents take on many forms and have many outcomes when figuring liability and what happens in the courtroom. For instance, what happens if someone in a wheelchair is hit by a motorist? The case may be investigated as a motor vehicle accident and the driver of the car who disobeyed signals or was too distracted
during the accident will probably be held liable for injuries. However, there may be other reasons why a wheelchair accident occurs, such as a malfunction with improper design or manufacturing. Here are some of the most common malfunctions that may occur:
- Design Defects: The wheelchair had a flawed design and was unreasonably dangerous for the consumer to use.
- Manufacturing Defects: The wheelchair was manufactured improperly and too far from its intended design.
- Warning Defects: The product did not have adequate instructions or warnings and this made it unsafe.
Because of these specific defects, a manufacturer may be found liable if an accident occurs and injury or death results. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure that their products are made safely. Many wheelchairs are made electrically and motorized these days, which means accidents could happen on a whole new level due to technological defects that we see day-to-day. Under product liability law, a wheelchair user may have certain rights.
Have you been injured in a wheelchair accident? These accidents happen in many different ways for various reasons. All the same, a person or entity may be held responsible in an accident and be found liable for compensation stemming from your injuries. Call us today at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi today to find out more about what you can do if you have been injured.