Elderly Man Suffers Fatal Injuries Due to Improperly Secured Wheelchair

Victoria Negron

Written by
— Updated on February 1, 2018

Paratransport Expert WitnessThis case involves an elderly man who died as a result of injuries sustained from a paratransit accident. He was not seat-belted into his wheelchair, nor was the chair secured to the paratransit van floor. During an erratic turn by the driver, the man was flung into the adjacent window and the side of his skull cracked. He remained on the floor until the van arrived at his assisted living facility. The driver then dropped the man off in the atrium of the assisted living facility and left without informing the staff. When the staff examined the man, they realized he had sustained skull trauma and called the ambulance. The man spent several weeks in the hospital but ultimately passed away. An expert in paratransit and wheelchair transportation was sought to opine on the safety standards and protocols for securing passengers in wheelchairs.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can you describe your background as relates to paratransit and wheelchair transportation?
  • 2. What are the protocols for securing passengers in wheelchairs?

Expert Witness Response E-164504

I have extensive knowledge of wheelchair securement systems, lifts, and ramps. I have been the Operations Manager for a paratransit company which had a 75% wheelchair ratio for passengers carried. I also was the Transportation Director for United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland where we transported over 200 clients daily in paratransit services. I worked as a Project Manager for 7 years to develop best practices for the accessible transportation industry. I also worked for the Community Transportation Association of America for 11 years training personnel in the paratransit industry, and I have conducted training on developing policies and procedures for transit agencies.

The state of the art in wheelchair transportation is to secure the wheelchair to the floor of the motor vehicle with a “4-point tie down” or equivalent that will maintain its position during both crash conditions and excessive vehicle motions during transport. Additionally, the passengers are supposed to be seatbelted with a lap belt and shoulder restraint, as seen in passenger vehicles. The 4-point securement system should be deployed such that the mobility aid does not move during ordinary vehicle motions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wheelchair section provides that securements are supposed to also limit the lateral movement of the front end to 2″ or less. It also provides that drivers and other transportation personnel are specifically trained in their duties. The specific language of the regulations is in CFR part 49. The driver appears to have failed in his duty to secure the wheelchair and the passenger. He further failed to employ first aid protocols for determining the passenger was or was not able to be moved. Not reporting the incident to the medical facility or his employer is a dereliction of his duties, and possibly counter to company policy and procedures.

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