Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles

Video: When Defective Vans Cause Serious Injuries: A Tragic Accident

People who are physically challenged rely on wheelchair-accessible vehicles for safe and reliable transport; yet, many of these vehicles are purchased by consumers or businesses as aftermarket vehicles that have been substantially modified from their original condition and may pose critical safety risks.

Aftermarket manufacturers and modifiers that produce wheelchair-accessible vehicles are not held to the same standards as original equipment auto manufacturers. As a result, changes to the structure of vehicles can drastically change their handling, suspension, propensity to rollover and other aspects of their performance. Even worse, many aftermarket producers never even test the safety of these vehicles.

A Firm Experienced in Cases Involving Defective Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles

For three decades, Langdon & Emison has obtained substantial results on behalf of injured people and their families in cases involving defective wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Below is one example of our work in this practice area.

Fuel-Fed Fire Case Involving a Wheelchair-Accessible Van

In a case our firm successfully resolved, a man burned to death when his wheelchair-accessible van accelerated out of control and crashed, and a fuel-fed fire ignited several minutes after the collision. There were two primary defects:

  • First, the hand-activated accelerator controls were defective because the electronics were not sufficiently sealed to prevent moisture and liquids from entering. This defect caused a pattern of sudden unintended acceleration that was never properly remedied.
  • Second, the end-stage manufacturer had relocated the fuel tank behind the rear axle to accommodate a wheelchair lift. In doing so, the manufacturer added a fuel filler tube, which it routed without protection along the body panels through jagged cuts in the sheet metal and through the rear wheel well. When the vehicle crashed, the extended fuel line ruptured and the man burned to death while trapped inside the van.

When deposing the final-stage manufacturer’s corporate representative, we learned the company had no blueprints for the modifications and no engineer on staff. The company did not retain an engineer to review the modifications, and it never tested them for safety or crash performance. The throttle component manufacturer also failed to test the accelerator components and failed to perform any failure mode and effects analysis.

 

Contact Langdon & Emison

If you’ve been involved in an accident involving a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, contact Langdon & Emison to find out if a defect was responsible. To reach our attorneys, call 800-397-4910 or click on the button below.