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What happens if a wheelchair operator injures someone else in an accident?
March 11, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

What are the repercussions for someone operating a wheelchair or motorized scooter who repeatedly runs into and/or injures others--accidentally or otherwise? Are the wheelchair-bound required to have insurance? Who pays for damages? Can restrictions be put on their speed or on the areas in which they're allowed to operate their wheelchairs? I'm seeking resources and/or detailed information for a research project and so far haven't had much luck.
posted by curiousindc to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If it's "otherwise" I would suspect it's a form of assault.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:06 AM on March 11, 2009


Wheelchair user, no insurance or practically required instruction of any kind. If I were to hit someone, and they sued me, I'd have to pay. Pretty straightforward. No lights or reflectors required, as they are under certain circumstances in the UK. (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069852) In the US, it's my understanding chair speeds fall under state law.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:17 AM on March 11, 2009


You aren't likely to find much data, because I don't think much exists.

The possibility of seriously injuring someone with a motorized wheelchair through negligence is very small. Since insurance doesn't cover deliberate acts, there isn't much sense in requiring it. You hurt someone, they sue, you pay, as StrikeTheViol said. For those accidents that do occur, homeowner's/renter's insurance provides coverage for this kind of liability. Basically, if you get sued for something other than driving a car or an intentional tort, your homeowner's/renter's policy will indemnify you. As homeownership has been north of 60% for decades, this covers most Americans.

Seriously though, what kind of injuries are likely to occur? The things don't go that fast. I've never seen a wheelchair that could outpace a normally capable, reasonably fit human being. The worst that's likely to happen is that someone gets knocked over. The only way I can see someone being hospitalized involves deliberate misconduct by the wheelchair operator, i.e. a crime or an actionable tort.
posted by valkyryn at 9:49 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The things don't go that fast. I've never seen a wheelchair that could outpace a normally capable, reasonably fit human being.

I've seen multiple wheelchairs/motorized scooters that have whizzed by me as I was walking at a brisk pace. You'd be barely able to keep up with this scooter if you run a 6 minute mile. Etc.
posted by suedehead at 10:22 AM on March 11, 2009


Seriously though, what kind of injuries are likely to occur? The things don't go that fast.

Wrong-- you've just never seen one operated that fast. The newer ones go up to 10mph-- plus the fact that they are build like tanks make them more dangerous than bicycles (which are prohibited from sidewalk use in many municipalities for safety reasons).
posted by availablelight at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2009


I went to a state university known for its handicapable accessibility. It was not unheard-of, while walking the tunnels between buildings, to get forced into the wall by someone with an electric wheelchair and a grudge. With political-correctness run amok in our school, the only effective solution was one that I saw once: after having been run down, a guy got back up and chased the offender and tipped the wheelchair on its side. Having been run down by this same person before, I could not bring myself to help, which probably makes me a bad person. I am strangely comfortable with that.
posted by _Skull_ at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2009


lawsuit involving a senior community requiring electric/motorized wheelchair users to have liability insurance (from 1997 i think)

lawsuit in SC in 2007 about a person in an electric wheelchair running into someone and causing harm.

i googled electric wheelchair accidents and motorized wheelchair accident liability
posted by sio42 at 10:55 AM on March 13, 2009


I think the OP specifically asked about a driver with recurring incidents -- which, to me, has a slightly different implication than multiple incidents, btw.

I can see two kinds of scenarios: A driver who is deliberately, maliciously, and/or or carelessly causing harm and a driver with diminishing capacities who is unintentionally causing harm.

In the first scenario there are certainly other laws that could apply, such as assault (as StrikeTheViol mentioned), harassment, public nuisance -- even public intoxication. If applied consistently, existing laws could act as a deterrent.

In the second scenario, I would find out if there is any agency at all that could (if need be) confiscate the scooter, just as the DMV can revoke a driver's license of older, unsafe drivers.

I don't have any solid information sources for you, but FWIW I did find that searching for "mobility scooter" yielded slightly better results than "electric scooter" or "electric wheelchair". There must be a magic search string that filters out mopeds, etc. but I can't think of it. I would also try calling organizations that work with the hand-capable(!) or maybe even a medical supply store....

Apologies to valkyryn for piling on here, but I do want to add my own experiences to the conversation :)

The worst that's likely to happen is that someone gets knocked over. The only way I can see someone being hospitalized involves deliberate misconduct by the wheelchair operator.

I have two friends with scooters, and it's probably just a matter of time before my foot gets run over by one of them. Much worse than getting knocked over, IMHO, and could very likely require a trip to the E.R.

I think there's a much greater risk of scooter/cyclist accidents than scooter/pedestrian accidents. My neighborhood is very popular with cyclists (both casual and hard-core riders) and I've seen quite a few close calls when a cyclist darts out on the sidewalk or street and narrowly avoids a T-bone situation -- especially since so many of them ride the wrong way down our one-way street. Of course, the cyclist would be financially responsible in that case. But I digress....
posted by Room 641-A at 6:38 AM on April 16, 2009


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