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Wheelchair users more vulnerable in car accidents

California wheelchair users may be more vulnerable than other pedestrians to injury when hit by a car. According to a study conducted by Georgetown University researchers, wheelchair users are 36 percent more likely to be killed in an accident than pedestrians who are not so restrained.

Researchers complied their data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports and LexisNexis newspaper accounts of accidents. They also found that most accidents involving wheelchairs happened in intersections and that men were five times more likely to be in a fatal accident than women were.

The researchers also noted that this is a little-studied area and that they found only a small amount of data on injuries among wheelchair users and no data related to deaths, and thus the results were based on estimates. They said that their findings should encourage city planners to seek solutions that make sidewalks and crossings safer for people who are in wheelchairs. They also seek to raise awareness among drivers that people in wheelchairs are more vulnerable than other pedestrians because they move differently.

A person in a wheelchair might be killed in an accident because a careless or distracted driver does not notice someone at a lower height. A drunk or drowsy driver might also fail to see a wheelchair user. In these cases, the surviving family members of the person killed might want to meet with a personal injury attorney to determine the remedies that may be available. The attorney might recommend the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent motorist, seeking compensation for funeral and burial expenses and other amounts that are permitted by statute.

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