Wheelchair Accidents: What You Need to Know

April 13th, 2020

When one thinks of wheelchairs, one may think of a medical device that is designed to provide independence, mobility, and freedom to some of the most vulnerable members of society.  Wheelchairs assist people with disabilities to become productive members of their communities. About 10% of the global population, i.e. about 650 million people, have disabilities. Studies indicate that, of these, some 10% require a wheelchair. 

(Publish Date: 2013/04/22 – (Rev. 2018/09/28), Author: The University of California – Disability Statistics Center)

Just over 6.8 million community-resident Americans use assistive devices to help them with mobility. This group comprises 1.7 million wheelchair or scooter riders and 6.1 million users of other mobility devices, such as canes, crutches, and walkers.

(Publish Date: 2013/04/22 – (Rev. 2018/09/28), Author: The University of California – Disability Statistics Center) https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/mobility-stats.php

When considering the numbers, it doesn’t cross your mind that according the Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 3.3 of every 1000 persons in the United States who use a wheelchair, an estimated 3.3% per year have a serious wheelchair-related incident.

(Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1990 Aug;69(4):184-90.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2383378

While wheelchair related injuries are not unheard-of, they can be easily prevented. However, sadly with so many companies flooding products on the market, there are bound to be wheelchair related injuries due to a defect with the chair itself.

In 2017 in Baton Rouge Louisiana, a woman who was dependent upon her motorized reclining wheelchair experienced an event that would forever change her life. While attempting to recline her chair to its rest position, the brackets on the base of the chair sheered away from the seat resulting in the chair breaking in half and violently depositing its occupant on the ground. She struggled for over an hour to call for help before assistance ever came. It has since been discovered that a major manufactures defect existed within the chair before she was ever put into possession of the product.

While the company who manufactured the chair takes the position that it was a onetime occurrence, the truth is one wheelchair accident is simply one too many. People of all ages, sizes, and genders are injured in wheelchair mishaps each year, which is why it is important to target the reasons why these events happen and put a stop to the numbers!

Manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe. While products liability law differs slightly from state to state, the four main types of product liability claims are based on:

(1)  The product is unreasonably dangerous in construction or composition as provided in L.A. R.S. 9:2800.55;

(2)  The product is unreasonably dangerous in design as provided in L.A. R.S. 9:2800.56;

(3)  The product is unreasonably dangerous because an adequate warning about the product has not been provided as provided in L.A.R.S. 9:2800.57; or

(4)  The product is unreasonably dangerous because it does not conform to an express warranty of the manufacturer about the product as provided in L.A.R.S. 9:2800.58.  

Many wheelchairs are made electrically and motorized these days, which means injuries could happen on a whole new level due to technological defects that we see day-to-day. A wheelchair could be improperly designed, poorly manufactured, or lack the proper warnings and instructions, leading to dangerous or deadly events; in which case, the manufacturer could be liable for any injuries or damages.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a wheelchair related incident, we would like to help. Please reach out to Dudley DeBosier Injury Attorneys and let us show you, the Dudley DeBosier Difference.