Recently, an 85-year-old man died when his wheelchair overturned inside a van from a day health care program. At about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, July 28, officers received a report of an elderly man whose wheelchair had flipped inside a van near Orient Street in Worcester. When police and firefighters arrived, the man was unresponsive. Medical treatment was provided and the man was transported to a local hospital, where he died early Tuesday morning. The precise cause of death of the man has not yet been released as police continue to investigate what caused the man’s wheelchair to flip.
Duty of Care Owed to passengers being transported, including the Elderly
A general proposition of all negligence cases is that the defendant – the individual or entity accused of being negligent – owed what is known as a “duty of care” to the injured plaintiff. The “duty of care” describes the level of care with which the defendant is expected to have acted toward the plaintiff. In most cases, a defendant owes the plaintiff a duty to act in a reasonably careful manner. In other words, the defendant is expected to act as a reasonably careful person would have acted under the circumstances. If it is shown the defendant did not act in such a manner, he or she has “breached” the duty of care and may be liable for damages.
In some cases, however, a higher duty of care may exist. Where there is a special relationship or obligation between the plaintiff and defendant, the defendant may be found negligent if he or she fails to act with special care.
Under Massachusetts law, a common carrier (for instance, a bus or transportation company) must exercise a high or the utmost standard of care towards its passengers and can be held liable for failing to do so.
Also, a transportation company owes a duty of care to passengers to keep the vehicle in good working order. This includes making sure that restraining systems are in place and work properly. If a seatbelt is frayed or not properly anchored and a passenger is injured during a crash or sudden stop, for example, that company and its driver may be held liable.
And, in the case of transporting patients who are in wheelchairs, a company in charge of transportation (either a transportation company, a healthcare facility, or other similar entity) may be found to have a duty of care to ensure passengers are properly secured in the van or bus. This is especially true in cases where the passengers are unable to buckle themselves or otherwise secure themselves in the vehicle.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss the Duty of Care
In evaluating your personal injury case, consideration should be given to the duty of care the defendant owed to you or your loved one. The specific facts of your case (such as if your loved one was a resident of a day health care or other assisted living facility, or was being transported by common carrier) may indicate whether there was a special relationship bringing about a higher or special duty of care to you or your loved one. Contact us at (508) 755-7535 for a free consultation.