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Wheelchair Transportation Injury Claims

The transportation risks associated with wheelchair transportation vehicles or vans are an unfortunate reality that needs to be addressed so that you or a loved one knows their rights in case of an accident. Naturally, the Americans with Disabilities Act has increased the social and economic opportunities available to wheelchair users. Access to and the use of transportation is just one aspect of this development. However, within these deserving freedoms, the implications to transportation safety for wheelchair users is an important topic to discuss—especially since about 2.2 million people in the United States use wheelchairs.

Modified vehicles are supposed to be designed to the point where wheelchairs are safely secure in transportation. However, there are no federally mandated regulations that address wheelchairs used as seats in vehicles. While there have been wheelchair advisory boards such as the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) who recommend certain safety standards for transporting wheelchair bounded individuals, wheelchairs in transportation vehicles are a gray area in modern services.

Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine

An article written in the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine was completed by researchers experienced in the areas of rehabilitation science and technology as well as public health. Dr. Thomas Songer, Dr. Shirley Fitzgerald and Katherine Rotko performed a study that looked at motor vehicle crash involvement and injury frequency of wheelchair users. It was found that most subjects in the study rode as passengers in private vehicles and public vehicles over driving themselves. As such, wheelchair use as a seat in the vehicle was higher among passengers than drivers. Continually, crash involvement was highest among drivers and lower in passengers. Accordingly, reported injuries from non-crash scenarios, though, were higher in passengers compared to drivers. Overall, the researchers found that persons seated in wheelchairs in vehicles appear to be a greater safety risk among others.

These findings by the researchers provide some of the first evidence to reinforce the suspicions that individuals seated in wheelchairs may have a greater injury risk. As they described it in the article,

“The underlying theory is that occupants in vehicle seats are affected by several federal engineering standards designed to protect the occupant in a crash. Wheelchairs, on the other hand, have been designed primarily as a mobility aid. For manual chairs, this may involve features that affect weight and easy storage. For power wheelchairs, this may involve features affecting stability in everyday activities. Recent sled tests, though indicate design failures when wheelchairs are subjected to the energy forces often seen in motor vehicle crashes. The association suggested between seating type and crash involvement largely points to the potential for higher injury risk in wheelchair-seated vehicle occupants.” [1]

In the end, the most important feature when transporting wheelchair-seated occupants is the straps that hold the chair down as well as any other restraint that keeps the wheelchair properly locked into the vehicle.

Important Safety Features

It’s important for medical vans and wheelchair transportation vehicles to have working ramps, lifts and restraints within the vehicle to ensure the patients safety. Several safety measures can be taken to ensure the wellbeing of an individual in a wheelchair:

  • It’s important to develop transportation guidelines for the service a disabled person is using. This will allow all transportation services the ability to use consistent methods of transportation all the while promoting safety and encouraging them to support these specific guideline choices.
  • The uniqueness of each person’s wheelchair and seating system is specialized accordingly to fit and provide an exclusive postural control to the disabled. When someone is to be transported in their wheelchair, the transportation service, loved ones and the client needs to be able to establish the highest possible level of safety during transportation. Each person’s equipment is unique and cannot always be used for everyone else. The type of seating and positioning equipment should not be prescribed solely because it has been crash tested by the manufacturer. It must meet the individual’s needs.
  • When issues of postural control equipment conflict with equipment that would be chosen for transportation, the final choice should be made by the client and transportation service or family after a feasible description of the pros and cons of the system. There needs to be an informed decision.
  • Each disabled person in a wheelchair should have an identification card or some type of informational direction on them in which lists or illustrates how the system should be used. These instructions can include, how to position a plastic tray or a headrest or how to put a wheelchair in an upright positon amongst many other things. Having personal vehicles with proper occupant restraints to provide full protection as a system, along with a wheelchair tie-down system, is essential. The value of a complete system of personal protection in one’s own vehicle as well as the same level of safety in public transportation is vital for complete care.
  • The misuse or nonuse of equipment can lead to serious bodily injury, not just during a crash but also in other forms of injuries within the car itself. Ultimately, the know-how of the transportation service and the knowledge the disabled person knows help set up the parameters of transporting a wheelchair. Documenting the best way to restraint a wheelchair in a vehicle is a way for protection to be consistent [2].

What happens in Wheelchair Injuries?

Depending on where an accident occurred and who was involved is a very integral part of a wheelchair injury claim during transportation. These cases are complex that requires not only knowledge of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) but also the regulations put forth by regulatory agencies.

There could have been an inexperienced transportation employee or other service member that improperly handled the wheelchair when placing the person and chair on a lift. The transportation service could have faulty or defective equipment that caused a severe accident. A medical professional could have improperly moved the victim in and out of the wheelchair. The restraints could have been improperly fitted, etc. In the act of negligence, anything can happen when a disabled person must rely on others or equipment for transportation. And while the study concludes that drivers who are wheelchair bound get into more crashes, the more fatal and crucial ones are accidents involving who are in a wheelchair while in transport. Don’t let a loved one get hurt in a case such as this.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

The proper way to restraint a wheelchair should be second nature to a professional or private wheelchair transportation service. In a personal vehicle, the knowledge shared between the disabled person and driver as well as doctors and family members, help to ensure a safe trip. Unfortunately, sometimes–even with all the safety precautions taken–accidents happen. Let the experienced personal injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA help you and your family today.

If you know that a loved one has experienced such a complex case involving a wheelchair-related claim, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consolation and evolution. We can help secure the lost damages you are owed. The number to contact is (757) 451-6900. Call today.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900



[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217423/
[2] http://www.wheelchairnet.org/wcn_wcu/departments/docs/snell.html